We Should Condemn
Violence without Any Ifs and Buts
years ago as we watched with horror the first of
the hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center the
world started to change. Five years later we are
living in a world that is unsafe, unpredictable
and full of strife. The outstanding geopolitical
problems that had spawned the terrorist culture
are no close to resolution than they were five summers
ago. And amidst all this turmoil the Muslims are
caught between the hard rock of terrorism and the
deep blue sea of suspicion.
Life for American Muslims has not been easy of late.
Each foiled terrorist plot makes them more vulnerable
to stereotyping and bigotry. Retaliations abound;
a Muslim commercial pilot is taken off the flight
schedule, a Muslim passenger is removed from a plane
because other passengers are fearful of his presence
and an Arab American young man is forced to change
his tee shirt at an airport that had Arabic inscription
on it. There is widespread racial profiling of Muslims
at the airport and at custom clearance. This not
only erodes their confidence in the system, it makes
them very angry.
In the backdrop of this angst one cannot ignore
the fear that non-Muslim Americans have of the Muslims.
Unfortunately the two groups have been talking past
each other instead of understanding their mutual
concerns. We all appear to be living in an echo
chamber where we only hear the reverberations of
our own concerns.
I am a champion of civil liberties and worship at
the altar of the Bill of Rights. But what good are
civil rights when there is a growing distrust and
suspicion between the non-Muslim majority and the
Muslim minority? How do you convince the majority
that out of 1.4 billion Muslims only a small fraction
is responsible for the suicide bombings, beheadings
and other atrocities committed in the name of religion?
We will not be able to convince them unless the
majority of Muslims living in this country refuse
to be linked with the self-righteous murderers masquerading
as pious believers.
Some Muslims find it difficult to take that step
not because they sympathize with the terrorists
but because of a deep rooted but utterly unworkable
utopian concept of a worldwide community of believers
or Ummah which deters them to speak ill
of other Muslims. After all the terrorists portray
themselves as true believers and use the language
of religion to justify their despicable acts. But
by remaining quiet the American Muslims invite distrust
and misunderstanding by the community at large.
A great majority of Muslims are indeed peaceful
and they get their inspiration from the same sacred
texts that the terrorists flaunt and quote. The
problem, common to other faiths as well, is that
two people may read the same passage and draw diametrically
opposite conclusions. If majority of Muslims find
the terrorists’ interpretations at odds with
theirs then they have to take a visible stand. This
might further erode the concept of a unified Ummah
but it has to be done.
By remaining quiet on one hand and complaining loudly
about the racial and religious profiling on the
other, the America Muslims are isolating themselves
from the majority in this country. They must come
out of their self-created virtual cocoons and condemn
all those who use their religion to further a hateful
agenda. This discussion should happen not only in
public (which has been happening with increasing
frequency) but also in private. There should be
no disparity between private utterances and public
It is also necessary because there are many non-Muslim
bigots who do not miss an opportunity to malign
all Muslims with a broad brush. The incoherence
or silence of American Muslims gives credence to
Muslim majority should make it clear that they have
nothing in common with the bloodthirsty jihadists
and declare them outside the pail of Islam. This
message has to be repeated loudly and frequently.
This will make some Muslims on the extreme right
very uncomfortable but they are the ones who have
always been quick to label any Muslim who does not
agree with their interpretation as heretics and
A parting thought for my Muslim readers: when was
the last time you invited a non-Muslim friend to
your home for a chat over a meal or a cup of coffee?