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Painful letter in an open wound

Osama and Omar at best are the leaders of a bunch of illiterate and ruthless mercenaries, who hijacked first a country and then a religion.

Today's letter (Islam is not the enemy? Then why does it seek domination?), by Mr. Jerry Hall made a very painful reading. And yet, it spoke the words of truth in many regards: Where are the so-called Muslim leaders in North America to present the true Islam in a vociferous manner? During the days following the 9/11 tragedy, I have heard the many of my fellow Muslims praising the kindness and support offered by their Jewish and Christian neighbors during these difficult times. And like Mr. Hall I too have wondered at times, how many Muslims shed a tear or two of grief for the victims of these attacks or offered a shoulder of support to their Jew and Christian neighbors in their communities to lean on. I don't blame him for how he feels about us: you believe what you see and what he has seen in the wake of 9/11 disaster is nothing but deep-rooted hatred by a deviated lawless and religionless faction. Osama and Omar at best are the leaders of a bunch of illiterate and ruthless mercenaries, who hijacked first a country and then a religion at the expense of ignorance and poor judgment by the commoners in Afghanistan.

This is not the time or place for me to defend my religion, but I would quote Rabbi Marc Gellman and Msgr. Thomas Hartman who in their article of January 26 (God Squad: A Storied, Glorious Religion) had to say the following in response to a question, "It's tough to love your enemy. Since Sept. 11, I find myself consumed with anger toward Muslims. I know only a few are terrorists, but I keep hearing that the Quran tells Muslims to kill unbelievers. I don't know what to think about Islam, and I don't know how to control my anger.":

'Islam is not a good religion - it's a great religion. For 1,600 years, it has had no Inquisitions, sponsored no Crusades and had no Holocaust.

In 1492, when the Jewish people were expelled from Christian Spain, they were warmly accepted in Muslim Turkey. The Muslim King Hassan of Morocco, who was allied with Hitler and Mussolini during World War II, refused Hitler's orders to transport even a single Moroccan Jew to Europe for extermination. Islamic translators and philosophers, called Mutikalimun, translated Plato, Aristotle and the Greek classics into Arabic when Europe was in the Dark Ages.

In view of this glorious past, it's particularly tragic that today Islam has been hijacked just like those planes on Sept. 11. A small number of fanatics have used Islam to justify their political agenda and their murderous obsessions.

Islam also teaches that both Moses and Jesus were holy prophets from God. Jews and Christians are not unbelievers (kafirs), according to explicit Muslim teaching. In fact, the clear teaching of Islam is that "to kill one single innocent person is like killing the whole world."

Islam teaches that jihad, which means struggle, justifies holy war only as a defense of one's homeland (very much like the "just war" teaching of Christianity and Judaism). It forbids killing innocent noncombatants and never allows people who are not respected Muslim scholars to issue fatwas, or religious orders.

Osama bin Laden is not a scholar. His version of fatwas, his terrorism and his teachings are against every tenet of Muslim law. So condemning all of Islam for the Sept. 11 attacks is like condemning all of Christianity for the Crusades or the Inquisition.

We non-Muslims must keep hatred out of our hearts and guard against making all Muslims scapegoats for the hateful distortions of a few maniacs.'

Mr. Hall might find it extremely hard to believe but the tragedy of 9/11 touched all of us one way or the other. Being a Muslim and not even being a native born American, did not make any difference to me to feel what every American felt on that day and on days that came after that.

The attacks of September 11 changed my life too. Like everybody else, it was first manifested in the form of disbelief, shock and horror. Soon it was replaced by deep sorrow, anger and remorse. And more than anybody would ever know, it was a tacit sense of utter shame that engulfed me, since it was perpetrated by people who claimed to be the most ardent followers of the same faith as mine - Islam. And like everybody else, I too found myself asking the most obvious: why? In the loneliness of my heart and in the darkness of nights that followed, I have repeatedly asked God: Why are you disgracing us in the eyes of the world? Will the civilization ever forget this? And more importantly, Will it ever forgive Muslims and will it ever try to understand the true Islam? Will people ever believe that Mohammed was called the most Truthful (as-Sadiq) and Trustworthy (al-Ameen) even by his bitter enemies among the pagan Arabs and that he is known as Mercy for Both the Worlds? In a sense, September 11 attacks denuded the Muslims of these three basic qualities: we are not truthful to what we believe in; we are no more trustworthy and we certainly are not a mercy to the mankind.

In difficult times like these, when we all are living under sheer trepidation, mistrust, hatred and misconceptions about one another, I urge you not to label a religion as your enemy just because of a dastardly act by an utterly misguided and blindfolded few who claim to be its followers and for a while even imagined themselves to be equal of God. Believe me, they have no place in Islam, they have no place in Humanity.

God Bless you and be your Shepherd!

Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad
Columbus, OH

Saturday, February 2, 2002

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