Not in the Name of Islam
By Jack Palmerpalmer
@crescent-news.com

It may not be obvious in the rural six-county area of northwest Ohio, but a peaceful revolution has started during the past month within the American Muslim community.
The movement, sparked by Dr. Mahjabeen Islam of Toledo, involves Muslims asking their imam (the person who leads Muslim congregational prayers) to condemn terrorism and suicide bombings as part of the weekly Friday khutba (sermon).
“It only has to happen one imam at a time, one mosque at a time,” she told The Crescent-News. “If all my fellow Muslim Americans do this, the message will be loud and clear throughout the land. It’s time we step up to the plate.”
Islam, a native of Pakistan, is a family practice physician and director of palliative care medicine at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. She has resided in the Toledo area for 22 years.
“The Qur’an says we need to enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil,” Islam related.
“We have a responsibility to take back our religion from an evil monopoly. We must do this as a moral obligation.”
Islam’s already strong feelings boiled over when she went to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo for Friday services the day after the July 7 subway and bus bombings in London. “Our regular imam was on vacation and a substitute came for services,” she stated. “I was absolutely appalled that he didn’t say a word in his sermon about the London terrorist attacks.”
She confronted him after the service, but he was vague in his response to her comment that all Muslims must speak out about the horrible events.In talking with fellow Muslim personal and professional friends, she discovered that many imams across the country also did not speak out against the attacks.That was enough for Islam to take action. The result is what she has dubbed “Project Friday Khutba.”
Her message, e-mailed to hundreds of fellow Muslims all over the United States, is simple: “Please call or personally speak with your imam and tell him he must in every Friday khutba mention that killing non-combatants and suicide bombing are haram (Arabic for forbidden).
“I love Fridays. TGIF, I always say,” she remarked. “It’s a day for Muslims to take action.”
Two weeks ago, the third Friday after the London attacks, the sermon was given by Dr. Zaheer Hasan, the Islamic Center president.“He is absolutely on the same page,” said Islam. “He talked about suicide bombing and completely condemned it. He didn’t say it by innuendo, he said it vehemently.”
According to Islam, condemnation of terrorism is also now a weekly practice at the other mosques in Toledo (Masjid Saad Foundation on Secor Road and Toledo Masjid Al Islam on Ewing Street).Islam’s family background involves first-hand experience as a terrorized victim of violent people.
“My father was Pakistan’s ambassador to Singapore and commercial counselor to Turkey, so I’ve grown up with international politics,” she remarked. “My parents were among the Muslims forced to relocate from India to what is now a part of Pakistan. They were forced from their home and everything they owned was plundered - except for a single rug, which my widowed mother still owns.”
The Toledo doctor’s influence in the Muslim community should not be underestimated.
She writes for several Pakistani-American website publications and newspapers, sending her articles and columns to Muslim sites around the country.She also writes for Dawn, the leading English daily of Pakistan, and is a columnist for the Pakistan Link that is published out of California.In addition,
Islam is co-founder of the United Muslim Association of Toledo (UMAT) and currently serves as the Ohio chairman of the American Muslim Alliance. She is also an active member of the Association of Pakistani-Physicians of North America (APPNA).Last Thursday, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced its support for a fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, against terrorism and extremism issued by the Fiqh Council of North America and endorsed by more than 120 Muslim groups, leaders and institutions.
“Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombing or any other attack is haram, or forbidden, and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not ‘martyrs,’ ” said the statement (the full text is available at www.cair-net.org/downloads/fatwa-english.txt).CAIR, based in Washington, D.C., is the most prominent Islamic civil rights advocacy group in the country. “This was a very important event,” said Islam. “Muslims don’t have a centralized authority like the pope. People say, ‘You guys haven’t condemned terrorism enough.’ Well, now we have a document. It’s very well-worded. It’s unequivocal.”
Islam admitted that many Muslims have conflicting feelings about the current state of world events. She agreed with them, but only to a point.“I feel horrified outrage at terrorists and mourn the death of our troops in Iraq,” she stated. “I also grieve for the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians who have died since we invaded them, as well as civilian Afghani and Palestinian victims of international conflict.
“I hear non-Muslim Americans mourn the death of our troops, but not those innocent civilians. This dichotomy disturbs me.
“But I can dissect foreign policy concerns from our responsibility as Muslims to speak out,” she continued. “I can scream and shout all I want, but I know I cannot affect American foreign policy. But I can speak out against terrorism. That is very doable.
”A key target for her Project Friday Khutba is young Muslim males.“The Friday service is mandatory for all Muslim males over the age of 12,” she stated. “In most American mosques, the khutba is repeated on Sunday, when many families attend. This message will reverberate in their minds if it’s repeated again and again.“It’s just like the old medical saying, ‘an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ The groundwork needs to be laid right now to prevent a greater world disaster five or 10 years from now.
“People think if Osama bin Laden is caught, everything will be fine,” she said. “It won’t. Since 9/11 his ideology has permeated a large group of Muslims building on the foundation laid by the disenchantment that they already felt about their perception of the unfair treatment of Muslims. These angry Muslims are now living in different parts of the world. “Project Friday Khutba is a grass roots movement at its best,” she asserted. “A grass roots peace movement, with peace being consistently taught from Muslim mosques.” (Courtesy The Crescent News, Ohio)


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