Fighting the Good Fight

Many believe Muslims aren't doing enough in the war on terror. But we are fighting from within, and there's always more to do.

Much of the news about Islam and Muslims has not been very positive as of late. We are approaching the one year anniversary of the London subway bombings, where British-born Muslims killed themselves and many of their fellow Brits “in the name of Allah.” That was enough to make me boil in anger.

Then last month came the arrests of 17 Canadian Muslims who allegedly were plotting to commit acts of terror and even behead the Prime Minister of Canada. Another blight for Muslims all over. And now we have learned of another terrorist plot that has been foiled: Seven men are accused of planning to blow up the Sears Tower in my home town of Chicago and an FBI building in Miami. Initially everyone said it was Muslims until the facts showed otherwise.

That is what is so frustrating. Almost every time a terrorist plot is exposed, the assumption is that Muslims are responsible. Unfortunately there is sense in this--almost every major act of terror in recent years have been attributed to some extremist Muslim (if you can call them Muslim) group. And even when a terrorist plot is the work of a group who's not Muslim (like the Miami seven, who were followers of a group called Seas of David), you can bet the finger is first pointed at Muslims.

But this is not about why radical Islamists continue to give the rest of the world’s Muslim population a very bad name. This is about the claims by some in our society that Muslims are "not doing enough" to combat the extremists among them. It is so frustrating. I have lost count of how many times people have asked why Muslims haven't condemned the terror committed in Islam’s name. Some have even told me that this apparent "silence" by the majority of Muslims either means that they are cowed by the extremists or are accepting of "Islamic terror."

What Muslims Are Doing
This is patently false. Muslims are essential to the global fight against terror, and there is quite a bit that we are contributing to this noble fight. First of all, many individual Muslims and Islamic organizations have condemned acts of terror over and over again. Just because it is not reported by the media does not mean it didn’t happened. In the wake of the Toronto arrests, Canadian Muslims publicly expressed gratitude that the plot was foiled and even called for a summit on extremism among Muslim youth, a move which I laud greatly.

In 2004 the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) launched the “Not In The Name of Islam" campaign. This is a petition drive designed to distance Islam and Muslims from the violent actions of fringe extremists. It was started in the wake of the horrific beheading of American Nicholas Berg in Iraq. CAIR has also launched a series of public service announcements of the same name.

Now of course there are many pundits who angrily say that Muslims are just talk. And what good is just saying that these acts of terror are bad and that the terrorists are not Muslims? But I know that Muslims are doing much more than just issuing press releases and signing petitions.

Also in 2004, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) officially launched the National Anti-Terrorism Campaign, a three-pronged plan to teach mosques and Muslims how to prevent and report hate speech and hate crimes. More than 600 communities across the country have joined this campaign since its inception. (In fact MPAC's communcation director Edina Lekovic reported that the 2002 arrests of an alleged al-Qaeda cell at a mosque in Buffalo, NY came as a result of the mosque's participation in an early version of this program.)

MPAC, in fact, has worked closely with Federal law enforcement officials for quite some time on such programs, and their close collaboration led to the formation of CREST--Community Relations Executive Seminar Training--by the FBI. This is a pilot program designed to build trust and create a bond with Muslim, Sikh and other South Asian communities across the United States so they will feel comfortable to approach the FBI with any terrorism suspicions. 

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