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The silent Imams

The silent Imams

Author: Charles Krauthammer
Publication: Mid-Day
Date: November 29, 2001

President George Bush visits the main Washington mosque and declares Islam a religion of peace. He urges Americans to publicly accompany and protect 'women of cover' - Islamic faithful wearing the shawl. He encourages American school children to find a Muslim pen pal.

On Monday, he held the first White House Ramzan dinner - "a way for the administration to publicly make the case that it is sensitive to Muslims".

Now, it is one thing for the president to affirm American religious tolerance and speak out sternly against anti-Muslim prejudice, as he did early and often after September 11. That is honourable and very American. But it is quite another thing to protest so much that, yes, we do respect Islam. Why the doubt? No country on earth has been more welcoming to Muslim immigrants. Which is precisely why the terrorists could spend a year and a half in America going about their murderous business unmolested.

And why must we constantly repeat that we are not at war with Islam? We never declared war on Islam. It was Islamic fanatics who, killing 4,000 Americans in the name of God, declared war on us. Why, then, are we the ones required to continually demonstrate our religious tolerance and respect for others? Shouldn't that be the responsibility of the Islamic world, of those in whose name this crime was perpetrated?

After September 11, where were the Muslim theologians and clergy, the imams and mullahs, rising around the world to declare that it was a crime against Islam? Where were the fatwas against Osama bin Laden? The voices of high religious authority have been scandalously still.

And what of Muslim religious leaders in America? At the solemn National Cathedral ceremony just three days after the WTC attack the spokesman for the American Muslim community made no statement declaring the attacks contrary to Islam. There was no casting out of those who committed the crime. There was no fatwa against suicide murder. Instead, Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of North America, offered that to "those that lay the plots of evil, for them is a terrible penalty". Who are these plotters of evil receiving retribution? Did he mean the terrorists? Or did he mean that America had it coming? He never said.

The imam of the leading mosque in New York, the 96th Street Mosque, left no ambiguity: He published an interview in Egypt, claiming that it was the Jews who perpetrated the attacks. Hence that great post-September 11 oddity: Deafening silence from the spiritual authorities of Islam, obsessive chatter from Americans, largely Christian, filling that silence with near apologetic professions of good faith and tolerance.

This is not just odd, it is demeaning. Who attacked whom? Who should be doing the soul-searching and the breast-beating? Why are we acting as if we bear guilt for our own victimisation?

The Washington Post
 


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