Islam and terror: two Muslim views

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) runs a July 13 piece from the Florida Times-Union, “Muslim Leaders Condemning Terror to Deaf?” in which columnist Mark Woods speaks to CAIR’s new chairman Parvez Ahmed and finds that such Muslim condemnations are in fact widespread—but never seem to be sufficient:

In the past week, Muslim groups have been condemning the attacks via e-mail blasts to the media, through news conferences, during a personal meeting with the British ambassador, in prayer services all over the country and, coming soon to television stations, with a public service announcement.

After Sept. 11, Muslim leaders issued statements, prayed for the victims, encouraged relief efforts and, in some cities, took out a full-page newspaper ad signed by 40 groups that said: “We condemn in the strongest terms possible the use of terror to further any political or religious cause.”

Nearly 700,000 Muslims have signed a “Not in the Name of Islam” petition on CAIR’s Web site that begins: “We, the undersigned Muslims, wish to state clearly that those who commit acts of terror, murder and cruelty in the name of Islam are not only destroying innocent lives, but are also betraying the values of the faith they claim to represent.”

Yet when Ahmed speaks in public, the most common question is: Why don’t Muslims denounce terrorism?

This has been a persistent drumbeat on talk radio, one that was echoed last year by syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin after CAIR took on a radio host in Boston.

The organization, she wrote, “won’t condemn Muslim fanatics, but it has declared war on outspoken Americans who will.”

Just last week, following the London bombings, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “To this day, no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden.”

Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor, quickly compiled a list of such condemnations. Not that people remember them.

They remember that some kids danced in the street when the towers came down.

“There always will be lunatics who will try to justify the unjustifiable,” Ahmed said.

There certainly are legitimate reasons to question some Muslim groups (not to mention some Christian and Jewish groups). But to say that Muslims have remained silent after attacks not only is inaccurate, Ahmed believes it fuels Osama bin Laden’s Sept. 11 goal of a religious battle.

“That trap needs to be avoided,” Ahmed said. “The breadth of Muslim voices against Al-Qaida, against Osama bin Laden, against 9/11, against such terrorism, is as broad as it can be, from the most conservative to the most liberal voices and everything in between.”

So why don’t we hear Muslim leaders condemning terrorism?

Maybe we’re not listening.

This is probably just the message that most readers of the Times-Union need to hear. But M. Zuhdi Jasser sees a hollowness to Islamic organizations’ rote condemnations of terror. He writes on BeliefNet:

Waking Up to ‘Islamo-Fascism’

All Muslims must play a role in stopping the violence being done in the name of our faith.

By M. Zuhdi Jasser

As we all began digesting the news of last week’s terrorist attack, most of America’s Muslim organizations issued what has become a predictable, yet empty, round of condemnations. Articulated in press releases, these rote statements are not backed up with sincere attempts to acknowledge and fix the problems within Islam. Listening to these empty pronouncements, I can’t help but ask: Where is our Muslim responsibility–our duty–to protect the world from the actions of our own?

It is time for us Muslims to take ownership of our faith by moving beyond empty condemnations and ensuring that Islamo-fascists–those who seek to create an Islamic totalitarian theocracy through the use of any and all means–have no place in our world. These fascists are Muslims who have hijacked and twisted our faith. They subscribe to a medieval code where the ends justify the means. And you can hear their rhetoric not only in the Middle East; radical imams preach in London and in many cities in the U.S. Cutting off this lifeblood and its ideology should be the focus of our collective Muslim response.

Many well-meaning Muslims react to news about Muslim terrorists by insisting that anyone who commits violent acts is, by definition, not part of Islam. But who are we fooling? The Islamo-fascists did not come out of thin air. They use our scripture, our prayers, our language, and our tradition–and they come from somewhere within our community. These killers are doing incomprehensibly evil actions across the world in the name of our religion, and because of that, my fellow Muslims and I should act now–decisively, publicly, and in tandem with our leadership–against Islamo-fascism. To argue whether they are Muslims or not–and what is a ‘true’ Islamic society–is only deflection and denial.


Moderate, moral Muslims–that is to say, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims–may see these Islamo-fascists as far removed from our reality; however the unforgiving truth is that we are responsible as a group for our weakest and also for our most corrupt and deranged. Islam has no formal clergy, and so it falls to the community as a whole, all of us, to take on this challenge. Denial serves nothing but the empty ego and is destined to fail. As Muslims we must help bring these barbaric Islamists to justice and assist in dismantling the systems that create them… My fellow Muslims must immediately–and in large numbers–become proactive in the war against militant Islamists, or soon it may be too late. We owe it to the nations in which we live, as well as to our truly pluralistic faith… These barbarians should hear words from moderate Muslims around the globe that make them fear they will never again find a single religious haven for their ideology…

It’s time to build an anti-terror ethos within the Islamic community. We can publicly embarrass radical imams and organizations who preach hatred. We can publicly expose the twisted interpretations of the Qu’ran and Muslim teachings perpetuated by radical Islamists who justify killing innocent people in the name of our God…

We need to force a public debate with the Islamists, not run from it…

So far so good. Then he goes way, way overboard, and completely loses precisely the audience he most needs to reach:

And we need to teach our Muslim-American youth to feel a sense of responsibility to our America, which gives us freedom and liberty. Why is it that so many people from every minority in America are dying to liberate Iraq and Afghanistan and free the world from the Islamo-fascists while so few American Muslim organizations have actively encouraged military service since 9-11? We should sponsor public campaigns to encourage our community to join the military and law-enforcement agencies. What better way to ensure that enforcement of the Patriot Act does not unfairly target Muslims than to have American Muslims within law enforcement? Allegiance to our country is in fact a deeply Islamic obligation.

And so the depressing dichotomy continues: opposition to the military “crusade” (to use the Islamist epithet) in Iraq is conceded to the “Islamo-fascists,” while the “moderates” delegitimize themselves among the legions of justly angry Muslims…

See our last post on the London bombings.