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War in Iraq:
Guidelines for American Muslim Leaders
courtesy: Jannah.com ( http://jannah.org/guidelines.txt )
The war on Iraq presents a new set of challenges to the American Muslim community, and magnifies existing ones. During this critical time, a heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of our community's leaders. Those in a position of such leadership must educate and guide their communities in a direction that will help them sustain their security and faith in these difficult times. Leaders must explain this war to their communities in a reasonable and factual manner, and they must take actions on their community's behalf that will serve their interest and maintain their safety. With that in mind, the Muslim American Society has prepared this set of talking points and guidelines as a roadmap for guiding their communities through this crisis safely and securely.
What Muslims Feel About This War
As part of enjoining good and forbidding evil, American Muslims are concerned with the cause of peace and justice. But we are particularly concerned with Iraqi issue because it involves a direct confrontation of our country with a Muslim nation, which apparently puts the cohesiveness of our American Muslim identity to the test. However, principled positions based on sound methodology and careful analysis of the situation always bring harmony between our commitment to Islam and our civic duties, because by following the truth and standing out firmly for justice one would help the cause of Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) and serve the best interest of all humanity. And Islam leaves no excuse for bias or injustice under any circumstances.
We believe that this war, which is waged in spite of the UN Security Council and worldwide opposition, does not serve the best interest of our nation, and will further devastate the Iraqi people who are still suffering from the consequences of previous wars and crippling sanctions. Our opposition, which is based on solid religious, moral, patriotic, and humanitarian grounds, concurs with the positions of most religious and civic leaders and groups, many members of Congress, a number of veterans, and some outspoken families of the victims of 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Declared justifications and objectives of the war are neither consistent nor convincing, especially when considering the double-standard trend in our foreign policy in dealing with dictators or with weapons of mass destruction.
The community should be reminded that this war has nothing to do with religion. Indeed, the war was opposed by the leadership of virtually all religious communities. The war has also nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, promotion of democracy, or the crackdown on terrorism. The real motives for the war are political and economical. It is also the natural result of philosophical underpinnings and intrinsic flaws of both systems. The dictatorship in the oil rich Iraq has led to a string of fatal decisions that made it an easy target of the most powerful lobbies in the US:
a. The military industrial complex, which is constantly on the look for new enemies and more wars which constitute opportunities to experiment with new weapons and justification for an ever increasing budget.
b. The multinational corporations, which are constantly on the look for cheap resources and captive markets
c. The pro-Israeli lobby, which is trying to achieve unequivocal superiority for Israel in the region.
In addition to oppressing his people the Iraqi dictator made himself an easy target by attacking his neighbors, thus loosing any regional support and paralyzing an already cosmetic Arab and Islamic alliances. On the other hand, the balance (or the arrogance) of power and the belief in a universal civilization, and the "I am better than him" syndrome have always resulted in hegemony and a drive to control the world. However, one cannot deny that the prevailing perception in the Muslim World is that this war is war on Islam, another crusade.
Like Muslims elsewhere, our opposition to some government policies does not diminish our love for our country and our commitment to its security and prosperity. We strive to serve its best interests by standing out firmly for justice at home and abroad, and calling for meaningful reforms.
Our principled and legitimate opposition to the war does not imply any sympathy with the ruthless Iraqi dictator, who terrorized his people and his neighbors and led Iraq to devastating military conflicts. The world should be rid of the Iraqi regime and all similar regimes. And the first step is to stop supporting these dictators-a support that aborted so many attempts to establish real democracy-and to begin supporting real political pluralism in the Arab and Muslim world.
But the change should not be cosmetic nor should it be imposed on people. Weapons may liberate land, but they do not liberate people. And the Iraqi people have already paid dearly for twelve years of attempting to eliminate the regime through weapons and sanctions.
Action Items for Muslim Community Leaders
After exhausting all the means to prevent what we believe is an unjust and unwarranted war with potentially serious repercussions on our nation, on the region and on the world peace, our community needs to be ready to properly deal with the potential fallouts of the eminent war. Therefore, we recommend the following:
1) Immediately call for an emergency meeting with other mosques and leaders in your local community. Develop a plan of action for your community and coordinate all efforts and events. Make communication and unity among yourselves a top priority.
2) Urge your community members to go about their life as normally as possible. Since our sisters are often the most visible, urge them to be extra vigilant as they go about their daily routine, especially in the first days of war.
3) Take all precautions to protect the community and its institutions from both external and internal challenges:
A. Although experience in similar crises has shown us that the overwhelming response from our neighbors has been supportive and positive, there is the real possibility of incidents of backlash and possible vigilante attacks. Contact local law enforcement to share your concerns and develop points of contact and a plan to protect against backlash. Make phone numbers of the local law enforcement available to your members and urge members of community to immediately report any incident of unfair treatment.
B. Guard against any irresponsible behavior or any attempt to steer the emotions of the community; because such behavior has no benefit and can and will be used to harm the Muslims. Make sure that your Imams and khateebs avoid inflammatory and inciting speech, and uses only facts and Islamic principles in any speech, rather than speculation. Local community leadership needs to monitor closely the situation in their centers and act decisively with any suspicious activities, including reporting to the local law enforcement.
4) Reach out to religious and civic organizations, and to local authorities to share your concerns. Work with them to develop programs to dispel the pervading fear and anxiety in our community and the society at large. Seek their support by addressing the public and the media with words of support to our neighbors, calling for calm, and cautioning against any vigilante attacks.
5) Contact the school districts and leadership to develop a plan that ensures the safety of Muslim children and their protection against any stereotyping, harassment, or act of hate.
6) Prepare and train your spokespersons and make them available to the media. Make sure they are informed, disciplined, and accurate in their message, and reassuring in tone.
7) Explain the nature of the war to your community members, using the outline we gave earlier. Reassuring them that the anti-war efforts are not useless. Rather, they are undertaken to discharge our religious duty of standing up for justice and our civic duty of participating in the decision making and in the national debate about shaping policies and deciding on how best to serve the national interests.
8) Spread hope and prevent people from falling into confusion, despair, or helplessness, which may in turn shake people's faith and spirit. What is happening is a Divine Destiny that is the work of Divine Rules and Laws that govern this universe. These Rules and Laws are not biased towards anyone. The closer people follow those Rules (knowingly or unknowingly), the more they prosper and prevail. What is needed is to discover those Rules and be able to apply them in our task of comprehensive reform. Muslims have abandoned the correct understanding of Islam and violated most of those Rules, and therefore they made themselves irrelevant and they should only blame themselves for this sad state of affairs. These events are a proof for the greatness of Islam and the need of Muslims and all humanity for the Divine Guidance to achieve universal justice and world peace, and put an end to the 'might-makes-right' doctrine.
9) Urge members of the community in these tough times to get closer to Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) and to each other. Members of our community need to intensify their worship and extra deeds (fasting, reading Quran, remembrance of Allah, and night prayers). They also need to intensify their prayers for peace, and their supplications to Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) that innocent lives be spared.
10) Encourage Muslims to stay focused on their mission of planting the seeds of a better community, better America, and better world without being hostages of the past or present situation and without looking for immediate results. People reap today what they sowed yesterday, and will reap tomorrow that they sow today. Difficult times calls, if anything, for more dedication to live up to the challenges. And proper handling of events means drawing lessons and moving on.
11) Remember that while monitoring the situation in Iraq, praying for the least damaging outcome, and calling for an end to the war, we should continue our efforts of public education (through outreach, civic participation, and coalition buildings) and community empowerment (through education, training, coordination, and building needed institutions). We should never be intimidated and allow difficult circumstances to cause us to set aside our obligations of da'wa and pursuing the community's best interests.
12) Look for opportunities to help innocent Iraqi victims of the war. If approved avenues become available to give money or goods, such as through the Red Cross or UNICEF, the community should do its part and donate.
"Oh ye who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear God, that ye may prosper." -- Qur'an 3:200
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