Islam and America, Three Years After 9/11

Far from being incompatible, Islamic values and American values are very similar, says a Muslim leader.

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We want the Muslim-American community to be the mediator, to say to each side "the picture you are seeing of each other is false." That's why the book [addresses] what's right with America and what's right with Islam. We have to look at what is right in both traditions and see how similar they are.

You say U.S. Muslims are uniquely positioned to help "wage peace."

Correct.

If you personally had been completely in charge of the American Muslim response to 9/11, what would you have done?

Well, we did condemn the actions of 9/11 saying it was outside of Islam. It was condemned by nearly every Muslim nation and scholar.

We encouraged people to understand that Islamic values are part of the Abrahamic system of values. Our commandments are the same as those of Judaism and Christianity. We tried to address the issues that fueled it, issues of power and economics. People in the Muslim world feel disempowered and economically deprived.

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After 9/11, we ran an essay by Khaled Abou el Fadl, who said he would have encouraged Muslim Americans to visit Ground Zero and bring, say, a flower. What you're talking about is obviously more broad-based.

Yes, those things are very powerful symbols of American-Western sharing in the grief and mourning for what happened. I've participated in a number of different interfaith memorial services for those who have died.

But beyond the mourning, the real issue is the diseased, dysfunctional relationship between the United States and the Muslim world--understanding it through courses and attacking the root causes. If we address these causes, change will happen rapidly.

Some Christians point to violent passages in the Qur'an. Other Christians point out there are similarly violent passages in the Bible. Do Muslims tend to downplay these Qur'an passages just as Christians do with the Bible? For example, at a Christian church service in America, you're unlikely to hear a Bible passage where people are urged to kill each other even though such things are in the Bible. Is it the same with the Qur'an? Would such passages be read at mosques?

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