Is there a way to do what they [law enforcement] need to do without it being interpreted as a war against Islam?
Yes, there is a way to change my opinion. In the beginning, shortly after 9/11, I did not view the war on terror as a war against Islam. Then gradually as I saw how the war on terror was being carried out my opinion changed.
I do not support terrorism. I listened intently when President Bush spoke to a joint session of Congress on Sept 20, 2001 and delivered what I believe was the finest speech (written by Michael Gerson) of his presidency.
…I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. (Applause.)…
…The civilized world is rallying to America’s side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. And you know what — we’re not going to allow it. (Applause.)…
I support the dismantling of Al Qaeda because they want to kill everyone, they have made shedding the blood of everyone in the world permissible for themselves. I do not weep or gloat over the death or imprisonment of Zarqawi, or the woman sentenced to death in Jordan today, or Richard Reid.
That being said, I do not support the Bush administration’s actions and policies in executing the so-called war on terror because it strikes me as a war on Islam, a war on my faith, and my existence as a Muslim.
After 9/11, I was willing to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt in its “crusade” i.e. the war on terror. Never mind the ridiculousness of going to war against a tactic or the failures in the war on drugs and in the war on poverty. America did manage even while employing the most unscrupulous tactics to say afloat during the Cold War.
Many thoughts began to come together in my mind on the day I sat in the Alexandria Courthouse and listened to Hammad AbdurRaheem, Seifullah Chapman, and Masuad Khan were sentenced to prison. As I walked back to the metro station, I was never more certain that the war on terror had metamorphosed on many fronts into a war against Islam. I am no longer interested in empty words from political leaders about how this isn’t about Islam, I want to see actions.
Actions the U.S. government could take to win the hearts and minds of Muslims:
- Push for a just final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Reign in Israel’s unilateralism, and enforce respect for common international boundaries, waterways, and airspace. Negotiate with Israel and Syria for the return of the Golan Heights.
- Halt efforts to destabilize democracies in Palestine and Iran.
- Resume diplomatic initiatives and negotiations with the Palestinian Hamas government, Syria, and Iran.
- Iran should both be allowed to pursue its nuclear ambitions without the threat of sanctions or military attack just as Israel has been able to do so for many years.
- Pressure authoritarian governments in allied Muslim countries (Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan) to reform.
- Do not impose western style democracy in Muslim countries but rather allow them to develop and draw on their own indigenous culture and resources.
- Cease labelling Muslim political/social movements “terrorist” in an effort to avoid negotiations (Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah).
- Desist from creating or using inaccurate and insensitive terms to describe terrorists and their movements (Islamic fascists, Islamists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorists, Islamic extremists).
- Charge and bring to trial the 14,000 mostly Muslim detainees held at Guantanamo Bay and around the world by the U.S. or release them.
- Stop freezing the funds of Muslim charities that have not been charged with any wrongdoing. Either charge them and bring them to trial or release the funds.
- Cease prosecuting Muslims for relatively minor offenses that would not have been prosecuted had the defendants not been Muslim. Stop seeking to sentence Muslims to life in prison or more than life on fabricated, weak, or circumstantial evidence. (James Yee, Brandon Mayfield, AbdurRahman Alamoudi, Rafil Dhafir, Sami al Arian, Cell Phone case, etc.).
- End the writing down license plate numbers in masajid parking lots.
- End the monitoring masajid and Islamic schools for nuclear material.
- Cease questioning Muslims simply because they are Muslim or from a certain ethnic background.
- Stop canceling deals with Muslim-owned contractors based on racist hysteria (Dubai Ports World).
- Stop propagating the lie that Muslims haven’t spoken out against terrorism.
- End the practice of denying visas to prominent Muslims and scholars with false excuses like “national security” and detaining those Muslims that have no connection to terrorism (Yaser Birjas, Tariq Ramadan, Yusuf Estes, Hamza Yusuf, and Yahya Ibrahim).
Once I see some of these changes implemented I will be willing to re-evaluate and reconsider the war on terror which has become synonymous with a war on Islam.
In the meantime, if the best the US government can offer is “Your either with us or against us”, “the terrorists hate us for our freedom”, Karen Hughes, iftar dinners at the White House, and Radio Sawa while bringing war and increased instability to Muslim countries don’t expect to win over the hearts of too many Muslims.