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A professor’s plea to fellow American Muslims
November 2nd, 2001
Adrian, Mich. — In the name of Allah, the most Benevolent and the Most Merciful. May this memo find you in the shade of Islam enjoying the mercy, the protection and the grace of Allah.
I write with the explicit purpose of inviting you to lead the American Muslim community in soul searching, reflection and reassessment.
What happened on Sept. 11 will forever remain a horrible scar on the history of Islam and humanity. No matter how much we condemn it, and point to the Quran and the Sunnah [words and deeds of Mohammed] to argue that Islam forbids the killing of innocent people, the fact remains that the perpetrators of this crime against humanity have indicated that their actions are sanctioned by Islamic values.
Muslims have been practicing hypocrisy on a grand scale. They protest against the discriminatory practices of Israel, but are silent against the discriminatory practices in Muslim states. While acknowledging Israeli ill treatment of Palestinians, I must remind you that Israel treats its one million Arab citizens with greater respect and dignity than most Arab nations treat their own citizens.
Today, Palestinian refugees can settle and become citizens of the United States — but in spite of all the rhetoric of the Arab world and Quranic injunctions (24:22), no Muslim country except Jordan extends this support to them.
Have we ever demanded international intervention or retribution against Saddam [Hussein] for gassing Kurds, against Pakistan for slaughtering Bengalis, against Saudis for abusing the Shiis, against Syria for the massacre at Hama?
We condemn Israel, not because we care for rights and lives of the Palestinians; we don’t. We condemn Israel because we hate “them.”
Muslims love to live in the United States, but also love to hate it. Many openly claim that the United States is a terrorist state. Yet their presence here is testimony that they would rather live here than anywhere else.
As an Indian Muslim, I know for sure that nowhere on earth, including India, will I get the same sense of dignity and respect that I have received in the United States. It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in America are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim world.
If you disagree, then prove it — by migrating to whichever Muslim country you identify with.
We have always found a way to reconcile the vast distance between Islamic values and Muslim practices by pointing to injustices done by others. But the point is this — our commitment to Islamic values is not contingent on the moral conduct of the United States or Israel.
The culture of hate and killing is tearing away at the moral fabric of Muslim society. In pursuit of the inferior jihad, we have sacrificed the superior jihad.
Purifying our lot
It is time that we faced these hypocritical practices and struggled to transcend them. It is time that American Muslim leaders fought to purify their own lot.
While encouraging Muslims to struggle against injustice (Al Quran 4:135), Allah also imposes strict rules of engagement. He says in unequivocal terms that to kill an innocent being is like killing all humanity (Al Quran 5:32). He also encourages Muslims to forgive Jews and Christians if they have committed injustices against us (Al Quran 2:109, 3:159, 5:85).
Islam has been hijacked by hate and calls for murder and mayhem. If Osama bin Laden were an individual, then we would have no problem. But bin Laden has become a phenomenon — a cancer eating away at our moral foundations.
Yet we have allowed the hatred to grow and gain such a foothold. It is our duty to police our world. It is our responsibility to prevent people from abusing Islam. We should have made sure the Sept. 11 attacks had never happened.
Islam is not about defeating Jews or conquering Jerusalem or having our lobby compete with the American Jewish lobby for influence over U.S. foreign policy. It is about mercy, about virtue, about sacrifice and about duty. Above all, it is the pursuit of moral perfection.
The worst exhibition of Islam happened on our turf. We must take first responsibility to undo the evil it has manifested. This is our mandate, our burden and also our opportunity.
I hope that we will now rededicate our lives and our institutions to the search for harmony, peace and tolerance. Let us be prepared to suffer injustice rather than commit injustices.
If we wish to convince the world about the truth of our message, we cannot even be equal to others in virtue; we must excel, and we must be more forgiving, more sacrificing.
Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D., is director of the International Studies Program at Adrian College in Michigan.