Thursday, November 01, 2012

American Muslims Can Help Improve America’s World Image

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims have been subject to an intense campaign which has questioned their loyalty to the United States. Charges ranged from claiming that they have not been outspoken enough in their condemnation of terrorism to complicity, incitement, and even specious claims of active participation in anti-American activities. Several prominent Muslim organizations, large mosques, and some civil rights advocacy organizations, have argued that the charges were baseless and deliberately malign the true views of Islam and its adherents.
Times have changed, but serious challenges remain an impediment to a fuller and active international role by the Muslim community. These challenges include the trust deficit that so defines the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslims. Add to this the incendiary statements by Internet-based pundits (Pamela Geller and Steve Emerson) and even public officials (Cong. Peter King and Cong. Michel Bachmann) a series of laws (The Patriot Act) and the NYPD espionage activities. All these efforts aim to strip Muslim citizens of their basic rights, are all present hindrances.
Notwithstanding these obstacles, the community, motivated by both internal and external factors, appears to be on the verge of a yet-uncharted path to becoming America’s de facto ambassador to the Arab and Muslim world. The community has reached an identifiable confluence of factors that portend of a rising constituency confident of its achievements, of the American constitution and laws, and like, others before it, desirous of “marketing” the United States to the world.
America’s often problematic and exceedingly controversial relationship with its over 6 million Muslims is the subject of much debate, political pandering, and downright hateful acts. An entire industry of Islamophobes and self-styled experts have attained national prominence due to their advocacy of the impending and irreversible existential divide between the backward world of Islam and the enlightened West. Regardless, American Muslims have put aside these matters and engaged in a significant campaign here in the US and abroad, fulfilling a role usually reserved for skilled and seasoned diplomats versed in the art of diplomacy. In essence, American Muslims have taken the role of goodwill ambassadors. Their role was twofold: first, to situate the aftermath of the recent vile anti-Islam movie (the protests and the killing of American officials) in its proper context for both fellow Americans and people in Muslim countries.
Several New Jersey mosques I have contacted confirmed their weekly congregational sermons (on Fridays) focused on the proper response to the recent American-made 14-minute movie titled “Innocence of Muslims,” that portrayed the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s founder, as a villainous, homosexual, and child-molesting buffoon.
In what was perhaps one of his most passionately delivered sermons since arriving in the US in 1996, Imam Mohammad Qatanani of the Paterson Islamic Center of Passaic County prodded his congregation not to rush to judgment and not to make blanket accusations against all Coptic Christians. Eloquent and well researched as is customary, Imam Qatanani implored the community to recognize that the incessant attacks on Islam have done little in the way of precluding more people from becoming Muslims or weakened the faith of Muslims around the world. “Islam and its revered prophet are much bigger than any cheaply made movie or specious book or expedient political stance.”
The Imam stated further that the evolving events should avail us of “an opportunity to educate our fellow Americans that Islam is not represented by the actions of a few extremists.” Similarly, ‘it is incumbent upon us to remind our brethren that America did support the desire of the Arab peoples to rid themselves of the dictatorships and oppressors.”
The Imam added further, “Muslims should be offended by the movie. But they should also consider the source. The offensive video is no more representative of America than it is of the extremists who co-opted the video as a means to incite violence in the Arab world.”
CAIR, the Council on American Islamic relations, in a pioneering fashion, released an Arabic language video plea urging the protesters to understand the true implications of their actions. (See video of similar appeal in other languages) Nihad Awad, national executive director, told viewers in the Middle East that ordinary Americans and the U.S. government should not be blamed for the religious hatred expressed in the film.
Speaking in fluent classical Arabic, Mr. Awad said: "Islamic traditions include a number of instances in which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had the opportunity to retaliate against those who abused him, but refrained from doing so. "One tradition, or hadith, states: 'You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.'
Perhaps the most symbolic of the community’s assertiveness to combat extremism came in the formal union of Muslim and Coptic Christians in a Jersey City mosque. Mutual respect of all faiths and categorical denouncements of bigoted acts were their message. Their message will reverberated all over the Middle East.

Via: "The Examiner"

Photo: "Understanding Islam"
Via: "Deviant Art"

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