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an American Imam replies to an American Jihadist

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is the imam and director of the Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, CA. His biography reveals him to be an authentically American Imam, who has benefited from scholarship in the Islamic world and life experience in the inner-city neighborhoods of inner-city Philadelphia.

Anwar al Awlaki, in contrast, lacks formal Islamic training, and has had a mostly secular education in US colleges while growing up in a middle-class family. Awlaki seems to have been radicalized after 9-11, and now is nothing more than a coward and poseur.

It is important to keep their differences in scholarship in mind, because Awlaki has made a call to jihad for American muslims, demanding that we as a community place loyalty to his religious authority and interpretation above our love and patriotism we have for our home*.

Imam Luqman Ahmad has written a magnificent response to Awlaki which I think perfetccly captures the spirit of American Islam, a concept so alien to Awlaki’s ilk that they are reduced to sputtering “bid’a! bid’a! takfir! takfir!” like insane Daleks, bereft of any emotional connection to their living faith.

I reproduce only a small part of the imam’s response to Awlaki here – but please, read the entire essay.

You asked; “To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters?”

Well, now that you’ve posed the question, I’ll tell you why, and may Allah grant us His mercy. First of all, peaceful coexistence is not a crime; it is a mercy from the Almighty God be He Exalted and Glorified. As American Muslims, we peacefully coexist with our country because we are not under attack because of our faith and we are not driven from our homes; “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” 60:8 Quran. We live here because some of us were born and raised here, and it is the only home that we know. My forefathers came here as slaves, and have helped build this country with their bare hands. Millions of other Muslims have sought and received refuge and safe passage through this vast land of ours, and have made it their home. As American Muslims, we are of different origins; nevertheless we are here now, and it is the result of God’s divine Providence, and we are connected to this soil.

We live here because we are free men, women and children. We have the right to live here and this is our country. We live here because Millions of American Muslims attend this nations masaajid every week without being accosted, bombed while in prayer, or hindered in any way from worshipping our Lord. Many Muslim Imams and scholars have branded our country as evil, even calling her the ‘Great Satan’. I say that the Lord that we worship favors not the east or the west; He favors the righteous wherever they dwell. “Say: To Allah belong both East and West: He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.” Quran, 2:142. So to answer your question about our conscience as we peacefully coexist in The United States of America, my conscience, and the conscience of many Muslim Americans who live in this great land, is clear. As for those Muslims whose conscience and belief compels them to leave this country for another land, then the door is open for them to leave.

As for your call for American Muslims to wage jihad against our country and homeland; the land that you are urging us to wage war against, is the land of our homes that we are obligated to protect.

Emphases mine – note that word “obligated”. I agree completely.

*arguably the best Islamic nation in the world. Certainly, we muslim-Americans are far freer to practice our faith here in America than we would in any nation ruled by maniacs of Awlaki’s type, such as the Al Shabab of Somalia, who have barred radio stations from playing any kind of music and outlawed school bells because they sound too “christian”.

Related: another response to Awlaki by Hesham Hassaballah. Also a must-read.

  • Palm Desert Guy

    This is truly amazing stuff. We need to hear more of this kind of message from the Muslim community.

  • Alicia

    Great post, Aziz. I’ll read the whole article when I have a moment.

  • Taha Raja

    The article is wonderful. I got a chance to read the whole blog article and it is to the point and well presented.
    We need more to speak out! I agree Aziz, US is the most free Muslim Nation of all!

  • Frank

    An Imam who’s a Doctor Who fan? Have a jelly baby! There halal.

  • Teed Rockwell

    I did searches on both Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad’s name and his center’s name on the New York Time Website, and found nothing. There were 231 references to Anwar al Awlaki during that same period. This is why people keep thinking that Muslims aren’t speaking out against violence. When they do speak out, they don’t get any coverage. I guess it’s up to us to get the word out.

  • Darla Contreras

    Al Quida kills 69 people in Iraq. one of many atrocities:
    Is this their way of establishing their religious beliefs as desirable and worthy of respect? Ok, so I know the ordinary Muslim Family just wants the same things I do, a safe, clean, uptodate school for the kids, nice clean playgrounds, and higher educational opportunities, a place to buy groceries and peace to pray. But they are so fraught and corrupted by the extremist on their edges. They the ordinary Muslims need to take a loud noticable stand up against this hatred and violence towards other human beings. Really. And now. In Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine. African Countries, everywhere. Kick out Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and Al Quida and any other hate groups operating supposdly in the name of religion. And then they can just be Sunnis and Shites and whatever other sects and keep their rules and religous laws within their family. These hate groups trying to force everyone to see it their way with their violence, are you kidding? Religion is their front for their lust to control and have power. blah. Islam seems more corrupted by that problem than any other organized religion. Its quite ugly and destroys their image of being just people, and for peace. Stand up and condemn these creeps. Or by your silence condone.

  • Hitch

    Well I have been plenty critical elsewhere, let me just add this. I appreciate if Muslims speak up and clarify and counter the radical voiced.
    Here’s another example that I think is overall very positive and in many ways a role model. A speech by Waleed Basyouni on ‘Violence in the name of god’:
    My issues with a lot of even moderate Muslims is the undue defensiveness. When asked about violent passages in the Quran I hear “oh there is violence in the bible too” and when I ask about violence from extremists who call themselves Muslims I get “Oh but look at the crimes from Israel”. My problem here is not that the answers are incorrect, they are not. But they deflect and by that act displace the problems and cloud them.
    What’s nice about Waleed Basyouni is that he does not do that at all. He directly addresses head on the problem within his own community without deflection. He debates the verses used to justify murder and retaliatory justice and brings cases that draws the radical interpretation into question.
    If moderate Muslims want to get heard, this is how to do it. It’s not by dodging issues or deflecting the narrative. It’s by addressing it. First from within and then also to the outside.

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