It’s a shame that for many muslims, the anniversary of 9/11 is an occasion to retreat into a defensive posture, rather than stand proudly alongside our fellow Americans with head unbowed to the threat that faces us all. One of the reasons for this is the refrain often heard that muslims do not condemn terrorism, even though it’s easily refuted and utterly wrong. I call this the “silence libel”.
The evidence is clear that muslim-americans as a group are loyal, patriotic citizens who disavow extremism. Certainly there are individual exceptions, just as with any ethnic or religious subgroup in the US you will find whack-jobs and nutcases. But for the average muslim american, it’s insulting to be asked whether they support terror – it’s an impolite question because we deserve as much benefit of the doubt as anyone else.
Right here at Beliefnet, there’s a profile of ordinary muslim Americans who eloquently condemn terrorism in their own words. There’s also this exhaustive list of condemnations by individuals and muslim organizations compiled by Al-Muhajabah, one of the earliest muslim female bloggers. A similarly thorough list of condemnations has been compiled by The American Muslim magazine, as has another by Islam for Today. Numerous muslim organizations have also sprung up, including the Free Muslim Coalition and Muslims Against Terrorism.
And yet, muslims are still taken to task for “silence”.
Another variant of the silence libel is to ask, why don’t muslims march on Washington to demonstrate their opposition to terrorism in the name of their faith? Surely, the argument goes, muslim claims to be incensed over the supposed “hijacking” of their holy and sacred faith, should be backed by actions, not words. But this is nothing more than a loyalty test in disguise – no other subgroup in American culture is held to such a standard of expectation. My friend Shahed Amanullah addressed the question directly in his essay, “What would marches against extremism achieve?” Excerpt:
Muslims are understandably wary of any public displays of our anger
toward extremism. For one, such a display would reinforce a tired
stereotype: the “Rage Boy” Muslim who can find expression only by
pouring into the streets.
But the biggest reason behind a reluctance to march is that many
Muslims see it as a setup for failure. Even if a march drew tens of
thousands, would that mean that only those marching oppose terrorism?
In the current climate of suspicion, the rest of the 2 million to 3
million Muslim-Americans would be portrayed as pro-terror.
Take the demoralizing effect of years of suspicion, alienation and
hostility that have been absorbed by Muslims in our role as a proxy for
those “over there”; work in the geographic spread of Muslims in the
U.S.-we have no Muslim ghettos like the ones in Europe; and combine
that with a lack of the organizing skills needed to pull off a
demonstration, and you can easily see why such an event is doomed.
A weak turnout would confirm for some the presence of a Muslim “fifth
column” in the United States. The cycle of mistrust and fear would
But if one still wishes to see mass protests against extremism by
Muslims-well, they have already happened, usually in response to tragic
attacks. After all, Muslims themselves are still the most likely to be
terror victims, whether it is in Bali or Baghdad.
So, too, have authoritative scholars issued rulings against the use of
political violence. But these actions have occurred in Muslim-majority
countries such as Morocco, Turkey and Pakistan. And yet the violence
The sad truth is that hardened extremists are immune to this kind of pressure, and deep down, we all know it.
The muslim-American community is in fact fighting extremism every day, in a far more meaningful way than any march or endless condemnations upon demand. Instead, we are being good citizens, running businesses, working in professional fields, and raising our children to be loyal and patriotic citizens of this country we all love, to which we arrived as immigrants, lured by the promise unique to America that anyone can come here and succeed. We are the American dream, and we don’t need to prove it to anyone.