Features 09/25/01

Terrorists who attacked the United States not representative of Islam: Logan Muslims speak out

By Leon D'souza

The planes struck with deadly force. The towers burned, and then collapsed. Within a few frightful hours, the lives and hopes of thousands were crushed beneath the debris. And the cameras were there, bringing into our living rooms images of the horrific violence that gripped New York City and Washington D.C. on that fateful Tuesday. On September 11th, all of America stopped, watched and wept.

The cameras also captured other images from elsewhere in the world. On the West Bank, we saw footage of Palestinians rejoicing in the streets, ecstatic upon hearing the news that Islamic terrorists had attacked America's cathedrals - the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - taking numerous American lives. In Pakistan, thousands chanted slogans in support of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi terrorist whom President Bush calls the "prime suspect" in last week's attacks. These images irked many Americans. One Utah State University student, Dan Gazaway, a health education major, told The Utah Statesman that in his opinion, Islam was "screwed up" as it advocated the killing of innocent people.

Islam is a peaceful religion

"I can feel their anger. It's pretty understandable. However, I think whatever is happening is being done under the guise of Islamic extremism," said Khudrathulla Kammur, a Muslim graduate student from India studying computer science.

"This is unfortunate, because Islam is a peaceful religion. These acts, and people's labeling of these acts, gives the wrong notion that the entire Muslim world is involved in terrorism, which is not the case. In fact, most Muslims condemn these acts of violence and sympathize with the victims of these attacks," he added.

"Why, at all times, do people link terrorism and Islam? Why are Muslims always the 'prime suspects'?" asked Mohammad Al-Masri, president of the Logan Islamic Center.

"There are about 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Some might misunderstand verses in the Koran. Some misunderstand the concept of jihad for instance, but this does not mean that all Muslims are violent," he said. "Out of sheer ignorance, people put a sticker on our backs," he lamented.

According to Kammur, the perpetrators of the brutal crimes of September 11th are not true representatives of Islam or the Muslims.

"Islam strictly forbids the killing of innocent people, women, children and the aged," he explained.

David Tuncer, a doctoral student from Turkey, also a member of the Logan Islamic Center, clarified that Islam by its very definition is a peaceful faith.

"Islam means submission to Allah by peace," he said.

Islamic Jihad and Holy War

On the subject of jihad, Al-Masri explained that there exists a distinction between the terms "jihad" and "holy war."

"How can a war be holy? A war is a disaster!" he said.

"The term 'holy war' originated about 900 years ago during the crusades. However, westerners first used the word. Muslims are not the source of this interpretation of jihad," he said.

"Jihad is an Arabic word. It is derived from the verb 'jahud.' Literally, jihad means making an affirmative action. For instance, obeying or dealing kindly with one's parents is an act of jihad. Improving one's country, getting an education, these are all examples of jihad," Al-Masri said.

Kammur added that even a "holy war" has very rigid rules laid out in the Koran.

"Islam directs that holy warriors must protect innocent people regardless of their religious affiliation. In addition, if a Muslim fighter were to capture someone in a war, he is obligated to free his captive should he beg for mercy, regardless of whether or not doing so would jeopardize his own safety," he said.

Kammur reacted sharply to President Bush's use of the word crusade.

"I do not know in what context the word was used. However, considering the present scenario, and references to Islamic terrorism, the use of the word, given its historic significance, is inappropriate. It simply serves to fuel the flames of fundamentalism causing even moderates to rethink their stand," he said.

Biased Media

Al-Masri blamed the media for spreading misconceptions about Islam and the Muslims.

"Two days after CNN showed Americans images of Palestinians dancing and chanting joyously in the streets, schools in Palestine mourned the tragedy. No station captured that on camera," he said.

"In New York, five Jews were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a similar public expression of delight at the tragedy. The British Broadcasting Corporation and the Arab channel Jazeera showed live telecasts of this. CNN, however, only picked up on an uneducated, minority group of Palestinians," he said.

Tuncer placed the obligation of ensuring the safety of all Americans on the Bush administration.

"The administration must inform people correctly. Stereotypes must be debunked. We must be patient. We must find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to book. Let innocents not be punished for the crimes of a few. Otherwise, we are no better than terrorists," he said.




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