Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Backlash against American Muslims would be wrong

September 14, 2001


The trigger-finger reaction many people may have after Tuesday's horrific events is to blame the Muslims.

Who else but Islamic terrorists would bank a jetliner into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and then strike the other with a second plane? Who else would be steeled to face imminent death in the belief that martyrdom leads directly to Paradise?

But are such actions consistent with what Islam teaches?

"This kind of act is not accepted by any religion, culture or tradition," said Nabil Seyam, administrative board president of the Islamic Society of Wichita. "It doesn't matter who has done it. The act itself is unacceptable."

Islamic organizations quickly added their voices to denounce the assaults.

"American Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians," was the statement from the American Muslim Political Coordination Council in Washington, D.C. "No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts."

Let's be clear: Misguided Muslims and that judgment is still not conclusive may have used Islam to further their political causes, but the religion itself does not condone such destruction of life.

Many forget that Islam, Christianity and Judaism have common ties:

l They are monotheistic religions.

l They share the same biblical tradition.

l They claim a universality of belief, transcending race, ethnicity and nationality.

l And they believe faith should flow from actions, and vice versa.

None of them condones violence as morally justifiable. All of them have been guilty of committing acts of violence.

Yes, Muslims speak of a jihad (striving or struggling) that might involve the use of violence. But the restrictions on when it is declared are similar to those that Christianity's just-war theory imposes: No individual or group can arbitrarily invoke it. Only the state through its leaders can declare it. And it is rarely declared.

That said, now the test comes for all of us. How will those in this country who are not Muslims respond to those who are?

And such encounters are inevitable. Muslims work beside us, attend schools with our children, shop in the stores we do. They are our neighbors. They are fellow citizens.

Most Muslims in America are horrified by Tuesday's events. Many are also frightened that they will be singled out and blamed for them.

For anyone to do so would not only be factually and morally wrong, it would further the devastation that terrorists have wrought. They will have successfully ignited the fires of hatred and prejudice in this nation that has sought to be a beacon of hope to all people, regardless of their race, religion or country of origin.

We cannot let them win.

In this time of testing, let us instead assign blame where blame is due on those individuals and groups that launched the attack.

Let us demand justice for those who died and hold the guilty accountable.

And then, let us join hands with all people of goodwill to say that we will stand together against evil.

For people of faith, we can do no less because our religion whether Islam, Judaism or Christianity teaches no less.

Tom Schaefer writes about religion and ethics for the Wichita Eagle.

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