Muslims here, abroad will now be put to test

September 17, 2001|By Muqtedar Khan

ADRIAN, Mich. - The consequences of the catastrophic terrorist attack on America will be far-reaching and will necessarily have a global as well as a local impact on Muslims.

If the perpetrators of this extremely horrible, senseless and inhuman act are Muslims, then it can be safely assumed that decades of hard work to improve relations between the United States and the Muslim world to dispel the negative images of Islam in the West will be severely reversed.

Muslims in America will be at the mercy of the wisdom of American leadership. Civil rights, individual and group freedoms will be in jeopardy.

However, this event ironically will strengthen the United States. It is now vital that Muslim governments, especially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan and Iran, cooperate with U.S. authorities to the fullest extent.

It is even more crucial that American Muslims and their organizations unconditionally condemn this dastardly act in the strongest of terms.

They must put their contacts and resources, both in the United States and the Muslim world, at the disposal of U.S. authorities to help identify and apprehend the perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters.

This is not the time for politics. This is the moment for unity, and all Americans, regardless of their faith, politics and ethnicity, must unite behind the principle that an attack against one American is an attack against all.

This tragedy is not only a test of American resolve and power but is also a test of the loyalties of American Muslims, who must decide who they are and where their loyalties lie. Silly debates about whether they are American Muslims or Muslim Americans must be settled immediately. One cannot enjoy American hospitality and secretly applaud cowardly attacks against Americans.

Not all Muslims are terrorists, and Islam does not condone such inhuman acts. This terrorist act violates all that Islam stands for and must be condemned without reservation. Those who commit such acts are not only the enemies of Islam because they give it a bad name by calling it jihad (holy war), but are also the enemies of humanity. They have confessed their complete lack of compassion for and solidarity with society.

There is no need to feel defensive about Islam. Sometimes Muslims, in their zeal to protect the image of Islam, act injudiciously. Today they will have to trust the American people and American leadership to make the right decisions.

Unfortunately, if this was an act by a Muslim group, it will give most nations the freedom to act with impunity against Muslims - India in Kashmir, China in Xinjiang province, Russia in Chechnya, Israel in the Palestinian territories and Muslim governments against their opposition. They will use the slogan "fight against terrorism" as a cover to brutally subdue legitimate Muslim struggles.

In the past, fear of the United States forced these states to act with restraint. Now they may want to act with U.S. support.

I hope that the U.S. government will respond firmly and decisively to the terrorist attacks but with due regard to humanitarian concerns. I hope that wisdom prevails and, while recognizing the paramount need to maintain security, the United States will not give up its moral struggles to promote democracy and freedom overseas.

M.A. Muqtedar Khan is the director of International Studies at Adrian College in Michigan.

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