Muslim Leaders Must Speak out; Two Years on from the 9/11 Attacks, the Wise and Merciful Aspects of Islam Continue to Be Overwhelmed by Extremism

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

Muslim Leaders Must Speak out; Two Years on from the 9/11 Attacks, the Wise and Merciful Aspects of Islam Continue to Be Overwhelmed by Extremism


Byline: ABDAL HAKIM MURAD

by Abdal Hakim Murad British Muslim preacher and broadcaster

PERHAPS the only good thing about the September 11 attacks is that they were good for noone. Islamic radicals have watched the American empire subsume Afghanistan, and tighten its hold on the various client governments that persecute the Islamists everywhere.

The West has lost its peace of mind, and is now bogged down in an Iraqi quagmire that could bring governments crashing down. Mainstream Muslims have suffered a morale crisis. Secular liberals lament the erosion of human rights at Guantanamo Bay.

Nobody seems very happy.

The Islamic world and the West are therefore, in a curious way, united. The senior leadership of Islam has loudly denounced the 9/11 horrors, and so has the West. We are both barking up the same tree, and we are right to do so.

Yet tragically our dismay at terrorism has not produced a new sense of mutual comprehension and common purpose.

Many Westerners remain vague about how Islam's system of authority works, and how they might distinguish the orthodox from the extreme. (Muslims, by the way, should not blame them too loudly, since many in the secular West are hazy about their own religion, let alone other people's.) For its part, the Muslim leadership complains that it has no control at all over the zealot fringes, and is in any case rightly chary of collaborating with America's crude and iron-fisted response, which sometimes looks more like a temper tantrum than a policy.

THE waters have been muddied further by the rising sense in the Muslim world that the United States is not religiously neutral. The triumphantly biblical rhetoric of President Bush, his daily prayer meetings in the White House, and the anti-Muslim fulminations of his spiritual confidante, the Reverend Franklin Graham, suggest to Muslims that the Bible Belt is planning to stretch around the world, with a little help from the US Marines.

If the President speaks of "crusades", he cannot reasonably hope to have Muslim allies.

But the Muslim world also needs to overcome its ancient fears of muscular Christianextremeity, and to recognise that the Americans are confronted by a genuine security threat.

Muslim leaders condemn al Qaeda; but need to propose to the world an attractive and realistic alternative to the cruise missiles and friendly tyrants which are now the strategy of choice for the Pentagon think-tanks.

What might such an alternative look like? The Prophet's son-in-law Ali said that "man is an enemy to what he does not understand." Muslims are probably right to claim that they understand the West better than the West understands them. But in making this claim they lay upon themselves the duty to explain themselves far better than they have done so far.

It is no use grumbling about Hollywood's penetration of Muslim homes, unless Muslims also grumble that Islamic culture has yet to produce enough films to overturn the usual Western stereotypes. …

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