A treatise against religious intolerance by Richard Dixon
Part 2: "Not in my name"
Some western religious leaders speak of Islam as an evil religion, yet under Christianity the status of
world civilization was at its darkest due to the acts of ruthless individuals
and rulers. Christianity was used
to justify the dark institutions of slavery, which incarcerated up to 300
million Africans (25 percent were Muslims) against their will over a
400-year period. Cecil Rhodes and the Afrikaners used it to support the
brutal system of apartheid. And yes there are white Supremacists who have used
Christianity to justify the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
It is often charged that the Holy
Qur'an is filled with verses inciting violence against unbelievers, the same
can be said about the Holy Bible (especially in the Old Testament) or the
Torah. However, just as it was done in the past, scripture can be used,
changed, and subverted to justify evilness. Unfortunately, Islam is being
assailed from the same forces of extremism that is trying to destroy the
Christian faith from within as well: the ideology of a one-tract philosophy
of religion that is totally devoid of tolerance towards others. It has manifested itself in the hijacking of Islam by radicals who claim to speak
for all of Islam. Not subscribing to their particular brand of Islamism
makes you an enemy. The end result is that the fanatical acts of a few,
condemns the 1.2 billion. 16 plus adherents of Islam who are peaceful. Those
extremist, radical Muslims who carry out
these acts of terror against innocent civilians and noncombatants should be
condemned as despicable heathens who murder against the glory of God.
Organizing acts of terror against innocent people is
utterly against Islam. Muslim groups and individuals are responsible for stopping these
people, removing mischief on earth" and bringing peace and security to all
peoples all over the world. Islam cannot be reconciled with terror. Just the
contrary, it should be the solution to and the path to the prevention of
Those who commit acts of terror are actually moving further away from God.
The aggressors can commit such violence only with the intention of attacking
religion itself. It may well be that those who carried out this violence do
so to present religion as evil in the eyes of people, to divorce people from
religion and to generate hatred towards those who are religiously inclined.
Consequently, every attack on American citizens or other innocent people
having a religious façade is actually an attack made against religion. 26
In this context, it doesn't matter if the terrorist attacks on innocent
civilians is in the name of Islam, Christianity, or Judaism, they are still a
terrorist and far removed from the love and graciousness of God. The
same standards should be applied when individuals verbally attack the faith of 1.6
billion adherents based on religious falsehoods and dogma. Saying and
professing a belief in the name of God and wishing ill fortune on people because they are different culturally, racially, or religiously
People may claim to commit terrorist acts in the name of God or even swear in his name.
They may present
themselves as very religious. But this does not mean that what they do is in conformity
with religion. On the contrary, what they do can be quite against the will
of God and the morality of religion. The truth lies in their
actions. If their actions are "causing corruption and not putting things
right", as the verse reveals, then you can be sure that these people cannot
be truly religious, and that their aim is not to serve religion. 3
As we approach the one-year anniversary of 9/11 and the subsequent
involvement of our country's war against terrorism in Afghanistan, my fellow
Muslim brothers and sisters have had to experience a racial and
religious backlash verbally, physically, economically, and religiously.
Unfortunately, as grief gives way to understandable anger, a pattern of
collective blame and scapegoating against Arab Americans and Muslims seems
to be emerging even before the culpability of any single individual has been
established. Even if persons with connections to the Arab World or the
Islamic faith prove to have had a hand in this outrage, there can be no
reason or excuse for collective blame against an entire ethnic or religious
community. Already we have received numerous disturbing reports of violent
attacks, threats, and harassment against Arab Americans and Muslims in many
parts of the country and the pattern seems to be growing. As a result Arab
Americans, in addition to feeling the intense depths of pain and anger at
this attack we share with all our fellow citizens, are feeling deep anxiety
about becoming the target of anger from other Americans. We appeal to all
Americans to bear in mind that crimes are the responsibility of the
individuals who committed them, not ethnic or religious groups. 4
The backlash against Muslims and Arab Americans has manifested itself
against other ethnic groups whom you consider unpatriotic and un-Aamerican as
well by virtual of their race and religious preferences. These groups
included Sikhs, Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, and even Hispanics.
In Arizona, Bablir Singh Sodhig, a Sikh man and an
Indian immigrant, was shot and killed as he worked at his gas station. The
same shooter fired at, but miss, a Lebanese-American clerk at another gas
station. The gunman also shot into his former home, which a family of Afghani
descent now occupies. When finally arrested, the accused killer yelled: "I
stand for America all the way." 5
It is crackpot zealots like these who honestly believe that their random
acts of violence against law-abiding ethnic Americans will solve, stem, and
stop the tide of international terrorism.
Somehow a negative stereotype and misconception has entered among you that
all Muslims are Arab and all Arabs are Muslims. Such a belief is the
furthest from the truth.
Arabs are those who speak Arabic as their native tongue and who identify
themselves as Arabs. The Arab world is not to be confused with the Middle
East, a strategic designation developed during the heyday of the British
Empire, which encompasses such non-Arab countries of Israel, Iran, Turkey,
Pakistan, and Afghanistan. And though Arab history is intertwined with
Muslim history, the Arab world does not correspond to the Muslim world.
There are significant non-Muslim Arab communities and most Muslims are, in
fact, from large non-Arab countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, and
many of the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. There are also large Arab and
non-Arab Muslim communities in North America. 6
An intelligent discussion about all Arabs are not Muslims and all
Muslims are not Arab seems to fall on deaf ears. Many Christian leaders, such as
the individuals mentioned above, seem bent on promoting religious conflict
between Islam and Christianity even if it eventually leads to the death of many
Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
For a variety of reasons, Westerners including Americans, often assume there
is a deep division between Arab and Islamic culture on the one hand, and
European and Christian culture on the other. Western civilization is said to
be based on the Judeo-Christian tradition of the Orient is thus
distinguished from the Occident. In fact, Arab and Muslim societies have
much more in common with Europe, Christendom, and the West than is often
assumed. Islam recognizes the Judaic and Christian traditions and Arab
Christians and Jews have always been integral members of the Arab world. 7
Some Christian leaders, have joined with those opposed to current immigration
policiesand treat both Muslim and Arab Americans as new entrants who are
deliberately pressing their culture, religion, and ways of life upon the
United States. Such philosophical thinking is not consistent
with our nation's history of multicultural immigration.
While many people think Arabs are new to the United States, in fact, Arabs
have been coming to the United States for hundreds of years. There are
reports that Arabs came to the Americas with the Spanish explorers in the
15th century. In the late 1700's, Arabs from Morocco (a North African
Country) were discussed in the South Carolina House of Representatives, who
decided that they should be treated according to the laws for white people,
not the laws for African Blacks. Arab immigrants were a significant part of
the Great Migration, the period in U.S. history between 1880 and 1924 when
more than 20 million immigrants came from southern and eastern Europe. More than 95,000 Arabs to the U.S. from "Greater Syria" alone. Greater Syria
includes present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine/Israel. Smaller
numbers of Arabs came from Yemen, Iraq, Morocco, and Egypt during this time.
By 1924, there were about 200,000 Arabs living in the United States. 8
This nation was built by the hard work, sweat, blood, and labor by our
immigrant forebears, regardless of whether they came voluntarily or involuntarily.
Muslim and Arab Americans are very much part of this contribution to
American society. They are our retail merchants, business owners, doctors,
lawyers, teachers, pilots, soldiers, athletes, clergy, and elected
officials. They include notable personalities such as Jamie Farr actor, Doug
Flutie quarterback, former senator Spence Abraham of Michigan, WWII heroes,
Co. James Jabara, Major General Fred Safay, Brigadier General Elias Stevens,
General George Joulwan, and Navy Lt Alfred Naifeh. They include both elected
and appointed officials like Nick Joe Rahall II (West Virigina), Ray LaHood
(Illinois), Donna Shalala, Phillip C. Habib, and former Senator George
Mitchell. In Business you have Jacques Nasser former CEO of the Ford Motor
Company, Najeeb Halaby former head of the FAA (Federal Aviation Commission),
Paul Orfalea founder Of Kinkos, and Tony Ismail of the Alamo Flag Company which is the biggest retailer of flags in the United States. Among
activists you have the likes of Ralph Nader, Candy Lightner founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), James Zogsby founder of the Arab American
Institute, Ziad Asali President & Hussein Ibish who is Communications
Director of the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, and Ingrid
Mattison Vice-President of the Islamic Circle Of North America. In
Entertainment you have the likes of Danny Thomas, Marlo Thomas, Frank Zappa,
Casey Kasem, Paula Abdul, and Paul Anka. It has included spiritual leaders,
clergy, and clerics such as Shaykh Muhammad of the Islamic Supreme
Council Of North America (ISCA) and Muhammad Nur Abdullah President of Islamic Society Of North America (ISNA).
These are men and women who are dedicated to the preservation of this
country, their communities, families, and religion. Those who attack their
religion, culture, and ethnicity, attack the American idea of fairness.
The terrorist attacks on the Pentagon, World Trade Center, and Flight 93 by
Al Qaeda was not only an attack on this country, but upon the very heart and
soul of the religion of Islam itself. Immediately after the horrible attacks
on our country, every mainstream Muslim & Arab Group such as the American Muslim Council (AMC), Islamic Supreme Council Of North America, Islamic Circle Of North America (ICNA), The Islamic Institute, Council on
American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Arab American Institute, Arab American Anti-
Discrimination Committee, and Islamic Society Of North America (ISNA)
condemned them in the most strongest and possible language. They issued
press releases to television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet. They
participated in interfaith services for the victims of the attacks. They
held blood drives, collected money, held open houses at Mosques, and
participated in seminars and teachings about the peaceful tenets of the
Islamic Faith. They gave their full support to President Bush and the
congress in the fight against terrorism. Unfortunately, some Christian leaders did
not make an effort to console families of
the victims and the wounded in their hour of need. Instead some
heaped scorn upon them by blaming the attacks as God's judgment against those
groups that didn't adhere to your ideology. Famous television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said
that liberal civil liberties
groups, feminists, homosexuals, and abortion rights supporters bear partial
responsibility for the 9-11 terrorist attacks because their actions had
turned God's anger against America. "God continues to lift the curtain and
allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said
Falwell, appearing yesterday on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700
Club," hosted by Robertson.
Falwell said that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has got to take a lot of
blame for this. Robertson responded: "Well, yes."
Then Falwell broadened his criticisms to include the federal courts and others
who he said were "throwing God out of the public square." He added: "The
abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be
mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God
mad, I really believe that the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the
feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make
that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all
of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their
face and say, 'You helped this happen.' " 9
I consider such remarks as pathetic, irresponsible, and unpatriotic. It shows the lack of regard that
they hold towards other
religious, social, or political groups other than their own.
There were many heroes who gave their lives trying to save people during
9/11. The list included police officers, firemen, soldiers, clergy, and
ordinary citizens like you and me. What is not told though, is that of the
over 3,000 who died from this terrible tragedy, a great many were Muslims.
This is a partial list of the hundreds of Muslims killed during the
Rahma Salie, 28, an observant Muslim of Sri Lankan nationality and seven
months pregnant with her
first child, was a passenger with her husband, Michael Theodoridis, on
American Airlines flight 11.
They were on their way to the wedding of one of her closest high-school friends
in California. Her
husband, Michael had converted to Islam before marrying his college
sweetheart. (Source: The
Amenia Rasool, a Guyana-born Muslim, was a mother of four children (aged
8, 6, 3 years and 10
months) who also worked as an accountant in the World Trade Center. As a
young woman, she had
come to America with her parents from rural Guyana, much like her husband.
Their marriage was
arranged by their parents, and flourished on a mix of Islamic tradition and
(Source: New York Times).
Shabbir Ahmed emigrated from Bangladesh in 1982, worked as a waiter in
the Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center. His memorial service was held at the Jamaica Muslim Center in
Queens, New York. (Source: New York Times & Tribune Newspaper Project)
Khalid Mohammed Shahid, son of a Pakistani father and a Colombian mother,
engaged to be
married in 2001-NOV; a graduate of Montclair State College, a talented
tennis player, and a practicing
Muslim. (Source: Newsday).
Touri Bolourchi and her husband, Akbar, who immigrated to the United States
from Iran in 1979. The
couple raised their 2 daughers, Neda and Roya, in Los Angeles, creating a
family proud of both its
U.S. citizenship and Muslim faith. "True Muslims don't believe in killing to
prove what they believe in,"
said Bobby Turan, Touri's grandson. (Source: CNN.com)
Salman Hamdani loved not only Islam but also the country [the terrorists]
hated. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, the 23 year-old laboratory technician, at the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute, was on his
way to work by train on 11 September. Trained in emergency medical
assistance, it appears he
climbed aboard an ambulance headed for the World Trade Center. (Source: The
Taimour Khan always identified himself not just as an American but also as
a Muslim. The son of a
Pakistani couple, he was a commodities trader for the firm Carr Futures and
was already hard at work
in the World Trade Center when the first hijacked plane hit the building.
(Source: The Independent,
Ehtesham Raja, a Muslim from Lahore, Pakistan, worked for TCG Software in
Bloomfield, NJ. Like many Muslims from India and Pakistan, Mr. Raja, 28, loved Hindi
music. (Source: New
York Times). 10
These people weren't the monsters that some purport all
Muslims to be. They were victims of a Monster called Osama Bin Laden who has
taken upon himself to represent all of Islam. It is no different than
Timothy McVeigh or David Koresh claiming to represent all of Christianity.
Such individuals in the eyes of God are
evildoers and tyrants of the worst kind. Terrorism is terrorism and doesn't
matter if its suicide bombers or indiscriminate shelling in the Middle East,
Northern Ireland, Columbia, or Africa. To kill and maim innocent people in
the name of religion for any reason is morally repugnant. My heart cries out
in anguish because the victims of terrorism did not deserve to die because
of someone else's misguided religious or political views. It is all about
humanity not about what group has brought shame upon America because of
their social or political agenda.
I truly believe that the key to a better understanding and acceptance of
Islam in American society is that the voices of Moderate Muslims must be
heard. Their voices have been drowned out by religious extremists, both Muslim
The moderate voice is not an elitist or westernized voice. It is not a
lonely or persecuted voice. And it is not a purely secular voice. It is a
voice of the Muslim mainstream, grounded in a Qur'anic verse: We have willed
you to be a community of Moderation (2:143) and in the admonition of the
Prophet Muhammad to stay away from extremism. 11
It is the voices of Moderation within the Islamic community that must be
heard not only for a better understanding of Islam in the West, but speaking
out for a more balanced American foreign policy in our dealings in the
Middle East. Ingrid Matteson who is Vice President of the Islamic Society of
North America has said that Muslims have a special duty to speak out on such
issues: "Who has the greatest duty to stop violence committed by Muslims against
innocent non-Muslims in the name of Islam? The answer, obviously, is
Muslims. We have to speak against oppressive interpretations of Islam and
against emotional, superficial, and violent apocalyptic depictions of a
world divided. And in our desire to show ourselves to be Patriotic
Americans, we cannot suppress our criticisms of the United States when we
have them. We have to do this, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also
because if we do not, the Muslim world will remain deaf to our arguments
that peaceful change is possible, and that revolt and ensuring lawlessness
almost always cause the great harm to the people." 12
Anissa Mariam Bouzianne, an Arab-American writer and filmmaker, is also
a voice of moderation who chose to speak out in the strongest terms against
Islamic fundamentalism after witnessing the World Trade Center destruction from
the window of her office: "The terrorists who committed this heinous act, if indeed they were Muslim,
as it appears they might have been, are no more 'my people' than Timothy
McViegh was 'the people' of Christians... Before the haunting dust from this demonic act settles on Manhattan, as a
liberal Arab and Muslim, I must speak out with the clearest and loudest of
voices and no longer let fanatics and extremist define me and my community.
For we do exist -- we are even in the majority -- Muslims and Arabs who
condemn the killing of another human being, who believe that God, that
Allah, is compassionate, and good, and forgiving. Who know that the Koran
forbids suicide, who see life as a gift that must not be squandered." 13
As a Christian, I call upon my other Christian and Jewish brethren to have
an interfaith dialogue with our Muslim colleagues and to counteract the
religious intolerance of other religious leaders. Even though we
may be Christian, Jew, or Muslim, we are all children of Abraham, and we
must realize that no amount of peace will come to our country and the world
unless we offer a peaceful alternative. They don't speak for the majority of
Americans who look upon favorably the religion of Islam. When the demonic
crazed zealots acted out in their violence against Muslim and Arab
Americans, we as a nation spoke out. We went to Mosque open houses and stood
side by side with our Muslim brethren in Midnight vigils. Instead of a Clash
of Cultures that is now being pursued by the religious right, there should
be a dialogue of civilization. Presidential Candidate and economist Lyndon
LaRouche echoed these very sentiments while speaking at the Italian
Institute for Asia: "You must approach it from a missionary standpoint, from an apostolic
standpoint, not a doctrinal standpoint. Rather than saying, what are the
differences between us, you have to say, what is the agreement among us? It
means, there has to be, as Khatami has proposed, the President of Iran,
there has to be a discussion of the agreement on an idea, a certain idea of
man. And there must be a discussion, with agreement to the idea of man, but
a continuing discussion of what it means. You can never unify people except
around a common principle." 14
The war on terrorism cannot be fought with guns and tanks alone. It must be
fought with ideas, love, empathy, compassion, tolerance, and understanding.
These are principles that too many religious leaders have refused to acknowledge.
The lasting legacy that we can leave to our fallen brethren, the victims of
9-11, who were of various
races, creeds, cultures, and religions, is to be united as one great nation
with a common bond for freedom, justice, and brotherhood. A recent poem
written by Neria Harish Hebbar, MD sums up our duty as members of the human
race and children of god to speak out against religious fanaticism, bigotry,
racism, or intolerance wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. As the poem
points out, to ignore the fanaticism around
us makes us the next willing target.
Lest Bigotry Consume Us All
Within the secure confines of my four walls,
I watched with detached resentment,
The senseless destruction and pain,
Inflicted by monstrous fanatics, on their brethren.
In the frenzy of religious strife,
Killing and maiming seems justifiable.
To the irrational, even murderous wrath,
Is rational; in their minds, condoned by God.
I remained callously disinterested,
As far as the evil took a detour,
Away from my safe haven,
And, the neighborhood of my kith and kin.
Then the fire and the stench spread,
The sewage, suddenly over flowed.
The distant carnage was close at hand,
At my doorstep, un-invited.
My clothes were bloodied, stature bruised,
My spirits shattered, distraught and dismayed.
The apparent safe isolation, within my four walls,
Had failed to protect my creed.
Like an ostrich, I had my head in the sand,
Pretending not to notice, ignoring the melee.
Like deadly plague, without showing favoritism,
The odious hatred killed - innocent, guilty, and all.
I soon learned to respect all beliefs, to accept,
To admire them, and to tolerate without contempt.
To be concerned, to defuse prejudice, defy racism,
Lest hatred and bigotry devour, and consume us all.
Neria Harish Hebbar, MD,
In this context, radical religious fundamentalists from Timmy McVeigh to
Osama Bin Laden will never win. May God Bless America and the whole world.
And we should remember that as the sons and daughters of Abraham, that only
through God (Allah) will we find total and everlasting peace.
- Yahya, Harun. Islam Denounces Terrorism. Page 20.
- Ibid, Page 25.
- Ibid, Pages 21-22.
- "Statement By ADC President Ziad Asali." American Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee. 2002-MAR-21, at: http://www.adc.org/press/2001/
- "Sikhs: Targets Of Misplaced Anger." Hate In The News. 2002-MAR-21,
Tolerance.org. See: http://www.tolerance.org/news/
- Tamari, Steve. "Who Are The Arabs? The Arab World In The Classroom," Center For Contemporary Arab Studies. 21 March 2002-MAR-21,
- Cainkar, Louise PHD. "The History Of Arab Immigration To The U.S.:
Introduction For High School Students." University Of Illinois-Chicago.
Great Cities Institute. Online at Arab American Anti-Discrimination
Committee's web site at: http://www.adc.org/educations/AAImmigration.htm.
- Harris, John F. "God Gave U.S. 'What We Deserve,' Falwell Says,"
WashingtonPost.com. 2002-March-15, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
- "Remembering Innocent Muslims Who Died On September 11. White House
Coalition Information Center.
- "MPAC'S Speech On Moderation At The State Department." Muslim Public
Affairs Council. 2002-FEB-25, at: http://www.mpac.org/NEWS/newsitemdisplay
- Mattison, Ingrid. "American Muslims Have A Special Obligation."
Beliefnet. 2001-OCT-30, at: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/89/
- Bouziane, Anissa Mariam. "First Person: An Arab American Voice
Terror." Hate In The News. 2002-MAR-21, Tolerance.org, at: http://www.tolerance.org/news/
- LaRouche, Lyndon. "Towards A Dialogue Of Civilizations: Lyndon LaRouche
Speaks In Rome, Italy." The Schiller Institute. 2002-JUN-2, at: http://schillerinstitute.org/dialogue_cultures/
- Hebbar, Neria Harish MD. "Lest Bigotry Consume Us All." Reprinted
Permission. India Nest.com: A Study In Diversity. 2002-SEP-8, at: http://www.indianest.com/poetry/
- A more accurate, according to the Pew Forum, is 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide.
Copyright © 2002 by Richard Dixon
Latest update: 2010-JUN-14
Author: Richard Dixon