Islam and America, Three Years After 9/11

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

BY: Interview by Laura Sheahen

 

Continued from page 2

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?

They are certainly not mentioned as the meat of the religion. Having said that, [some] groups feel that Islam is under attack--a few young males say, "the West is engaged in a crash of civilization, they want to destroy Islam, we have to protect it." So they would draw from these controversial passages in the Qur'an.

Just a ballpark figure: What percentage of American Muslims, if they went to the mosque on Friday, would hear these violent passages from the Qur'an preached?

Next to zero. Hardly anybody would--and after 9/11, it really went down to zero. Those type of speeches did exist, but after 9/11, those types of preachers have basically recognized the damage of what they have said.

What do you wish writers like Bernard Lewis, who have been very critical of Islam, understood about Islam? Your book points out that they are not getting certain things.

I wish they would speak more of the multicultural heritage of Islam and point out that the conflict is not one of religion but one of issues of power, issues of economics. It's not religion so much; it's a way of thinking how to structure societies.

What they contend is a problem with the religion of Islam is really a problem with the mindset of people or governments or people in power. Fascism can exist under any ideology. Fascism can exist under Christianity, which happened [with] the Inquisition in Spain or other parts of Europe. Fascism can exist under atheism, like what happened under the Communist world. It can happen under Islam, which has happened with the Taliban. Some people even believe the McCarthy era in this country was the closest we came to a fascism under democracy.

But we must not confuse fascism with Christianity and say that what happened in the Inquisition came out of Christian ideology. We have seen fascism now in the name of Islam.

What have you been hearing from the U.S. Muslim community about profiling at, for example, airports? How do you see the situation and what do you wish would happen?

There's no doubt we've been profiled since 9/11. The Patriot Act has kind of made Muslims... there's a sense of "guilty till proven innocent" rather than the other way around. Certainly the

Cat Stevens [detainment]

and the

[Tariq] Ramadan incident

.

Cat Stevens becomes a Muslim and talks about Muslim issues and that's looked at differently. Madonna takes Jewish Kabbalism. We don't say that because Madonna practices Jewish mysticism and has gone to Israel, she's embraced the philosophy of Sharon or she is becoming a rabid, anti-Arab settler-type person. So why should we associate Cat Stevens, who has become a practicing, devout Muslim, with terrorism?

Some Islamic charities are being investigated for terrorist ties. Have you seen what you consider to be reputable Islamic charities being financially damaged?

Well, it's become very difficult to send money abroad or receive money from abroad; everything now has to go through hoops to make sure it's legitimate--which is certainly understandable.

We believe that a certain portion of every charity has been legitimate. To say that you have connections with terrorism is a very gray area. It's like the accusation that Saddam Hussein had links to Osama bin Laden. Well, America had links to Osama bin Laden--does that mean that America is a terrorist country or has ties to terrorism? It's that type of logic.

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