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Article 12

by Kate Kretz

By Abdul Cader Asmal 

As the country commemorated Memorial Day and paid tribute to its war heroes both past and present, its Muslim citizens of the post-911 era were gripped by a sense of profound apprehension. The juxtaposition of the images of American soldiers sacrificing their lives in war, of terrorists holding the world hostage, of innocent civilians being caught in the crossfire of both, and of Islam all too often being demonized as the public enemy number one, has placed them in an untenable position. As the very foundations of their religious beliefs are undermined by Muslim fanatics and their Islam phobic counterparts their loyalty to their country is questioned. As Muslims grapple with the questions as to how they ended up where they have, they also seek answers to a way out.

As surprising as it may be to many Americans, for most Muslims there was no greater imperative than to eradicate terrorism. 911 had done unspeakable harm to the image of Islam and unleashed intolerable suffering onto countless Muslims worldwide. Because of this "American Muslims" embraced President's Bush's decision to expedite the "war on terror", for in its success they would be able to reclaim their religion. Their enthusiasm turned to consternation when Mr Bush decided to change course and derail the process from "the war on terror" to the "showdown with Saddam". 

They felt that such an act would be counterproductive, specifically in being exploited as a crusade against Islam, and thereby serving as a recruitment bonanza for "jihadi" terrorists. It requires a lot less marketing finesse to propagate such a view abroad than that employed in this country to obfuscate the distinction between the 'war on terror' and the 'showdown with Saddam'. Notwithstanding the imminent transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, Muslims do not anticipate that the antipathy toward them will let up anytime soon.

It is thus ironic that the reason for which so many 'Muslim Americans' had opposed the catastrophic war in Iraq in the first place is the very reason why they are now caught up 
as helpless spectators in a downward 'jihadi-crusader' spiral that expands out of control culminating in the notorious prison abuse saga and the heinous public execution . 

It is no less of an irony that Muslims who have the greatest vested interest in ending the 'war on terror' are the ones being most aggressively intimidated into silence. 

The debate on the ' war on terror' has been so reconfigured that instead of a deviant band of Muslims being identified as the perpetrators of 911, it is now an 'evil' Islam that is the root cause. In this transformation, despite the repeated affirmations of the President to the contrary, the distinction 
between 'terrorism' and Islam has been deliberately blurred so that the enemy of the American people is now openly portrayed as Islam. Terrorism makes no distinction between military and civilian targets, between men, women and children, and between Muslims and non-Muslims. In its warped and hate-filled ideology all is fair game, a concept totally alien to the fundamental principles of Islam. 

In a setting where they are no less vulnerable to acts of terror, and notwithstanding the overwhelming forbearance of its citizens, Muslims are aghast that as nationals of this country they are portrayed with such hostility and contempt. The recent charge by a Boston talk show host that Muslims constitute a fifth column in America and are thus not immune from execution, is the most outrageously hateful remark that others of his ilk make with impunity on a daily basis.

Of the Muslims living in this country many are Muslim by birth and American by choice. 
Muslims are proud of Islam and have been proud of America. They are however ashamed of the deviants who in the name of Islam hijacked and continue to hijack their religion, and of the zealots who in the name of fighting terror have ravaged the Bill of Rights. Most Muslims see no contradiction in obeying God, serving America and sharing a spiritual bond with the community of Muslims worldwide. They can at the same time be devout Muslims and loyal Americans. From an 
Islamic perspective their current predicament is a test from God. How they acquit themselves is how they will be judged. In the present context their guiding principle must be the Qur'anic injunction, [i]"Stand steadfast before God as witnesses for justice, even though it is against yourselves", 4:135.[/i]

As we all struggle to make sense of our lives in these turbulent times we need to reflect 
upon the following remarks ascribed to President Lincoln and paraphrased as, it matters not whether we claim God on our side, but that we are on His side. 

courtesy: The American Muslim: March-April 2004 Issue 



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