Muslim-Americans and Islam should not be demonized
Islam and Muslim-Americans are being unfairly vilified for the Boston bombings.
The suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers, were allegedly impelled by a host of reasons.
“Religious belief does not appear to be the key personal factor,” former U.S. counterterrorism official Rick Jenkins told the Los Angeles Times. Instead, the suspects were reportedly motivated by “grievance, sense of anger, desire for revenge, feelings of humiliation, desire to demonstrate manhood, participation in an epic struggle, thirst for glory.”
Besides, Islam forbids such conduct. The Quran has clear injunctions against murder and violence.
There is a wonderful Quranic passage placing primacy on the sanctity of life: “If anyone kills another without a just cause … it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind. And whosoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind.” [5:32]
And the Muslim holy book directs followers of Islam to maintain peace with people of other faiths.
“Allah forbids you not respecting those who fight you not for religion, nor drive you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly.” [60:8]
Obviously, blowing up bombs with the intention of killing and maiming people violates these precepts. The very notion of terrorism “is in opposition to the spirit of Islam, which holds human life sacred and personal culpability a matter for God alone to determine,” College of William and Mary Professor Tamara Sonn has written.
And, certainly, Muslim-Americans in general should not be held responsible for the acts of a couple of sociopaths. Members of the community are generally well-integrated, satisfied members of American society, as a 2011 survey revealed.
“A decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Gallup poll … found that the vast majority of Muslim-Americans say they are loyal to the United States and optimistic about the future,” the New York Times reported, adding, “The poll in many ways contradicts the stereotype of Muslim-Americans as an alienated and discontented religious minority.”
Muslim-Americans are more likely than practitioners of other religions to frown upon violence used for political purposes.
“Underscoring their lack of sympathy for al-Qaida, Muslim-Americans are also the least likely major religious group in the U.S. to say there is ever a justification for individuals or small groups to attack civilians,” stated the Gallup report accompanying the survey. “Roughly one in 10 Muslim-Americans say such attacks are sometimes justified. In every other major religious group except Mormons, the proportion of people who say such attacks are sometimes justified is at least twice that.”
The fact that the Tsarnaev brothers were out of touch with their co-religionists is revealed by the report that the older one, Tamerlan, was thrown out of a Boston-area mosque for objecting to the imam praising the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. As Imam Suhaib Webb of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, has said, “Radicalization does not happen to young people with a strong grounding in the American Muslim mainstream; increasingly, it happens online, and sometimes abroad, among the isolated and disaffected.”
But still the community at large is being smeared. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has suggested that Muslim-Americans be subject to special scrutiny. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said after the Boston attack, “I hope we all work together against a religion that will motivate people to murder children and other threats to us as a civilization.”
Maligning an entire faith and group is the worst sort of slander.
Plus, Muslim-Americans are not the huge danger to the United States that they’re being made out to be.
“Jihadists killed 17 people in the United States” between Sept. 11, 2001, and the end of 2012, “according to data collected by journalist Peter Bergen and the New America Foundation,” reports Mother Jones magazine. “In contrast, right-wing extremists killed 29 people during those 11 years.”
“Using Bergen’s figure of 203 jihadist terrorists, that means approximately 0.007 percent of Muslims in the United States have been involved in domestic terror plots since 9/11,” adds the publication.
We need a sense of proportion and perspective in the aftermath of the Boston attacks.
Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of the recent book “ ‘Islam’ Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today” (Praeger).
You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.
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