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Aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attack

Voices of moderate Muslims

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Sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh):

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"The most excellent jihad (struggle) is that for the conquest of self."

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"Whoever suppresseth his anger, when he has it in his power to show it, God will give him a great reward."

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"Do you love your Creator? Love your fellow beings first."

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"Wish not or supplicate for death before its time cometh."

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Introduction:

The Western media seems to have given a very high profile to radical, extremist Fundamentalist Muslims who support terrorism. This essay attempts to balance this with moderate voices from the Muslim community.

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Statement by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC):

The OIC is "an international organization grouping 57 states which have decided to pool their resources together, combine their efforts and speak with one voice to safeguard the interests and secure the progress and well-being of their peoples and of all Muslims in the world." They concluded an emergency meeting at Qatar on 2001-OCT-10, and released a statement concerning the terrorist attack on New York and the Pentagon on SEP-11. Some of the points in their statement were:

bullet They condemned the terrorist attacks on the U.S.  The communiqué said: "These terrorist acts contradict the teaching of all religions and human and moral values."
bullet They also expressed concern "that confronting terrorism could lead to casualties among innocent civilians in Afghanistan and asserted the importance of assuring the territorial integrity of Afghanistan and its Islamic character,"

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told a news conference at the end of the meeting that: "We don't generally support military action but then again we don't support terrorism either and we also have to identify terrorism and see its causes, which is why we asked for it to be discussed...at the United Nations in future."

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters that Muslim states wanted to help "eradicate terrorism ...(which) harms the Islamic world and Islamic causes and had never served the Palestinian cause." 1,9

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Statement by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

On 2001-OCT-17, the Becket Fund placed an advertisement in the New York Times, Page A 17. The Fund is a bipartisan and interfaith public interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions. Their ad was a collection of statements by moderate Muslim religious authorities worldwide.

bullet Shaykh Abdul Aziz al-Ashaikh (Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Senior Ulama): "Hijacking Planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood constitute a form of injustice that can not be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts." 2001-SEP-15.
bullet Shiek Mohammed Sayyed al-Tantawi, leader of Egypt's great mosque, Al-Azhar: "[The attacks] will be punished on the day of judgment."
bullet Fatwa, signed by: Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Grand Islamic Scholar and Chairman of the Sunna and Sira Countil, Qatar; Judge Tariq al-Bishri, First Deputy President of the Council d'etat, Egypt; Dr. Muhammad s. al-Awa, Professor of Islamic Law and Shari'a, Egypt; Dr. Haytham al-Khayyat, Islamic scholar, Syria; Fahmi Houaydi Islamic scholar, Syria; Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, Chairman, North America High Council: "The terrorists acts, considered by Islamic law,... [constitute] the crime of hirabah (waging war against society)." 2001-SEP-27.
bullet Zaki Badawi, Principal of the Muslim College in London: "Neither the law of Islam nor its ethical system justify such a crime." Cited in Arab News, 2001-SEP-28.
bullet Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, Pakistan: "It is wrong to kill innocent people. It is also wrong to Praise those who kill innocent people." Cited in New York Times, 2001-SEP-28.
bullet Abdullah II, King of Jordan and descendent of the Prophet Muhammad: "What these people stand for is completely against all the principles that Arab Muslims believe in." ; cited in Middle East Times, 2001-SEP-28. 2

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Statement by two Canadian Muslim groups:

The Canadian office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR CAN) and the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA) issued a joint statement on 2001-OCT-17. They denounced a series of statements made by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network that state that Muslims should wage a "jihad" against Americans. They wrote:

"Islam respects the sacredness of life, and rejects any express statement or tacit insinuation that Muslims should harm innocent people. Despite our disagreement with certain American policies, we must never abuse the concept of Jihad to target innocent civilians."

"Jihad, which literally means 'struggle,' has an internal, societal and combative dimension. The internal dimension of Jihad encompasses the struggle against the evil inclinations of the self, and the spiritual project to adorn the self with virtues such as justice, mercy, generosity and gentleness. The societal dimension includes struggling against social injustice and creating a communal identity based on charity, respect and equality. Finally, the combative aspect of jihad is only to be used as self-defense against aggression or to fight oppression, and, even then, to be observed with strict limits of conduct that preserves the life of innocents and the sanctity of the environment. Moreover, this latter type of Jihad can only be declared by a legitimate, recognized religious authority."

"Using the concept of Jihad to justify harming the innocent is contrary to the letter and spirit of Islam. We condemn any violence that springs from this misguided interpretation." 3

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M.A. Muqtedar Kahn, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Adrian College, Adrian, MI.

Muqtedar Kahn publishes a self-syndicated column which has appeared in numerous newspapers, Internet web sites and periodicals world-wide. He holds a PhD in International Relations, Political Philosophy, and Islamic Political Thought, from Georgetown University. He is the Director of International Studies, at Adrian College, in Adrian, MI.

Dr. Kahn wrote "A Memo to American Muslims," after the SEP-11 terrorist attack. His intent is to encourage the American Muslim community to engage "in soul searching, reflection and reassessment." 4 He raised a number of points:

bulletThe Qur'an states that to kill one innocent person is like killing all of humanity.
bulletAllah, through the Qur'an, tells Muslims to forgive injustices that Jews and Christians commit against Muslims.
bullet The Israeli occupation of Palestine is "perhaps central to Muslim grievance against the West."
bullet The Israeli government treats its one million Arab citizens "with greater respect and dignity than most Arab nations treat their citizens."
bullet American Muslims are generally silent in the face of human rights abuses by Muslim regimes: e.g. chemical warfare in Iraq, killing of Bengalis in Pakistan, mutual slaughter in Afghanistan, oppression in Saudi Arabia.
bullet "Militias like the Taliban have allowed their hate for the West to override their obligation to pursue the welfare of their people."
bullet "The culture of hate and killing is tearing away at the moral fabric of the Muslim society. We are more focused on 'the other' and have completely forgotten our duty to Allah."
bullet "Islam is not about defeating Jews or conquering Jerusalem. It is about mercy, about virtue, about sacrifice and about duty. Above all it is the pursuit of moral perfection. Nothing can be further away from moral perfection than the wanton slaughter of thousands of unsuspecting innocent people."

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Imam Kutty of the Jami Mosque in Toronto, ON Canada:

He told his congregation in 2001-OCT that fanaticism is the enemy of Islam. 5 "Let us make no mistake about it: Today, Muslims have no enemy greater than fanatics in their midst...Let us know that fanaticism is ignorance; it is nothing but sickness and bigotry; let us know that fanaticism is opposed to both scripture and reason...We Muslims therefore condemn these barbaric attacks against innocent people."

"We condemn them unconditionally; we condemn them because it is opposed to reason and revelation. It is contrary to the fundamental principles of Islam which teach the sanctity of life. Make no mistake about it, We Muslims cannot be Muslims unless we affirm the sanctity of life in all forms."

"Let every Muslim know that there is no room in Islam for fanaticism, for hatred, for racism, for terrorizing innocent people, for indiscriminate killing, even in a state of war."

"Let us Muslims shoulder our responsibility in this crisis facing our society by distancing ourselves from all those who have perpetrated such a heinous and dastardly crime. I appeal to every Muslim to cooperate with the authorities in bringing the culprits to justice. Let no Muslim harbor such criminals in their midst; doing so is violating the laws and values that we cherish dearly in our religion.

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Bernard Haykel: chat room discussion at CNN.com

Professor Haykel is an assistant professor of Islamic Studies at New York University. He has written many articles on Islamic movements in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He joined the CNN.com chat room on 2001-OCT-11 to discuss Osama bin Laden's earlier statement to the Arab world. 6 Some of his points:

bullet "I applaud the fact that the Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned the terrorist attack. It doesn't surprise me, because most Muslims around the world have done so already."
bullet "It is true that the Koran contains verses that are antagonistic to Jews, Christians and non-Muslims. That said, the Koran also has verses that are positive and favorable to Christians and Jews. It is important to know that the Koran cannot be interpreted without the knowledge of the wider body of legal and theological Islamic literature. Verses don't stand on their own without context, and the context is always much more nuanced and sophisticated than the literal meaning of the verse."
bullet "I think it is extremely important for Muslims to realize that the phenomenon of bin Laden is as dangerous to Islam as it is to the West; that unless Muslims themselves ostracize bin Laden and his pernicious interpretation of the Koran and of the prophet's sayings, the Muslim world, as well as the rest of the world, will suffer a tremendous amount of physical and military abuse."

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Muslim public meeting in Toronto, ON, Canada:

A public forum was held in Toronto on 2001-OCT-10, almost one month after the terrorist attack. It was called "Understanding Ummah" -- the Arabic word for community. Six panelists addressed the audience. 7 Some of the comments were:

bullet Abdull-Rehman Malick, a high school history teacher, suggested that the future for Muslims in Canada is towards a pluralist, diverse Islam. He said: "It is to this spirit we as a community have to return. What Osama bin Laden has done is to turn our prophet [Muhammad] to hate when he came as a prophet of love...I am a Canadian Muslim. That is becoming more obvious to me as I see the reaction of my extreme co-religionists abroad, and the reaction of my community at home."
 
bullet Jsamin Zine, an education and sociology graduate student,  said: "There needs to be reflection on whether the values of social justice, peace, equity are represented in our homes, in our mosques, in our community."
bullet Shabir Ally, president of the Islamic Information Centre and a TV host explained how the Qur'an is interpreted by bin Laden and the Taliban. They follow a literal translation of the 7th century CE text that was written in the middle of tribal warfare. "He's using an interpretation of the Qur'an that has not kept up with our changing times. It's like taking a battle cry and shouting it at a hockey game."
bullet Saleha Kahn, coordinator of the Canadian Association for Islamic Relations said: "I feel very distressed. I'm unable to sleep at night. I'm losing weight -- which is good. [But] I'm unable to enjoy life." She referred to her son's first name: Osama. "It is a beautiful name in the Muslim religion." Osama was a contemporary of the prophet Muhammad. "Now it is equated with terrorism." A few hours after the terrorist attack, she told her son to expect a backlash in the schoolyard because of his name. Sadly, her prediction came to pass.

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Website of a section of the American Academy of Religion:

The American Academy of Religion (AAR), is the largest international organization dealing with the academic study of religion. 50 professors of Islamic Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the US and Canada who are members of the Study of Islam section within the AAR. They have created a web site at: http://groups.colgate.edu/aarislam/response.htm

The goal of their web site is "to bring to light a number of issues, many of which have not received adequate coverage in the national media." Their web site discusses many events associated with the SEP-11 tragedy:

bulletStatements by leading academic organizations
bulletStatements by leading American Muslim organizations.
bulletStatements by President Bush to distinguish between the faith of Islam and the beliefs and actions of the terrorists.
bulletExpressions of grief, sympathy, and prayer from the international Muslim community.
bulletHate crimes committed against American Muslims, Arabs and others.
bulletInformation on the Taliban, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden.
bulletStatements issued by humanitarian and peace organizations.
bulletStatements from Nobel Peace Prize Winners.
bulletInformation on the plight of 6 million Afghan refugees.
bulletOther international responses to the US retaliation against Afghanistan.
bulletColumns and editorial pieces which call for different ways of proceeding. 8

The steering committee and members of the AAR's Study of Islam section issued a statement which said, in part:

Statement from scholars of the Islamic religion 2001-SEP-17

We are grief-stricken at the horrifying events of this past week. Yet as scholars of the Islamic religion, we must take time from our grief, and the counseling of our students, to help prevent the continuing persecution of Muslims on American soil. The attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center are nothing short of murder. Those office workers did nothing wrong, nothing to deserve such a terrible fate, and the murder of innocents can never be justified and must not be tolerated. Anger and frustration at the death of these men and women are completely understandable and shared by us all, yet that anger must not be directed at individuals utterly innocent of these terrible crimes...

...the Qur’an commands all Muslims "If they incline toward peace, then you should too!" Suicide is utterly forbidden in Islam, and war must be declared by the State, not by individuals. These injunctions explain clear statements by the governments of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Libya denouncing Tuesday’s attacks. Radical groups like Hamas have also denounced it, along with the Palestinian leadership. Such political statements must be taken seriously as they are backed up by all major religious authorities, from the Rector of al-Azhar University to the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who forbid suicide missions, especially terrorist attacks against civilians...

...Just as most would regard bombers of abortion clinics to be outside the pale of Christianity, so the actions of these terrorists should not be accepted as representing Islam in any way.

As Tuesday’s events gradually shift into the past, the horror of what has occurred becomes even clearer. Many of us have been hit personally by these attacks; we grieve, we cry and we search for answers. Let us now join together as Americans and respond to this act of hatred with compassion and understanding, reaching out to our Muslim neighbors and stopping the cycle of violence.

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References:

  1. "Islamic Conference Condemns Terror," CBS News, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/now/story/
  2. "Osama bin Laden hijacked four airplanes and a religion," The Becket Institution, at: http://www.becketfund.org/other/MuslimAd.html
  3. "American Muslim news briefs," CAIR, 2001-OCT-17.
  4. M.A. Muqtedar Kahn, "A Memo to American Muslims," Column on Islamic Affairs, at: http://www.ijtihad.org/memo.htm
  5. Jim Coyle, "Imam's sermon a respite from hate, fear," Toronto Star, 2001-OCT-11, Page B2.
  6. Bernard Haykel, "The meaning of bin Laden's videotape," CNN.com chat room discussion, 2001-OCT-11, at: http://www.cnn.com/2001/COMMUNITY
  7. Catherine Porter, "Islam needs diversity, forum told,"  Toronto Star, 2001-OCT-11, Page B3.
  8. The web site of the Study of Islam section of the AAR is at: http://groups.colgate.edu/aarislam/response.htm
  9. "Overview," OIC, at: http://www.oic-un.org/about/over.htm
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Copyright © 2001 resides with the original authors
Originally written: 2001-OCT-12
Latest update: 2010-MAR-22
Editor: B.A. Robinson

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