I am an American-Muslim who was born in Pakistan. I belong to a religious community which is persecuted throughout Pakistan for its beliefs – in particular for its rejection of an aggressive jihad. Voices calling for the killing of people such as myself are regularly heard in mosques and religious seminaries throughout Pakistan. Following the massacre of nearly 90 members of the community, while most of my Pakistani ‘friends’ failed to send me a message of condolence, my hospital program director led a moment of silence. He did not care if the victims were orange or green, believed in the Sun or disbelieved in the moon. All he cared for was humanity – welcome to America!
I am writing this article to remind America of its distinctive founding values. At the same time, I have message for American-Muslims.
Controversy over the “Ground Zero” mosque is raging as opponents voice fiercer arguments against it. Actually they are just repeating the same arguments more fiercely – that a mosque is a center for terrorism and Islam, by nature, is a terrorist faith. Islamophobia has recently gained more support as some politicians repeat the same rhetoric against the Muslim faith.
Here is my point – we must be clear about what defines Islam and we must be able to tell the difference between Islam and those who exploit it. Islam is not what Osama bin Laden or Faisal Shehzad say. Islam is what the Quran says and what Prophet Muhammad practiced. Islam is not what we see with the government of Saudi Arabia or Pakistan’s suppression of religious freedom. Islam believes in religious liberty as well as free speech. It says “There is no compulsion in religion.” And “Let him who will believe and let him who will disbelieve”. Prophet Muhammad was a champion of religious tolerance and freedom. Jews coexisted in Medina during his time. About the Christians of the world, he declared openly that any Muslim that harmed them in any way would spoil God’s covenant and disobey him. He said, “Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.”
Most American-Muslims today are peaceful law-abiding citizens. Why then should the acts of a few fanatic terror organizations that operate under the name of Islam elsewhere be used to attack the sentiments of over 2 million American Muslims?
America, I must remind you that you are a champion of human rights in the present age. You must not compare yourself to despotic and totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia or to countries like Pakistan suffering from the curse of fanaticism. You must uphold the clear injunctions of the First Amendment. There have been challenges in the past. Uprisings have taken place against the Catholic Church and the Jewish community. We must learn from these events and not fall prey to hate and religious discrimination in this age.
I admit that certain Muslim groups espouse extreme behavior, but remember that as a moderate Muslim, I am a bigger target of the hate of such fanatics than you are. I suffer each day at their hands across the Muslim world. In a recent sermon, an influential Pakistani religious cleric said he would tolerate Jews and Christians but would like to see members of my community killed throughout Pakistan. Just this last week, two prominent members of my community were gunned down for their religious beliefs, one a US citizen. As such, you must realize who the fanatics are and who the moderates are. You must understand that Islam is not to blame, that a particular fanatic interpretation of it is.
To my fellow moderate American-Muslims, I ask why are so few talking? Pick up your pen and make it clear that you stand against fanaticism and disown fanatic interpretations of our beautiful faith. If you truly disown the acts of terrorists, say it loud and clear. If your voice is not heard louder than theirs, you are complicit. Silence is usually soothing – not here!!