Muslims in the USA after 9/11: 2002 Study shows leading Muslims in US think America deserved to be attacked
Muslim professionals and Imams in America denounce "Jewish lobby" and compare Bush to Osama Bin Laden
MIM: One of the most noteworthy aspects of this study was the candidness with which the Muslims interviewed spoke to the author of the study, possibly because he was foreigner. The comments of all those cited shows that for Muslims in America 9/11 was about them and offered a situation to be exploited to their advantage, whether it be playing the maligned victim, or revealing 'schadefreude' that America had finally gotten it's 'comeuppance'.
"...As Lorraine Ali, an Arab-American journalist at Newsweek in New York, puts it: „I think 9/11 has kicked everybody in the butt..."
„It is more difficult for Arabs and Muslims to feel home here, because the United States have been nearly constantly at war with their homelands."
In 2003 Ali was given " the National Arab Journalists Association's Excellence in Journalism Award. Ali,who is of Iraqi descent, urged young people to get into the mainstream media and make their voices heard, saying that the American public is seeking out the truth, as can be seen by the recent popularity of The Holy Qur'an". (see article below)
"...Muqtedar Khan said: „Muslims love to live in the US, but they also love to hate it." He calls this a „schizophrenic relationship" with the new homeland. The situation in the Middle East and in Afghanistan and, recently, the talk about war against Iraq, make it difficult to reconcile the loyalty towards their original countries and the loyalty towards the United States of America..."
MIM Note: Khan's own severe 'schizophrenia' is evident in the title of this paper he presented to the radical AMSS (of which he was president) in 2002:
"American Muslims as Guardians of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights" http://www.amss.net/Conferences/ConferenceProg31.htm
(For more on Muqtedar Khan see: http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/276
Yvonne Haddad :Photo of Bush as Bin Laden adorns her desk
Thorsten Funke, author of the study writes"...I have heard about the „pro-Israeli lobby" or about the „Jewish lobby" very often during my journey, even from Prof Haddad at Georgetown University (who has a photograph of George W. Bush with an Osama-bin-Laden-like beard on her desk). In Germany nobody could talk like this without risking his reputation. But then, Germany may be a very special case in this regard..."
Hasan Qazwini's first thought on the attacks of 9/11 was: I hope these were not Muslims"
"... When I visited Imam Hasan Qazwini of Dearborn, a very outspoken person who met several times with President Bush and who is said to be „moderate," he had a very calm voice during our conversation until we reached the topic of the American media. „We all know who influences the media in the USA," he told me. I looked at him and asked: „Well, who?" He insisted: „Come on, you know it, everybody knows it." I told him I didn't know. Then it burst out of him: „The pro-Israeli lobby..!"
"(He) says says his first thought after he saw the pictures of the burning WTC on CNN was: I hope this were not Muslims." But the negative impact on his community was not as bad as he expected."
(Note: In 2004 Qazwini was a speaker at the new Assadiq Center in Boca Raton whose Imam has the same family name, and also presents himself as a 'moderate: http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/396)
MIM: Qazwini's 'paranoia' was highlighted this 2004 article.
"...Qazwini, the cleric in the classroom, expressed envy, admiration, and
Muslims in the USA after 9/11
for the American Council on Germany, New York City
Thorsten Funke, Berlin,
John J. McCloy Fellow in 2002
October 2nd, 2002
Very soon after two airplanes had crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York and another one into the Pentagon in Washington it was clear that the religion of the people who had done these unimaginable evil deeds was Islam. More: It was clear that they belonged to the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden and that they were not only Muslims, but also claimed their religion as a justification for the murder of some 3000 people. Which impact would this attack on America have on Muslims who themselves live in this country? In the weeks after 9/11, the FBI counted ca. 350 brutal attacks on Muslims, Arabs or people who looked like Muslim or Arab. The whole community felt excluded of American society, peeped at by the CIA and the FBI, interrogated and permanently controlled at airports. Many women who wear veils did not dare to go out on the streets and President Bush declared: „This is not the America I know."
My idea was to talk to American Muslims about their situation nearly one year after the attacks, to ask them about their feelings and their expectations for the future. What I found, were mainly two things: First a lot of mourning about how badly America treats them; and secondly a lot of mourning about American foreign policy in the Middle East. But I also found a lot of people who realized that American Muslims have to do more by themselves to make their voice be heard, to get away from their complicated double loyalty towards their home countries and their new country that very often stand in opposite to one another. Being a quite new group of immigrants in the USA, Muslims just have begun to become an integrated part of American society. 9/11 does not necessarily have to mean a backlash for this ambition. It may also speed it up. As Lorraine Ali, an Arab-American journalist at Newsweek in New York, puts it: „I think 9/11 has kicked everybody in the butt."
History of Muslims in the USA
Note: Though I know that not all Arabs are Muslims, I tend to use the terms Arab and Muslim as synonyms in this report. When I speak of Arabs I mean Muslim Arabs, but much of the things affect Christian Arabs too, because they are seen by the public as coming from the same culture. When I speak of Muslims, I also mean non-Arabs. All these groups of people have one thing in common: Living in the USA, a lot of things have changed for them after 9/11.
Muslims and Arabs are a relatively new part of the immigration nation USA. Zahid Bukhari, who has conducted a survey on political participation of Muslims in the US, calls them „the new kids on the block". But this does not mean that they are not significant. Islam has about three million adherents between New York and Los Angeles. The biggest concentration is at the East Coast, the Midwest, the South and in California (these and most of the facts of this part of the report are based on the research of Prof. Yvonne Haddad, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.; on her writings and an interview I conducted with her on June 21, 2002 in Washington). According to Prof Haddad, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States and by the year 2015 Islam will be the second largest religion in the US. There are 1209 mosques and Islamic Centres (which mostly is pretty much the same) in the USA, more than 60 percent founded in the last 20 years (according to information provided by the US Department of State. For more detailed numbers see http://www.usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/muslimlife/homepage.htm, and also different writings by Haddad, where you can also find a history of Black Muslims, a topic which I totally ignore in my report).
Muslims began to immigrate into the USA about 1875. The first ones came mainly from the Middle East for the same reasons everybody else went there: because of the success stories that were told about America all over the world. On a similar basis the next wave of Muslim immigrants came to Ellis Island, mainly in the 1930s – most of these people were rather uneducated and were simply looking for their luck. The third wave, which took place in the middle of the 20th century, brought people who were fleeing from oppressive regimes in the Middle East and other Muslim countries (most of these regimes still are in power). This time the Muslim immigrants were often well educated. Right now we witness the fourth wave, which began in 1967. This wave consists of „those who are educated, fluent in English, and westernized. They came from a wide variety of countries, including many beyond the Middle East. These Muslims have not come to make a fortune and return home, but to settle, to participate in American affluence, and to obtain higher education and advanced technical training for specialized work opportunities." (Haddad)
This should be a good precondition for integration and participation. But did it work?
In a fact sheet on the condition of Arab Americans Post-9/11, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) lists 600 violent incidents directed against Arab Americans (http://www.adc.org/terror_attack/9-11aftermath.PDF), including also headlines like „Airline Racism," „Employment Discrimination, "Law Enforcement Profiling, "Tensions in Schools" and „Discriminatory Service or Denial of Service," as well as Civil Liberty Concerns.
Nearly everybody I talked to during my journey could tell some stories of that kind. The principal of a Muslim school in New Jersey, who had stones crushing through the windows only hours after the attacks on the WTC and who sent all the children home, being afraid they could be hurt; the young author, who has written a book about American Muslims and who always has books about Islam with her in her bag, who is interrogated at airports every time she takes a plane; the thirty-something modern woman, whose mother did not dare to leave the house for weeks – and the Arab-American journalist, who, at her first flight after 9/11, spotted an Arabic looking man among the passengers and thought: „I hope he is not a terrorist." Probably the man thought the same when he saw her on board of the plane.
But I do not think that this kind of discrimination is the main obstacle towards the integration of Muslims. It may be normal that after such attacks a country over-reacts. „If what happened on September 11th had happened in India, the biggest democracy, thousands of Muslims would have been slaughtered in riots on mere suspicion and there would be another slaughter after confirmation. But in the US, bigotry and xenophobia has been kept in check by media and leaders," says Muqtedar Khan, a Muslim and an assistant professor of political science, who immigrated into the US from India nine years ago. He wrote this and some other self-criticism-stuff in his „Memo to American Muslims," only a few days after the attacks, and put the text on his internet web site. The resonance was tremendous. The Memo was read by ten thousands of internet users and reprinted 72 times in newspapers (http://www.ijtihad.org/memo.htm). Khan has lost friends because of this who told him he was betraying his religion and his origin. But all he tries to do is to make his religion compatible with modern living. „The most interesting ideas in the Muslim world come from Muslims in the USA and Europe. They are the avant-garde, because under the oppressive regimes in our home countries free thinking is not possible," he told me when I visited him in Adrian, MI. Khan sees his role in doing ijtihad, which has got nothing to do with the infamous jihad, but which in Arabic means the use of human intelligence and intellect to develop the Islamic principles and origins towards modern life. Conservative Muslims would not allow this because they say everything is written in the Quran. Doing ijtihad means to use the Quran and stick to the principles of the religion but in a way that allows the believers to make a text from the 7th century valuable for modern times. Ijtihad was usual in some of the better times for Islam in history until it was forbidden by conservative authority. After my return from the USA Khan has published a book (American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom). In the question of integrating Muslims in American society he could be one of the most important figures, I guess.
Imam Hasan Qazwini of Dearborn (near Detroit) says his first thought after he saw the pictures of the burning WTC on CNN was: I hope this were not Muslims. But the negative impact on his community was not as bad as he expected. Maybe Dearborn is a good example of integration. Arabs and Muslims represent economic strength here. Warren Avenue, which 20 years ago looked like part of a ghost town, now is a prospering business street with lots of Arab restaurants, coffee shops and markets offering halal food (e.g. animals slaughtered according to the Islamic rules which are very close to Jewish rules). „I am very proud of this," says Brigitte Anouti, a Lebanese social worker for ACCESS, a social service for Arabs in the region, who came to the USA as a child. She goes to the mosque, does not wear a scarf, laughs a lot and is a fan of Ralph Nader.
The most striking point I got from my interviews was the fact that everybody would not – as I had expected - talk about hate crimes in the first place. What seems to bother Muslims in the USA most is not US domestic policy towards immigrants but US foreign policy towards their homelands. In every conversation I held, this problem was reached very quickly. Lorraine Ali explains: „It is more difficult for Arabs and Muslims to feel home here, because the United States have been nearly constantly at war with their homelands." Especially the policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict strikes them most because, from their point of view, Washington takes side against the Palestinians. They are very upset about the American media, which most people I talked to declared to be biased. In particular the Wall Street Journal and the Fox News Channel are said to be very pro-Israeli („I hate Fox News," someone said to me). A young Palestinian boy from Jordan in blue jeans and a very westernized cool behavior with a blond American girlfriend told me when I met him in a Dearborn Arab café: „Don't believe the media. They don't tell the truth." According to a survey among American Muslims, 68 percent say that the media does not fairly portray Muslims and Islam, and 77 percent say that Hollywood doesn't (Muslims in American Public Square, see below).
Although American people showed much interest in Islam in the time after the attacks of 9/11 and the sale of the Quran and books on Islamic culture and history rose, there have also been a whole bunch of books about the „Islamic menace." One of the most popular one is „American Jihad: The Terrorists Among Us" by Steven Emerson. Emerson was the one who declared Muslim extremists responsible for the Oklahoma bombing, shortly before the white American Timothy McVeigh was charged with the crime. American Muslims do not forget this kind of pre-condemnation and seem to be extremely touchy.
When I visited Imam Hasan Qazwini of Dearborn, a very outspoken person who met several times with President Bush and who is said to be „moderate," he had a very calm voice during our conversation until we reached the topic of the American media. „We all know who influences the media in the USA," he told me. I looked at him and asked: „Well, who?" He insisted: „Come on, you know it, everybody knows it." I told him I didn't know. Then it burst out of him: „The pro-Israeli lobby!" As evidence he showed me the front page of the New York Times of that day, with a photograph of the site of horror in Israel – the day before there had been a horrible suicide bombing. I said, well, but this did happen, didn't it? His answer: „Yes, but it is only half of the truth. The papers do not show the suffering of the Palestinians." The „Arab American News," a bilingual newspaper based in Dearborn with a circulation of 25 000 copies and edited by Osama Siblani, had the headline „The Suffering Reaches America" on its first issue after September 11, 2001.
I have heard about the „pro-Israeli lobby" or about the „Jewish lobby" very often during my journey, even from Prof Haddad at Georgetown University (who has a photograph of George W. Bush with an Osama-bin-Laden-like beard on her desk). In Germany nobody could talk like this without risking his reputation. But then, Germany may be a very special case in this regard.
Muqtedar Khan said: „Muslims love to live in the US, but they also love to hate it." He calls this a „schizophrenic relationship" with the new homeland. The situation in the Middle East and in Afghanistan and, recently, the talk about war against Iraq, make it difficult to reconcile the loyalty towards their original countries and the loyalty towards the United States of America.
Speaking of Lobbies: Of course the Arab and Muslim community tries very much itself to gain influence in American politics. Right now there are four different kinds of Muslim or Arab Lobby groups.
1. Political groups, for example the American Muslim Alliance, the Arab American Institute or the American Muslim Council. They want to make the Muslim community act politically for example by building voting blocks.
2. Civil rights groups, for example CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) or ADC (American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee)
3. National groups, who speak in the interest of their homelands or the interest of special nationalities among Muslims in the USA, for example the Pakistani lobby.
4. Identity groups, for example the Islamic Society of North America, who mainly want to pave the way for Islamic culture in American everyday life. They are engaged in building mosques, Islamic schools etc. These groups are rather not political.
The influence of these groups is really small. Jean AbiNader, a Christian Arab from the Arab American Institute, answered the question about his influence by putting thumb and finger of his right hand very close together. Anyway, they do gain some importance. Ibrahim Hooper, who converted to Islam and now is speaker of CAIR in Washington, told me about his fight with Hollywood about the blockbuster thriller „The Sum of all Fears" with Ben Affleck, which was out this summer. In Tom Clancy's original best-selling novel, the bad guys are Palestinian terrorists. When CAIR heard that there was to be a movie based upon the novel, they started a campaign to delete the Islamic terrorism part in the script. In the end – I do not know if it happened because of the CAIR campaign or for other reasons – there were no Muslims in the movie, but a little strange plot with Nazis as the biggest threat to the world. In an article called „Admit terrorism's Islamic link" in USA Today (June 24, 2002), the conservative film critic Michael Medved criticized this, saying that it was ridiculous unrealistic in the age of Al-Qaida to make Nazis the biggest threat of all, just out of political correctness. „Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but nearly every terrorist is a Muslim," he wrote. Hooper told me that this may be correct, but the problem was that Muslims in Hollywood movies only appear as terrorists. „When I talk with film critics about this and ask them to name some movies with different attitudes the only one that comes to their mind is Robin Hood with Kevin Costner and the black good guy Muslim played by Morgan Freeman."
58 percent of American Muslims say they have experienced discrimination after 9/11, but a vast majority of 93 percent also say that they want to take part in the American political process. This result of the already mentioned survey Muslims in American Public Square (www.projectmaps.com) makes the conductor of this survey, Zahid Bukhari of Georgetown University in Washington D.C., very hopeful that the integration of Muslims is on a good way. In his view, the fact that America is a country built of immigrants makes it easier for Muslims to feel home. „When I want to send my children to an Islamic school or want to buy halal food," the practicing Muslim Bukhari told me, „I do not have any difficulties, because the Jews already have paved the way." Jews need kosher food, which is similar to Islamic food regarding the slaughtering of animals. Because of this, said Bukhari, the American public is used to certain specialties among religious groups and does not have a problem to accept it. Bukhari, who came to the US from Pakistan in 1983 and still has a strong accent, said: „There are footprints we can follow. Now it is up to the Muslims." It was not enough to react negatively towards the „unfair" treatment of Muslims, but they should engage themselves, he said.
It may be a tragedy that American Muslims, after having gained some role on the political scene, now always have to prove their loyalty again. It seems, that after Pres. Bush and others directly after 9/11 visited mosques and embraced the Islamic community, this community now feels deserted by politicians, who do not want to be associated with them. Some bad remarks about Islam by evangelical priests like Rev. Jerry Vines (who said in June that the prophet Muhammad was a „demon-possessed pedophile") and also by some conservatives do not make it easier.
But the United States do have the potential to integrate a huge Muslim community, even if the Muslims themselves do not feel like this right now. In Dearborn, I took a car ride to the outer parts of Ford Road, where the construction site of the biggest mosque in North America is situated – right in the middle between a baseball field and two churches, one Armenian and one orthodox. There I got to know Muhammad Musa, the facility manager of the mosque and the nearby Islamic school. He was so polite to guide me through the construction site, showing me the prayer room and other parts of the mosque, being quite proud of the huge building. Up until now, it had a budget of 4 million US$, until completion it will be 15 million US$. It has a 108 foot minaret, and when we climbed up there, Musa was talking about how difficult it is to be a Muslim in the USA. When we reached the top, he said: „There is still a lot of discrimination." Then we looked down on the two rather small churches from the top of the biggest mosque in the USA. I do not think he had a feeling for the absurd situation – a mosque between a baseball field and two churches, and the mosque dominating them all, while he was lamenting about discrimination of Muslims.
This little story is not meant to illustrate that there is no discrimination. The opposite is the case. But as a concluding remark, I would say that in America it could be easier for Muslims than in any other place in the world – if there weren't American foreign policy and 9/11. In Germany, for example, it is much more difficult for Muslims to live their culture. There have been very intense debates whether Muslims should be allowed to slaughter animals without anesthesia (to gain halal food) or about building mosques. My impression was that the American society is much more open in these matters. Also I think that – regarding the fact that in their home countries many Muslims live under oppressive regimes – in America (in Europe as well), they may be able to develop their belief. At least they have the chance if they are strong enough to overcome their anti-Americanism and if American society overcomes its anti-Islamism. Then this impression of a „golden age of Islam in America" (to speak in terms of book author Asma Gull Hassan) hopefully would transfer over to the Islamic countries and make changes possible there, too.
The times are not very good for this, but during my stay in the USA, I met many American Muslims, who surely have the guts to just do it.=
List of main interview partners:
Yasemin Saib, Muslims against Terrorism, New York
Lorraine Ali, Newsweek, New York
Ismael Khalil, principal of Al-Ghazzali School, Jersey City, New Jersey
Asma Gull Hassan, book author (American Muslims: The New Generation), Colorado (meeting was in Boston)
Muqtedar Khan, Assistant professor for political science, Adrian College, Adrian MI
Imam Hasan Qazwini, Islamic Center, Dearborn, MI
Brigitte Fawaz-Anouti, ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), Dearborn, MI
Osama Siblani, Publisher, Arab American News, Dearborn, MI
Adel Kirollos, Director of Men's Programs, Arab-American Friendship Center, Dearborn, MI
Jean AbiNader, Managing Director, Arab-American Institute, Washington D.C.
Yvonne Haddad, Professor at Georgetown University, Center for Intercultural Studies, Washington D.C.
Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR (Center for American-Islamic Relations), Washington D.C.
Zahid Bukhari, Co-Director Project Muslims in American Public Square, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
MIM: This article from 1998 reveals that the victimisation and discrimination card played by Muslims after 9/11 had been years before the 2001 attacks.
Attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa and counter-attacks by the United States rekindled prejudices against American Arabs and Muslims.
In the wake of those attacks, and on the eve of the release of "Siege," the movie featuring bombings by Arabic Muslims in New York, Free Press reporters David Crumm and Beth Krodel organized for staffers to hear from Detroit-area Muslims.
Zana Macki, former regional coordinator of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, asked why journalists repeatedly ask Detroit-area Muslims to comment on terrorist incidents.
Inside the Free Press, the general thought has been that these have been helpful stories, and that people in the Muslim community would want to have a chance to respond to the stories to clarify their position, distance themselves from the attacks or send a message to the U.S. government about reprisals.
While Muslim people do want to be heard, Macki said, it's not always great to have reporters put microphones in the faces of local Islamic or Arabic leaders every time a quarter turn happens in world events and ask, "what do you think?"
As Crumm said, when there's violence in northern Ireland, for example, we don't call up Cardinal Maida to ask about what Catholics think, and we don't call up Edgar Vann, president of the Baptist Pastors Council, to ask what Protestants think. The reason is that, in our minds, there is a bigger separation between those communities than we see among Muslims.
By asking local Muslims or Arabs to react to or explain tragic events around the world, do we inaccurately draw connections that don't exist? Do we, by association, portray them as supporters in those attacks?
Although the panelists were all Muslims -- two of them Arabic and one of them African-American -- Christian Arabs as well as non-Arabic Muslims say they become targets for anti-Muslim discrimination.
Imam Hassan Qazwini, religious leader of the Islamic Center of America, came to Detroit from Los Angeles. He said that Muslim involvement in an attack does not mean that the Muslim community should pay the price. A bombing in Ireland, for example, should not carry consequences for Catholics everywhere.
"We are reactionary when there is a bombing or a tragic event somewhere in the Middle East or somewhere else and we rush to the Muslim community and we ask what they believe and how they would defend that action.
"Part of this responsibility is upon the Muslim community to make more public appearances among people in the United States to show that Muslims are like any other group. We have good people, who are good citizens, who have adopted the American system, and there are some people who act in a way totally at odds with the Islamic teaching I learned when I was studying Islam.
"The more people know about Muslims, they more they know that Muslims are ordinary citizens without horns," he said. "There are close to 8 million Muslims who live in the United States."
For the media, he said, "It's a matter of ethical responsibility to convey the accurate message to people so they will know what's going on."
Macki, who has been interviewed repeatedly and even written about Muslims and terrorism, asked, "Why do I have to continually wave the flag? Why do I have to stand out and say I am not a terrorist; our community is not terrorists? You guys are playing into their hands because you're allowing them to manipulate world religions even more."
Macki called for more mainstreaming, that is, including Arabs and Muslims in stories for reasons other than their ethnicity or religion. "Why don't you guys use our professionals in some of your stories? You don't come to us as doctors, lawyers and public relations professionals. You come to us when there's a tragedy. I feel like people are looking for scapegoats, in our mosques, in our businesses, in our areas. It shouldn't be like that."
Imam Abdullah Bey El Amin, director, Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, converted to Islam and said he, like a lot of other African-American Muslims, feels the ignorance and reaction to terrorism, too.
When people convert, he said, they say, "I openly declare that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah." He called "Siege" "a deliberate attempt to discredit the religion of Islam."
Given the lack of knowledge most Americans have about Islam, filling their informational void with a bombing "is a very, very damaging scene. It is very unfair, and I can't help but believe that it's intentional to discredit the religion."
Returning to terrorism, and with the threat of more attacks, Qazwini asked, "When are we going to stop bombing? A bomb for a bomb doesn't work."
His question echoed the panel's questions about the reaction stories that follow the attacks.
MIM: More proof of Hassan Qazwini's anti semitism and the anti American attitudes of young Muslims in America who argue against voting because it is " a treason against Islam".
Muslims eye role at US polls
MIM: Muqtedar Khan plays on 'both sides of the fence' and this opportunistic stance is disingenuously referred to by him as' taking the Koranic mandated middle way'. His convoluted 'weltaanschauung' is reflected in this letter he posted on the website of The American Muslim. The title is both contradictory and oxymoronic - "Pluralism not Secularism -Islam not Islamic Ideology ".
Khan also says he has never considered himself as a "progressive Muslim" but sits on advisory board of the Progressive Muslim Union. He then hastens to assert his "piety" by stating that he has been on "the advisory Shura of the Council of American Islamic Relations ( a Saudi funded front group for Hamas),helping them plan the next ten years." He also believe in the concept of Jihad but says his "preference" is for the Ijtihad over the military Jihad.
A blatant example of Khan's 'schizophrenic' 'moderate Islamist' stance is evident when he wrote ; "I am a member of the advisory board of the Progressive Muslim Union and support many of their goals. But I have also been a member of the advisory Shura of CAIR to plan their next ten years." In an interview , Khan responded to the charge that CAIR was regarded as a terrorist group by stating that "...they have been taking money from Saudi Arabia ...and I don't think they condemned suicide bombings:...but CAIR has it's advantages."(see complete letter below).
MIM" Khan's admission of working with CAIR is a far cry from his criticism of the group in a recent interview in which he reveals that the group "recently took 5 million dollars from a Saudi prince ".
Pluralism not Secularism, Islam not Islamic Ideology:
MIM: In a recent interview Muqtedar Khan justifies suicide bombing blaiming America for "systematic repression", which can cause ordinary people "to commit themselves to acts of terror". He also warns Americans to 'take Muslim grievances seriously' implying that otherwise they will get what they deserve.
"...But reflection over Muslim grievances can help us understand how ordinary people may be driven to commit themselves to terror. Systematic repression dispossesses people of their humanity and incites them to commit inhuman acts.
In your recent article in The New York Times, you point out the importance of 9/11 for Muslims in America. How important is it?
- September 11. is an important date for American Muslims because things have changed incredibly. Before September 11, America was quite open and hospitable to Islam. Islam was growing rapidly. It was the fastest growing religion in America. It was the fastest growing religion in the West. We had converts from all religions, faiths and ethnicities. We built about two-thousand mosques in the last 30 years, 400 schools and so on. If you notice the mind frame of American Muslims before 9/11, they were completely assured of their political rights in this country. They had a lot of faith in this government and in this constitution whether they were conscious of it or not. But what they were insecure about was their Islamic identity so they invested everything that they had in protecting their Islamic identity of their community and their children. So all their money, all the resources were spent on building mosques, schools besides the money spent for fighting or struggling for causes overseas, such as Palestine and Kashmir.
- What else has changed with 9/11?
- 9/11 happens and the U.S. Patriot Act was passed and there are extensive civil rights violations against Muslims in this country and it set a new mind frame where Muslims are worried and insecure about the future of Islam in America itself. So before 9/11, if you take the word "American-Muslims," Muslims were confident about the "American" in it and insecure about "Muslim" and invested in that. With 9/11, Muslims have become insecure about the American itself. They think the Patriot Act might even rid American Muslims of their citizenship. Now Muslims are trying to start a struggle for civil rights. They are trying to focus on wining the hearts and minds of Americans. They are trying to build bridges through interfaith dialogue and investing in America itself. Recently, a Pakistani couple gave 2.5 million dollars to Stanford University. And you see Muslims participating in establishing soup kitchens, raising funds for local charity. Suddenly you find American-Muslims investing in the "American" part of "American-Muslims" and this is a significant change.
- If they had done this prior to 9/11, could things be different for American-Muslim community now?
- Sure. On September 11, it became very clear that America was not going to treat American-Muslims as their allies. They were treating American-Muslims as suspects. George Bush came out and made a very nice statement about Islam, and said Islam is religion of peace, it's not a threat. But they have treated American-Muslims as suspects. All 6 million of us because we were seen as aligned with forces which are aligned against America. In principle, we have the same causes that Al Qaida have if you look at the list of what is said about Palestine. I think, American-Muslims had focused so much on foreign issues that they had not invested in other aspects (American-Muslims are not aware of) or any of the domestic issues. Suddenly they found out that they really did not have friends, really good friends in America. There are enemies for sure. The Christian coalition, which is whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments widely and as a result of that there is more anti-Muslim sentiment in America now than there was last year.
- You wrote, "September 11 may have shattered some dreams but forced them to reconnect with reality..."
- The American-Muslims were very confident about the strength of their community. They thought that they were responsible for the election of George Bush. American-Muslim community had become a force and all of a sudden we are talking about a fact that we could even transform American foreign policy and change it. And of course the biggest focus was on U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. American-Muslims thought that they could change American foreign policy and they had other dreams also. Some people actually dreamt of converting all America into Islam and making America an Islamic state. After 9/11, those dreams have been shattered. Now Muslims have become more realistic and they realized that we are not as powerful as we thought we were. They suddenly realized how vulnerable they were to the new legislation which have passed. Muslims haven't yet challenged in the courts all these new legislations. Now we are doing that but the lead is ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. So Muslims on their own are not even able to fight for themselves.
- How about American Muslim organizations?
- Foreign money to American Muslim organizations has been reduced. Organizations themselves are not sure whether they should take money or not. As a result of that, many organizations have gone basically bankrupt. American Muslims themselves are feeling hesitant to donate money because of the raids on charities. CAIR is the only organization which seem to be doing reasonably well but CAIR also takes money from overseas. They recently took 5 million dollars from a Saudi prince.
- Critics claim that CAIR is a terrorist organization.
- There are two reasons: One is that they have been taking money from Saudi Arabia and number two is that I don't think they condemned suicide bombings in Palestine. Because of the lack of condemnation of suicide bombings by Hamas, many pro-Israeli forces in America see the lack of condemnation as support for terrorism. So there was an article written by Steven Emerson several years ago where he called CAIR, Hamas with a K Street address. But CAIR has its own advantages. It is a civil rights organization. If it focuses on that, I think it can serve the community. But if it starts becoming a proxy for pursuing foreign policy changes as a substitute to Palestinian activism here in America and it tires to use the American-Muslim community as an instrument to advance the interests of other Arab communities overseas, then it will be seen as a foreign agent, not only by the American government but also by many Muslims.
- Your book has striking observations about prospect for Islam in America.
- There are 3 chapters which I think would be very interesting. There is a chapter which talks about prospects for Islam in America. There is also a chapter which deals with politics and realities of 9/11. And there is chapter which talks about Islam and democracy in which I argue that not only Islam and democracy are compatible but it is a mission of American Muslims to demonstrate how Islam is compatible with democracy by living Islamic lives in America. There are certain things about America which are wonderful in the sense that it provides freedom for Muslims to be Muslims. We are able to have think-tanks like IIIT (The International Institute of Islamic Thought, sister organization of AMSS-American Muslim Social Scientists) in America, which are not allowed in other Muslim countries. AMSS is big in America. There are few Muslim countries, which even have an AMSS. So American Muslims, because of their relative wealth, their high literacy level, lots of scholars and intellectuals and the freedom to do what they want, not only will be able to produce a viable and vital Muslim community and a democracy but also revive Islamic thought and give new impetus and new strength to Islamic intellectual development for the whole community. I think that American Muslims have a major role to play.
- You point out the high education level of the American Muslims.
MK: Per capita income of American Muslims is far higher than average American citizen, estimated around 40-thousand dollars per person. The educational level of American Muslims is also very high, more than 70 percent are college graduates, and that includes both men and women. In that sense, it's a very elite community. Plus things that happen in America have a tendency to globalize. I live in Michigan and through my web site, I find people reading it from over 80 countries, many of them from Muslim countries. So things that happen in America can be easily disseminated in the entire Muslim world. So the American Muslims have been positioned very well.
- But their political influence is still low.
- One of the reasons why the American Muslims' political influence is limited is because they have focused on the most difficult challenge, which is combating the influence of American Jewish community and trying to change American foreign policy toward Israel. This is probably one of the most highly invested and most difficult goals. We have not attempted any other goal in the same level and I think we are significantly powerful community but not yet powerful enough to deal with that major challenge. So it's like saying that we could have jumped 6 feet high, 7 feet high but we try to jump 10 feet high, which we are not ready for at the moment. Also what's interesting to notice is that very goal has also been used to mobilize American Muslim community so it goes both ways. Maybe that goal was helping to unite American Muslims, I don't know.
Now, it would be a mistake for American Muslims to focus on foreign policy issues. I think they should focus on defending the American Muslim community, fighting for civil rights in America, investing in America because America itself is changing. There were certain things in America that we liked. That's why we came here. If those very things disappear, such as religious tolerance and freedom of speech and so on, America will not be worth living for or living in. We have to make sure that the things we liked about America, we defend them .
- What else can American Muslims do?
- One of the interesting things that American Muslims can provide for the rest of the Muslim world is an opportunity for scholars from different parts of the world to come here and live in a free society and express their ideas. So we find many many Muslim scholars in the last 5 years alone who have come over here. One of the interesting things that American Muslims can provide is a safe heaven for Muslim scholars, who do not have freedom in the Muslim world.
MIM: Note that Ray Hanania the organiser of this event is on the advisory board of the Free Muslims Against Terror' organisation. At the conference Hanania ( who is an Arab but claims he is not a Muslim) declared :"Resistance is not terrorism...Resistance is the only response to Sharon's Nazi government". Hanania called the Likud party "the first terrorist organisation in the Middle East.
The founder of Free Muslims Against Terror - Kamal Nawash ,defended Abdulrahman Alamoudi in 2003. Alamoudi was jailed for 23 years on a variety of terrorism related charges including a plot to kill Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia .Nawash called the charges against Alamoudi "politically motivated" and cynically asserted that Alamoudi "was a supporter of the war on terror". What Nawash failed to state was that the member of the free Muslim coalition regard Israel as a terrorist state and refer to Israeli self defense as terrorism.
Counter terrorism expert Michael Waller, testified in front of goverment hearing on terrorism that:
"Alamoudi is presently in jail on federal terrorism-related charges. He was arrested in late September 2003 at Dulles International Airport after British law-enforcement authorities stopped him with $340,000 in cash that he was trying to take to Syria. U.S. officials allege that the money may have been destined for Syrian-based terrorist groups to attack Americans in Iraq. Charges include illegally receiving money from the Libyan government, passport and immigration fraud, and other allegations of supporting terrorists abroad and here in the United States.
Arab And Muslim Journalism Conference Ends In Chicago
By Ayub Khan, IOL Chicago correspondent
CHICAGO, March 12 (IslamOnline) - A three-day National Arab and Muslim Journalism Conference was held, in Chicago over the weekend. Muslim and Arab journalists from various media outlets attended the conference to discuss issues confronting them after September 11.
Saturday night's dinner and awards ceremony was the main highlight of the conference in which Lorraine Ali (Newsweek journalist), Hafez Al-Mirazi (Al Jazeera, Washington DC Bureau Chief) and Jim Avila (NBC TV Correspondent) were honored for their work.
Seasoned journalist Ray Hanania, editor of the Arab American View newspaper and main conference organizer, in his address, lashed out at hardline Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for repeated injustices committed on the Palestinian people. He described Sharon as "murderous", "blood-thirsty", and a "Nazi," saying the Likud was the first terrorist organization created in the Middle East.
Defending the Palestinian struggle for independence, Hanania said: "Resistance is not terrorism. It is a right to stand up against injustice. Resistance is the only response to Sharon's Nazi government."
Urging the community to take media seriously and support and respect Muslim and Arab newspapers, Hanania said, "We have a right to criticize and denounce the acts of the U.S. government when they are wrong."
Directing his comments towards journalists, he said: "I, as a journalist, ask you to make products which will make us feel proud."
Lorraine Ali, music critic for Newsweek magazine, was awarded the National Arab Journalists Association's Excellence in Journalism Award. Ali, who is of Iraqi descent, urged young people to get into the mainstream media and make their voices heard, saying that the American public is seeking out the truth, as can be seen by the recent popularity of The Holy Qur'an.
"It is up to us to give the American people another perspective," she said.
Nationally acclaimed NBC TV correspondent Jim Avila was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Avila, whose father was Lebanese, said he felt honored recieving the award, adding that he is reporter, not a commentator, and that he works hard to be perceived as unbiased and credible.
Avila said that in the wake of 9-11 he has tried to be as fair as possible in his reporting. Since September 11, he has done features that include the story of a Pakistani woman who lost her son in the World Trade Center, and of an Iraqi writer in New York who is afraid to go out to buy groceries in the city.
He added that it was important for people who hold different views to go out and cover the news and appealed to gathered journalists to "continue to work hard and reach out in the mainstream and add sensitivity."
The keynote speaker of the evening was Hafez Al-Mirazi, Al Jazeera, Washington DC Bureau Chief, who was presented with the M.T. Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award for 2001-2002. In his address, Mirazi defended Al Jazeera's track record claiming it continues to be as objective as possible, saying that there is no way to present an Arab and Palestinian perspective in U.S. media, but that Al Jazeera presents all sides in its broadcasts.
Al-Mirazi said Al Jazeera was praised before Sept. 11, but is now being unfairly targeted, adding that during the Gulf War, CNN was also accused of being the voice of Baghdad, as presently Al Jazeera is being called the voice of the Taliban.
He said Al Jazeera has done nothing wrong by showing images of destructions caused by the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. "You should stop the carnage in order to make us stop broadcasting those images," he said.
Several other journalists and activists were also honored at the event.
The conference also marked the Chicago premiere of a women's magazine, Azizah, which is edited by Tayyibah Taylor.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Sept. 26, 2001 | WASHINGTON -- Less than a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush appeared at the Islamic Center in Washington, standing with various leaders of Muslim groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Muslim Council (AMC) to make a public show of support for American Muslims, as ugly acts of violence and intimidation were made against Muslims and Arab-Americans
"It's a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth," Bush said. "And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way I do. They're outraged, they're sad. They love America just as much as I do."
CAIR and the AMC have emerged as possibly the two most outspoken U.S. Muslim organizations in the wake of the tragedy, protesting "hate crimes" against Muslims and Arab-Americans, explaining why increased security need not preclude civil liberties for those from the Middle East and Near East, and trying to put a moderate face on a religion Americans only seem to hear about when it rears up in its most extreme incarnations.
USA Today, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Fox News Channel and Salon -- as well as hundreds of media outlets throughout America in search of expertise, information and a moderate face for Islam -- have sought out CAIR and AMC executives in recent weeks. When CNN's Bill Hemmer tackled the question "What do we really know about Islam?" it was Al-Haaj Ghazi Khankan, executive director of CAIR, to whom he turned. And it was Aly Abu Zaakouk, executive director of the AMC, who explained to the San Francisco Chronicle how the term "Infinite Justice," the Pentagon's initial name for a U.S. military strategy overseas, would be "offensive to some in the Muslim community."
But reporters are learning it's not easy to find leaders who can authentically speak for Muslim Americans, who represent a wide variety of ethnicities and languages, sects and political views ranging from completely secular to Islamic fundamentalist. CAIR and AMC in particular would not be chosen as representatives by many Muslims. In fact, there are those in American Muslim communities as well as law enforcement who consider CAIR and the AMC to be part of the problem, because both have been seen as tacitly -- if not explicitly -- supportive of extremist groups guilty of terrorism.
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of CAIR, refuses to outright condemn Osama bin Laden. "We condemn terrorism, we condemn the attack on the buildings," Hooper said. But why not condemn bin Laden by name, especially after President Bush has now stated that he was clearly responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks?
"If Osama bin Laden was behind it, we condemn him by name," Hooper said. But why the "if" -- why qualify the response? Hooper said he resented the question. And what about prior acts of terror linked to bin Laden? Or that bin Laden has urged Muslims to kill Americans?
Again, Hooper demurred, saying only that he condemns acts of terror.
Both groups also refuse to outright condemn Islamic terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. In fact, leaders from both groups have, in recent years, been quoted defending or exhorting organizations that the U.S. State Department classifies as "foreign terrorist." Steven Pomerantz, former FBI assistant director and chief of the FBI's counterterrorism section, once charged that CAIR's activities "effectively give aid to international terrorist groups." Other American Muslim leaders have raised questions about their possible alliances with radical groups, and many academics are disturbed by the groups' prominence.
But CAIR and AMC strongly disagree with such criticisms, blaming an anti-Muslim bias -- or a pro-Israel one. When asked Friday about accusations from other Muslims that his group may be extremist, Aly Abu Zaakouk, the executive director of the AMC, said, "You are trying to blemish our reputation. Get the heck out of here," and hung up the phone. "This kind of thing has been going on for years," said CAIR's Hooper. Asked about Muslim clerics who have complained that his organization is extremist, Hooper said, "The pro-Israel lobby hooks up these guys to be their Muslim front men."
An even more basic problem for many Muslim academics and some clerics is the presumption that these organizations represent their views. "There is general concern among Muslim intellectuals about how not only CAIR but some of these other organizations are claiming to speak in the name of the Muslim community, and how they're coming to be recognized by the government as spokespeople for the Muslim community in the U.S.," says Ali Asani, professor of Islamic studies at Harvard University. "That troubles people."
Neither CAIR nor the AMC divulge their membership numbers, though both seem to be, as AMC executive director Aly Abu Zaakouk says, "working to be the voice of American Muslims in Washington, D.C., in state capitals and local governments, from PTAs to Pennsylvania Avenue."
But unlike, say, the Catholic Church, Islam in the U.S. doesn't have an organized hierarchy. That is, Asani says, "something the American Muslim community has been struggling with." There are moderate-seeming groups like the Islamic Institute and others that will likely gain greater visibility as this crisis continues. But with Muslims coming from so many different countries, with so many different sects within those countries, often the loudest group -- or the ones who lobby Congress -- are the ones the U.S. government turns to as representative of the estimated 6 million to 8 million American Muslims.
When leaders of these groups speak to the media, Asani says, "Very often whoever's speaking for them represents a very homogenized global form of Islam that refuses to recognize diversity of opinion.
"One of the things I have noticed as a result of this crisis is that there are so many people -- this imam and that imam -- and everybody is claiming they represent the Muslim community," he says.
Particularly problematic is the attitude of CAIR and AMC toward Islamic terrorist groups. CAIR was critical of the prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman, whom U.S. authorities deemed the ringleader of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and who was convicted with nine followers in October 1995 of conspiring to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel along with other New York City landmarks.
CAIR went so far as to list Abdul-Rahman's lawyers' criticisms of the trial as "far from free and fair" on a 1996 list of "incidents of anti-Muslim bias and violence" in a book called "The Price of Ignorance" which dealt with the "status of Muslim civil rights in the United States." And CAIR's founder, Nihad Awad, wrote in the Muslim World Monitor that the World Trade Center trial, which ended in the conviction in 1994 of four Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, was "a travesty of justice." According to Awad -- and despite the confessions of the terrorists from the 1993 attack -- "there is ample evidence indicating that both the Mossad and the Egyptian Intelligence played a role in the explosion." (Awad -- who met with President Bush last week -- has been more circumspect in his comments after this World Trade Center bombing.)
Leaders of the AMC also have expressed concern for the 1993 World Trade Center terrorists who, it should be remembered, differ only from the Sept. 11 bombers in efficiency. "I believe that the judge went out of his way to punish the defendants harshly and with vengeance, and to a large extent, because they were Muslim," Abdurahman Alamoudi, then the executive director of the AMC, wrote to his members on Aug. 20, 1994.
Last year, questions about Alamoudi and the actual moderation of the AMC came to light when both Gov. George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned $1,000 given to their respective campaigns by Alamoudi, no longer the executive director but still a board member of the organization, according to the AMC. Last year, however, Clinton and Bush expressed concern not with Alamoudi's claim that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers were the victims of anti-Muslim bias, but because of his support for other terrorist organizations.
At a November 2000 rally against Israel in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, Alamoudi said to the crowd, "Hear that, Bill Clinton! We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish they add that I am also a supporter of Hizballah. Anybody support Hizballah here?" The crowd cheered.
According to the State Department, Hamas engages in "large-scale suicide bombings -- against Israeli civilian and military targets, suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals." A pro-Hamas Web site proudly lists the organization's various acts of violence, against both Israeli military and civilians. Hezbollah, the State Department says, is "known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-U.S. terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of U.S. and other Western hostages in Lebanon. The group also attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992."
But neither CAIR nor the AMC or other Muslim American organizations -- much like several of the Arab nations Bush is trying to bring into the anti-terrorism coalition -- appear to consider Hamas or Hezbollah terrorist organizations. Nor does it mean that Israeli civilians -- especially those who live on settlements in disputed territories -- are necessarily considered "innocent civilians" to these groups, either.
But Azar Nafisi, a culture and politics professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, says the support of certain terrorist groups poses a fundamental problem for any organization that hopes to speak for American Muslims. Even if they condemn bin Laden, "Different Muslim organizations in the United States support Hamas," she says. "Are some acts of terrorism valid and some not?"
CAIR's Hooper repudiates the charge wholeheartedly, arguing that no one can point to any example of the major American Muslim organizations supporting Islamic extremism. He says that they are faulted for "sins of omission, not sins of commission," and that criticism comes their way from other Muslims for not speaking out against terrorist organizations or human rights abuses in Muslim countries, not for necessarily voicing support.
Hooper's comments about Hamas and Hezbollah are even more qualified than they were about bin Laden. "If someone carries out terrorist acts, they should be labeled as a terrorist," he says. "If they don't, they shouldn't." Pressed to address these two terrorist groups by name, Hooper said, "If Hamas kills innocent civilians we condemn them. But I'm not going to condemn legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation."
CAIR, Hooper continues, has never even mentioned the word "Hamas" as an organization, so why should they start now? But that, of course, doesn't include all the mentions of Hamas that CAIR's leaders have made -- including CAIR founder Awad's 1994 declaration that before the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority he "used to support the PLO," but that now he was "in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO."
Hamas, meanwhile, has claimed credit for the murders of countless Israeli civilians. Middle East scholars believe that Islamic fundamentalists don't consider many victims of terrorist attacks "innocent," which is how they can defend Hamas as not killing innocent people. Hooper, however, refused to answer questions exploring that theory.
"What you're trying to get me to say is the Palestinians don't deserve to live in peace and freedom," Hooper says -- though neither the Palestinians nor Israel had been mentioned. Questions about whether CAIR would condemn organizations by name unequivocally, instead of qualifying the condemnations, were just "word games from the pro-Israel lobby," Hooper said. Instead, Hooper said that the very questions were the problem, and part of a Zionist conspiracy. "This is a game they play," Hooper said, referring to the pro-Israel lobby. "They give me a long list of people to condemn and if you don't give sufficient condemnation you're a terrorist. We would condemn any person or any group that kills innocent civilians. But it's not my duty that when the pro-Israel lobby says 'Jump' I say 'How high?'"
Hooper says that his attitude about whoever is behind the attacks is "go get 'em," but his job is to preserve the rights of Muslims in this country and be vigilant in that task. He criticizes the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that when law enforcement refers to "associates" of the terrorists, they're stretching the term. Law enforcement is using the term "associates" too loosely, he says, in a way to target Muslims. "It's like the 'Six degrees of Kevin Bacon' game," he says. "No Muslim is more than six degrees away from Osama bin Laden."
Hooper then ended the interview, and refused to discuss questions about a series of 1994 meetings that CAIR coordinated for Bassam Alamoush, a Jordanian Islamic militant who told a Chicago audience in December of that year that killing Jews was "a good deed." Nor could he be asked about CAIR board member Siraj Wahaj. Wahaj, the imam of the Taqwa Mosque in Brooklyn, decried on TV the Sept. 11 attacks as "criminal" and "wrong." But Wahaj also had invited convicted terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman to speak at his mosque, and even testified on his behalf. Before then, in 1991, speaking to the Islamic Association of North Texas, Wahaj called Operation Desert Storm "one of the most diabolical plots ever in the annals of history," and that the war was "part of a larger plan, to destroy the greatest challenge to the Western world, and that's Islam." Just as the USSR fell, so too will the U.S., Wahaj said, "unless America changes its course from the new world order and accepts the Islamic agenda."
Long before the Sept. 11 horror, one of the most bold critiques of Muslim American organizations came on Jan. 7, 1999, in a speech to the U.S. State Department by Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, another nonprofit organization for American Muslims. Kabbani spoke critically about the ideology of the major Muslim American organizations. Warning that too many Muslims in America were supporting terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a variety of ways, and that too many mosques in the United States were becoming havens for Islamic extremists, Kabbani said that some Muslim American organizations were a big part of the problem.
"There are many Muslim organizations that claim to speak on behalf of the Muslim community but that in reality are not moderate, but extremist," Kabbani said. While Kabbani made no direct references to any group in his speech, it is with AMC and CAIR that he has publicly feuded.
Muslim extremism is dangerous, Kabbani cautioned, and the media needs to learn the difference between Islam and extremism. "What I am seeing, unfortunately, are those that are advising the media, or advising the government are not the moderate Muslims," Kabbani said. "Those whose opinion the government asks are the extremists themselves."
And in a January 1997 letter to a Muslim Web site, Seif Ashmawy, an Egyptian Muslim and peace activist who published the "Voice of Peace" newsletter about Muslim affairs, slammed both CAIR and the AMC for defending Islamic extremism. "It is a known fact that both the AMC and CAIR have defended, apologized for, and rationalized the actions of extremists groups," Ashmawy, who died in a 1998 car accident, wrote. "The real challenge for moderates like myself is to prevent my Muslim brethren from [being] deceived by extremist groups that pretend to represent their interests." The groups' defenders argue that groups like CAIR and the AMC are naturally and rightly critical of the Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza. And they make no apologies for vigorously defending the civil rights and civil liberties of Arab-Americans and Muslims, which sometimes leads them to butt heads with U.S. law enforcement. CAIR's Hooper says Kabbani represents just a small group of Muslims. Law enforcement officials who make charges such as Pomerantz's are "anti-Muslim bigots."
But the views of the more radical American Muslims will continue to face increased scrutiny, and in some cases, condemnation from the American public. Until early last week, for instance, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla., posted on its Web site an openly anti-Semitic essay that referred to Jews as being "known for their treachery and corruption" and quoted from a Muslim text that read, "O Muslim! There is Jew behind me, kill him!"
Dan McBride, spokesman for the Boca Raton mosque, said the essay, titled, "Why can't the Jews and Muslims live together in peace?" generated three e-mail complaints, so they took it down.
"As fellow Americans, we're all a little sensitive right now and we don't want to increase any tensions," McBride said. "So we're trying to be a little politically correct right now."
Which is not to say McBride disagrees with anything in the essay. In fact, he defends it word for word, including passages that Art Teitelbaum, the southern area director of the Anti Defamation League, calls "filled with poisonous anti-Semitic bigotry." McBride defends the assertion, for instance, that Jews are "usurpers and aggressors, who have oppressed and persecuted others, and who are known for their treachery and corruption throughout the world, historically and in the present age." And that Jews have "carried out chemical and radiational [sic] experiments on their prisoners, and taken organs from them for transplant into Jewish patients." McBride says "that's all documented," though he could not provide any documentation.
"This is the kind of ranting and ravings that you get out of -- I would like to say fanatics, but it's not just fanatics, it's people who are ignorant," says Johns Hopkins' Nafisi, who was raised Muslim in Iran. "It's one interpretation of Islam, an interpretation that has been encouraged by many Muslim leaders around the world. But it's not the Islam I was raised on."
Ultimately, as the American public requires more knowledge of Islam, the challenge will be in finding leaders who can explain the faith, while being free of their own ties to the religion's fundamentalist sects. But for any American Muslim leader, in trying to appeal to a wide variety of people, there may easily be examples of, or acceptance of, Islamic extremism in their past.
During the national day of prayer and remembrance Sept. 14 at the National Cathedral, attended by Bush and other U.S. dignitaries, Muzammil Siddiqi, imam for the Islamic Society of North America, read from the Quran, saying that "Those that lay the plots of evil, for them is a terrible penalty; and the plotting of such will be not abide."
But, as columnist Charles Krauthammer wondered in the Washington Post, one has to ask "who are the layers of plots of evil" to whom Siddiqi refers? "Those who perpetrated the World Trade Center attack? Or America, as thousands of Muslims in the street claim? The imam might have made that clear. He did not." It was not the first time Siddiqi was disturbingly noncommittal. In 1989, after the fatwa death sentence issued against author Salman Rushdie for his book "The Satanic Verses," Siddiqi's view on whether Rushdie should be killed was difficult to assess. "Asked whether he personally thinks capital punishment would be appropriate in Rushdie's case," wrote the Los Angeles Times, "Siddiqi was non-committal, saying that would have to be determined in the due process of Islamic law."
This story has been corrected.
MIM: Khan and Esposito blame the United States for 9/11, justify suicide terrorism,and conclude that the only way for the world to deal with Muslims is to accomodate them.
Islam and the West -The threat of internal extremism
Muqtedar Khan and John Esposito
The tension between the US and the Muslim World has been steadily escalating with both sides resorting to steps that undermine the prospects for more peaceful and cooperative US-Muslim relations. Western Muslims, in America and Europe, suffer directly as a result of this escalation. They are being targeted as a potential fifth column and though they have responded admirably to face the new challenges, their circumstances continue to deteriorate. The presence of a persistent anti-western extremism within a small minority of Western Muslims exacerbates the plight of Western Muslims and undermines all their efforts to improve relations with the broader Western communities and allay fears that Islam in the West is a threat to democracy and security.
The US led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent chaos, death and destruction in Iraq, compounded by the inability of 1700 US experts to find any trace of WMDs in two years of systematic searching [the stated reason for the invasion] has contributed to an unprecedented amount of anger, frustration, resentment and anti-American feelings among Muslims everywhere. According to several international polls conducted by the PEW forum and Zogby International, public opinion of the US across the Muslim World (and elsewhere in the world) has plummeted and is at its lowest ever.
The Bush administration's tactics of keeping the fear, anger and resentment triggered by the 9/11 catastrophe alive in order to advance the conservative agenda combined with frustration of American goals in Iraq and a sense of being at war with Muslim extremism has made many Americans increasingly hostile towards Islam and Muslims. Polls conducted in the US suggest that while 38% Americans hold very negative views about Islam and Muslims, only 2% have anything nice to say about them [survey conducted by CAIR Survey, November 2004] and over 44% of Americans are willing to deprive Muslims freedoms and rights available to other Americans [A survey by Cornell University, December 2004].
The war on terror and its attendant consequences has created extremely difficult circumstances for American Muslims in particular and Western Muslim in general. The changing political and legal environment in Western countries across the board has undermined the quality of life of Western Muslims. Many face discrimination in the work place, are victims of racial and religious profiling, businesses are failing, international travel has become difficult and risky and Islamic institutions, and particularly mosques and Islamic charities face harassment and unnecessary scrutiny.
The world has never been more interdependent and the plight of Western Muslims is illustrative of how global integration is now a palpable reality. The murder of a Dutch film producer, Theo Van Gogh, allegedly by a disenchanted Dutch Muslim [Mohammed Bouyeri, 26], the denial of a visa to the US for a Swiss Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, or the humiliating deportation of a British Muslim, Yusuf Islam, from the US immediately on arrival are all front page news all over the world. Not only do these episodes draw widespread attention from the media, they feed upon and fuel the new crisis in Western Civilization – "Islam in the West".
When a Dutch animal rights activist, Volkert van der Graaf, murdered a Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn in 2002, it did not raise questions about the compatibility of the philosophy of rights and the West. But when a Dutch Muslim murders a Dutch film producer, it raises profound questions not just about Islam's compatibility with modernity and democracy but also about the ability of Western Muslims to live in a democratic society. Even though such outrageous episodes are extremely rare, the fear of Islam and the now embedded antipathy towards Muslims, frequently surfaces in the western media, in popular discourse, in casual conversation, in parliamentary discussions and in new legislations.
As long as relations between Western societies and the Muslim World remain less than cordial, Western Muslims face the reality of Islamopheobia and as a result they will remain second-class citizens, constantly watched, regularly demonized, systematically marginalized, feared, despised and portrayed as a potential fifth column. Defending the innocence of Western Muslims, and speaking about tolerance and Islamic teachings on peace and violence, has become the most important communal activity of western Muslims.
The Challenge for Western Muslims today is existential. If things get worse what will happen to them? Some fear the rhetoric and recommendations of Islamopheobic political commentators who exaggerate and exacerbate the situation, questioning the patriotism of Muslim communities in the West and even raising the example of the internment of Americans of Japanese origin during World War II. Will the West create another "Israel" to solve the problem of the new Jews of the West? The fact that there are nearly 20-30 million Muslims in the West makes such drastic solutions impossible. Those who are bewildered that we are even considering this possibility must remember not only what happened to Japanese Americans but also what happened to Muslims in Spain who disappeared after ruling Spain for 700 years.
There are three routes available to Western nations with regards to their Muslim populations. They are marginalization, assimilation and accommodation. The first implies dis-empowering the community, reducing its influence and its rights and making its presence insignificant. The Bush administration has adopted this policy since 9/11. The second strategy is to reform Islam and Muslims, secularize them to such an extent that the difference does not make a difference. The French have embarked on this strategy and face a lot of resistance. This strategy causes disharmony and divisions within society and undermines democracy. Accommodation, a strategy that was adopted by the US before 9/11, by the UK, Canada and Netherlands is for Muslims the best option.
But in order to push Western nations to adopt the strategy of accommodation and resist the political pressure from xenophobic right-wingers to do otherwise, Western Muslims will have to manage their politics with foresight, prudence, and patience.
Dangers for Western Muslims
There are three potential dangers that Western Muslims face. Increased anti-western terrorism in the Muslim World which fuels Islamopheobia, enhances the political influence of Western anti-Muslim extremists and enables the institutionalization of legislation designed to undermine the influence of Muslims. The bush administration's foreign policy that is geared towards the projection of American power and reassertion of American hegemony in the Middle East is another threat to Western Muslims. Aggressive American unilateralism triggers events and actions that ultimately undermine the security and well being of Western Muslims. The third danger to Western Muslim future is homegrown extremism.
While western Muslims at the moment can do little to reduce the first two dangers beyond engaging in dialogues – political and religious – at various levels, they can and must play an aggressive and decisive role in eliminating internal extremism that resonates with extremism in the Muslim World. Extremist discourse, actions and postures by a small minority of Western Muslims not only undermines the efforts of the vast majority to improve Western-Islamic relations, they also provide concrete evidence of the most egregious stereotypes of Islam and Muslims.
Western Muslim community leaders, activists and scholars must condemn and reject any and all forms of extremist rhetoric coming from Jumma Khutbas, public statements on TV and other media and from Muslim publications themselves. Care must be taken to not only moderate Muslim public discourse but also Muslim-Muslim discourse in order to ensure that extremism and vehement anti-Westernism do not take root in the community. Islam and Muslims in the West can be critical of the West and Western ideals but cannot and must not be anti-West. The critical distinction between being opposed to American foreign policy in the Muslim World and being anti-American must be maintained.
The Threat of Internal Extremism
While a vast majority of Western Muslims have the same basic desires as many others – material well being, cultural acceptance and the opportunity to practice their faith without social and political intimidation – some of them however wish to use their geographic location as an asset in their war against the perceived enemies of Islam. The argument made by some that radical Islam is well deeply embedded in the West and the community western Muslims hides in its bosom many secret sleeper terrorist cells is patently false and such claims must be seen as racist and religiously bigoted. No community has been so closely scrutinized as Muslims in America and no widespread threat has been uncovered. The 9/11 Commission fully exonerated the community of any connection to terrorism.
Nevertheless in every Muslim community there is a small group of individuals angry with the West and fearing that Islam is being destroyed. In their ignorance and anger they say and do counter-productive and dangerous things. The continuous barrage of images of Arab and Muslim humiliation and defeats from Iraq and Palestine make it difficult for even those most pacific to remain calm. Occasionally people lose control and say things that hurt them as well as the community.
Most people in the West are sensible and recognize isolated episodes of violence or intemperate rants as isolated. However there are three issues on which a small minority of Western Muslims, continue to alienate Western populations from Islam and Muslims.
(1) Justifying Suicide Bombing: The images of the attacks of September 11th and the many victims of suicide bombings in Iraq and Israel have become etched on the Western psyche. Suicide bombing has become an epitome, a metaphor for of all that is evil in this world and all that is terrible about Islam and Muslims. Even though most Muslims everywhere – with notable exceptions of course – condemn suicide bombing as unIslamic and when targeting civilians as an abhorrent form of terrorism, some Muslims continue to utilize the freedom of speech available in the West to claim that suicide bombing is a noble and Islamically justifiable defense strategy. These individuals who defend and support suicide bombing [sometimes even when targeting civilians] succeed only in branding Islam as a barbaric religion that inspires violence. They also belie the majority of Western Muslims who condemn it and make it look as if they are dissimulating and lying. This promotes the canard that western Muslims are all secretly supporters of terrorism and that Islam indeed teaches violence. Those who continue to hem and haw on the issue of condemning suicide bombings by invoking "complex realities" and resorting to moral relativism work, intentionally or unconsciously, with Muslim radicals in undermining the fundamental moderation of Islamic teachings.
(2) Equating the war on Terror to the war on Islam: Some radical Muslim commentators have been insisting that the war on terror is actually a war on Islam. Unfortunately the history of American foreign policy and the US' recent actions in the Muslim World have convinced many Muslims that the US is at war with Islam. Ironically these radical commentators themselves equate Islam with terror when they translate the war on terror as war on Islam. For Western Muslims this is an unacceptable interpretation of what is happening. First of all it is not true. Islam continues to thrive in the West even today. The prominent role played by American Muslims in the Presidential elections of 2004 is clear proof that in spite of growing Islamopheobia and the Patriot Act American Muslims still remain a vibrant force and far from being snuffed out. Yes, they are targeted and profiled because of the actions and discourses of radical Muslims, but most of them will testify that the war on terror is not a war on Islam. In Europe the presence of Muslims has transformed Europe's foreign policy, its relations with the US and its posture with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Today Europe seeks to balance US' support for Israel. Muslim commentators who continue to propagate these claims are trying to insert a wedge between Western Muslims and their homelands. They wish to use Western Muslims as a weapon to subvert the West from within, but in the process sacrificing the community. Those who insist that the West is at war with Islam do a grave disservice to Western Muslims and to undermine the prospects of future good relations between the West and the Islamic World.
(3) Demonization of the West and Democracy: The third theme in the radical Muslim discourse includes a rhetorical demonization of the West as evil and democracy as hypocrisy. In a curious way the very existence of this "free radical discourse" is indicative of how strong democracy is across the board in western countries. But this constant demonization of the West (America and Europe), ridicule of their values, icons, their religious beliefs, their secular beliefs and cultural practices may very well lead to the elimination of free speech and the diminishing of democracy. As far as Western Muslims are concerned, the 19 Muslims who attacked the US on 9/11 have caused them untold misery; they cannot allow it to be amplified through irresponsible statements from within their own communities.
The community must get tough on radical discourse
We recommend that Western Muslims become more organized and aggressive in marginalizing and condemning voices that justify violence, incite hatred and practice demonization of the other. How can community members and leaders fight bigots in the mainstream community and the rising Islamopheobia if some within their own ranks mirror the same fear, ignorance and prejudice? When some one from the community makes a radical statement, community leaders must immediately condemn it and demand a retraction and an apology before anyone else does it. Once radicals realize that the community will not tolerate their extremism, and will take lead in condemning them, they will fade away. The struggle for acceptance of Islam and Muslims in the West cannot be divorced from the acceptance of the West within its Muslim communities.
MIM: The American Arab Institute, run by James and John Zogby, published this obscene poster (together with the Ad Council), lamenting the possible victimisation Muslims could face as a result of 9/11. The text, which is in the place of the Twin Towers, draws a parallel between the attacks and the possible scenario of "a scared Muslim child who is bullied because he is different". The text which accompanies an ADC statement is even more perverse , and is cynically entitled "Thanks for the Support" implying that Muslims are indeed the primary victims of 9/11 who need to be comforted and made to feel secure.
The ADC statement brazenly asserts that America deserved the attacks because of their stance on Israel. The text further implies that Israel ,and not the 9/11 hijackers, are the real terrorists.