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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

The Young Muslims That Join ISIS Threaten Their Very Salvation 

While, certainly, news of young Western Muslims running away from home to join the savages of ISIS deeply disturbs me – especially as a father of a teenage daughter – it also deeply saddens me. These misguided young Muslims do not understand how they are not only putting their futures at risk, but also their very eternal salvation. 

It is quite obvious that the militants of ISIS are nothing more than Kharijites, which are a fanatical and violent offshoot of Islam that dates back to the early years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) predicted their advent, and his descriptions of them are extremely accurate. 

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In one such saying, the Prophet (pbuh) said (emphasis added): 

There would arise from my Ummah (i.e., followers) a people who would recite the Qur’an, and your recital would seem insignificant as compared with their recital, your prayer as compared with their prayer, and your fast, as compared with their fast. They would recite the Qur’an thinking that it supports them, whereas it is an evidence against them. Their prayer does not get beyond their collar bone; they would swerve through Islam just as the arrow passes through the prey.


This is quite frightening. These young people who join ISIS think they are joining a group of believers, but they are in fact joining rebellious barbarians who the Prophet (pubh) said would “swerve through Islam just as the arrow passes through the prey.” The Qur’an that they recite, thinking it supports their claims, actually refutes their claims. 

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Take this verse, for example, which accurately describes those young Muslims who are joining ISIS: 

Say: “Shall we tell you who are the greatest losers in whatever they may do? [It is] they whose labor has gone astray in this world’s life, and who nonetheless think that they are doing good works. It is they who have chosen to deny their Lord’s messages and the truth that they are destined to meet Him.” Hence all their [good] deeds come to nothing, and no weight shall We assign to them on Resurrection Day. (18:103-105).


These young people think they are joining the only “true believers” in the world. But they are mistaken; gravely mistaken. These savages of ISIS do everything that Islam and the Qur’an speak against: murder of innocents, mayhem, public corruption, and savagery. The fact that they continue to do these things, despite Islam’s prohibitions, clearly show that they have “chosen to deny their Lord’s messages.” 

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Moreover, the fact that they kill innocent people – with savage brutality – also shows that they are not concerned with the fact that they are going to account one day for their actions. Thus, they also “deny…the truth that they are destined to meet Him.” And as a result of all this, “all their [good] deeds come to nothing, and no weight shall [God] assign to them on Resurrection Day.” 

How can these young people not see this? How can they be so naive? It is a manifest tragedy. But, it is our job – all of us Muslims – to continue to speak out and show our youth that following the savages of ISIS is following a path of destruction. Not only will they be aiding and abetting barbaric criminals, but they are also putting their very eternal salvation at great risk. 

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“House of Cards” Shows The Quest For Absolute Power Can Be Destructive

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

The third season of the smash Netflix hit “House of Cards” comes out on February 27. I must admit, that I have been waiting for it with great anticipation. The series thus far has left me riveted, and I have watched with awe and fear as the ruthless Francis Underwood – masterfully played by Kevin Spacey – has finally reached the pinnacle of power: The Presidency of the United States of America.

Spoiler Alert: You may not want to read further if you haven’t seen the series.

Francis Underwood, now President Underwood, has stopped at nothing in his quest for ultimate power: greed, lust, hypocrisy, manipulation, deceit, and – yes – even cold-blooded murder. His wife, Claire (Robin Wright), is equally ruthless, and two have proven to be unstoppable in their race to the top. And as my shock at the brazenness of their scheming grows with each episode, I cannot help but wonder about how their “House of Cards” will eventually come crashing down.

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I guess we will have to watch the next season to possibly find out.

This quest for power is innate in the human being. And channeled properly, it can be a good thing: an entry-level worker would like to become a supervisor one day; a supervisor would like to become a manager; a manager would like to become a bigger manager, and so on. Yet, the merciless path that Francis Underwood has taken is neither natural nor healthy. And his conduct shows exactly why power so often corrupts.

The test of power is the one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tests for the human being. When one is given power, any power, how will she conduct herself with it? Will she use that power to achieve good for all? Or, will she wield that power to help only herself, no matter the consequence?

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Those that have no moral compass, no sense of right and wrong, to achieve power will eventually face justice for their deeds. While that accounting may or may not be in this world, rest assured that it will most definitely happen on Judgment Day, when the Most Powerful will take everyone to task for what they have done. Underwood’s contempt of God is stupid because, all power ultimately belongs to Him and He alone, and He is always in charge.

The House that Claire and Frank Underwood have built indeed looks powerful on the outside: gleaming white stone and marble, massive and daunting, with a solid foundation and unbreakable barrier. I must admit it has been fun watching them build it.

Yet, because of their ruthlessness, that House is no more than an edifice of paper, on pillars of salt and sand. And when the waters of Justice and Righteousness come – and they will come – it will all come crashing down. And I watch because, I want to be there when it happens. The creators of the show are brilliant.

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More on How The Atlantic Got It Wrong About Islam: Are Beheadings “Islamic”?

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

In the widely-cited, and very long, article by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic, it is written:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.

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Now, there is much in this article that is quite problematic. As its proof of ISIS’ “Islamicness,” it cites one scholar who is not even Muslim and backs it up by interviewing the likes of Anjem Choudhry, a well-know British Muslim extremist. Really? Would any journalist dare do the same with Judaism, for instance? Of course not. Cough…Double Standard…Cough.

That said, let us take his point head on. Is ISIS truly “Very Islamic,” as Wood claims? Already, there have been numerous scholarly – and very good – responses to the article. Think Progress has even interviewed the scholar cited in the piece, Bernard Haykal, to get more detail about his views.

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Yet, let us take this passage:

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

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Let us deal with one of these behaviors, namely, beheadings. Is this Islamic? Enter this verse:

Now when you meet [in war] those who are bent on denying the truth, smite their necks until you overcome them fully… (47:4)

Are you saying, “Gotcha!”? Have I been disproven?

Umm…no. The verse is speaking about meeting the enemy on the battlefield, and it is encouraging the believers to fight vigorously. Isn’t this normal? Wouldn’t you want to have your soldiers fight valiantly on the battlefield? This is what the verse is doing: exhorting them to fight valiantly on the battlefield.

What about the words “smite their necks”? Aren’t the savages of ISIS following the letter of the Qur’an with their gruesome beheadings? No. At the time the verse was revealed, the main weapon of war was…a sword. And, when you kill your enemy on the battlefield with a sword, many times you strike at his neck. This is what the verse is saying.

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The verse is NOT saying kidnap a relief worker (or journalist) – helping to relieve the terrible suffering of the Syrian people – and then behead them on camera if their sick demands are not met. The verse is NOT saying kidnap 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians and behead them on camera. No way can this verse be used to justify these horrific practices.

Moreover, here is the verse in full:

Now when you meet [in war] those who are bent on denying the truth, smite their necks until you overcome them fully, and then tighten their bonds; but thereafter [set them free,] either by an act of grace or against ransom, so that the burden of war may be lifted: thus [shall it be]. And [know that] had God so willed, He could indeed punish them [Himself]; but [He wills you to struggle] so as to test you [all] by means of one another. And as for those who are slain in God’s cause, never will He let their deeds go to waste.

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According to almost all classical Qur’anic exegesis, “tighten their bonds” means take prisoners of war. It must noted that this verse was revealed at a time when prisoners of war were typically mercilessly slaughtered. The Qur’an sets a standard by which these prisoners of war – not kidnapped civilians – can be eventually set free.

Moreover, the “ransom” mentioned in the verse can also comprise – according to some interpretations – a mutual exchange of prisoners of war. In fact, after the first major battle during the Prophet Muhamamad’s life – the Battle of Badr – some prisoners of war were set free after teaching ten Muslims reading and writing.

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If anyone in ISIS thinks that kidnapping innocent people and then beheading them for the camera can be justified by a reading of verse 47:4, then he must have a serious psychological problem. This is why we Muslims – the vast, vast majority of us – say that ISIS is “un-Islamic.” They have no understanding of the very basic tenets and principles of Islam, and they use a horrifically simplistic and psychopathic reading of Islamic texts to justify their actions.

Yes, they may call themselves Muslim, but their actions are wholly antithetical to very essence of our faith. Their actions are not normative Islamic practice; they are barbarism par excellence. Contrary to Wood’s claim, ISIS is not “Very Islamic”; it is Very barbaric.

 

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Think Muslims Haven’t Condemned 9/11? Think Again

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I had a conversation on Twitter recently when someone mentioned the “Muslim silence” on the attacks of 9/11 to me. I had to make sure the person was asking the question correctly, and he or she was. This person actually claimed that Muslims did not condemn the attacks of 9/11. As a result, just like the Muslim condemations of ISIS, I list here a (very partial) list of the Muslim condemnations of the attacks of 9/11. This list is thanks to the excellent work of UNC Chapel Hill Sociology Professor Charles Kurzman:

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Mustafa Mashhur, General Guide, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt; Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Ameer, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Pakistan; Muti Rahman Nizami, Ameer, Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, Bangladesh; Shaykh Ahmad Yassin, Founder, Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), Palestine; Rashid Ghannoushi, President, Nahda Renaissance Movement, Tunisia; Fazil Nour, President, PAS – Parti Islam SeMalaysia, Malaysia; and 40 other Muslim scholars and politicians:
“The undersigned, leaders of Islamic movements, are horrified by the events of Tuesday 11 September 2001 in the United States which resulted in massive killing, destruction and attack on innocent lives. We express our deepest sympathies and sorrow. We condemn, in the strongest terms, the incidents, which are against all human and Islamic norms. This is grounded in the Noble Laws of Islam which forbid all forms of attacks on innocents. God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: ‘No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another’ (Surah al-Isra 17:15).”
MSANews, September 14, 2001 (via archive.org).
Arabic original in al-Quds al-Arabi (London), September 14, 2001, p. 2.

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Shaykh Yusuf Qaradawi, Qatar; Tariq Bishri, Egypt; Muhammad S. Awwa, Egypt; Fahmi Huwaydi, Egypt; Haytham Khayyat, Syria; Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, U.S.:
“All Muslims ought to be united against all those who terrorize the innocents, and those who permit the killing of non-combatants without a justifiable reason. Islam has declared the spilling of blood and the destruction of property as absolute prohibitions until the Day of Judgment. … [It is] necessary to apprehend the true perpetrators of these crimes, as well as those who aid and abet them through incitement, financing or other support. They must be brought to justice in an impartial court of law and [punished] appropriately. … [It is] a duty of Muslims to participate in this effort with all possible means.”
Statement of September 27, 2001.

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Shaykh Muhammed Sayyid al-Tantawi, imam of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt:
“Attacking innocent people is not courageous, it is stupid and will be punished on the day of judgement. … It’s not courageous to attack innocent children, women and civilians. It is courageous to protect freedom, it is courageous to defend oneself and not to attack.”
Agence France Presse, September 14, 2001

Abdel-Mo’tei Bayyoumi, al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy, Cairo, Egypt:
“There is no terrorism or a threat to civilians in jihad [religious struggle].”
Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 20 – 26 September 2001 (via archive.org).

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Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition Islamist group in Egypt, said it was “horrified” by the attack and expressed “condolences and sadness”:
“[We] strongly condemn such activities that are against all humanist and Islamic morals. … [We] condemn and oppose all aggression on human life, freedom and dignity anywhere in the world.”
Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 13 – 19 September 2001 (via archive.org).

Shaykh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, spiritual guide of the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon, said he was “horrified” by these “barbaric … crimes”:
“Beside the fact that they are forbidden by Islam, these acts do not serve those who carried them out but their victims, who will reap the sympathy of the whole world. … Islamists who live according to the human values of Islam could not commit such crimes.”
Agence France Presse, September 14, 2001

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‘Abdulaziz bin ‘Abdallah Al-Ashaykh, chief mufti of Saudi Arabia:
“Firstly: the recent developments in the United States including hijacking planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood, constitute a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts. Secondly: any Muslim who is aware of the teachings of his religion and who adheres to the directives of the Holy Qur’an and the sunnah (the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) will never involve himself in such acts, because they will invoke the anger of God Almighty and lead to harm and corruption on earth.”
Statement of September 15, 2001 (via archive.org).

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‘Abdulaziz bin ‘Abdallah Al-Ashaykh, chief mufti of Saudi Arabia:
“You must know Islam’s firm position against all these terrible crimes. The world must know that Islam is a religion of peace and mercy and goodness; it is a religion of justice and guidance…Islam has forbidden violence in all its forms. It forbids the hijacking airplanes, ships and other means of transport, and it forbids all acts that undermine the security of the innocent.”
Hajj sermon of February 2, 2004, in “Public Statements by Senior Saudi Officials Condemning Extremism and Promoting Moderation,” May 2004, page 10 (via archive.org).

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Shaikh Saleh Al-Luheidan, Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, Saudi Arabia:
“As a human community we must be vigilant and careful to oppose these pernicious and shameless evils, which are not justified by any sane logic, nor by the religion of Islam.”
Statement of September 14, 2001, in “Public Statements by Senior Saudi Officials Condemning Extremism and Promoting Moderation,” May 2004, page 6 (via archive.org).

Shaikh Saleh Al-Luheidan, Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, Saudi Arabia:
“And I repeat once again: that this act that the United states was afflicted with, with this vulgarity and barbarism, and which is even more barbaric than terrorist acts, I say that these acts are from the depths of depravity and the worst of evils.”
Televised statement of September 2001, in Muhammad ibn Hussin Al-Qahtani, editor, The Position of Saudi Muslim Scholars Regarding Terrorism in the Name of Islam (Saudi Arabia, 2004), pages 27-28.

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Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abdallah al-Sabil, member of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, Saudi Arabia:
“Any attack on innocent people is unlawful and contrary to shari’a (Islamic law). … Muslims must safeguard the lives, honor and property of Christians and Jews. Attacking them contradicts shari’a.”
Agence France Presse, December 4, 2001

Council of Saudi ‘Ulama, fatwa of February 2003:
“What is happening in some countries from the shedding of the innocent blood and the bombing of buildings and ships and the destruction of public and private installations is a criminal act against Islam. … Those who carry out such acts have the deviant beliefs and misleading ideologies and are responsible for the crime. Islam and Muslims should not be held responsible for such actions.”
The Dawn newspaper, Karachi, Pakistan, February 8, 2003 (via archive.org); also in “Public Statements by Senior Saudi Officials Condemning Extremism and Promoting Moderation,” May 2004, page 10 (via archive.org).

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Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of the Sunna and Sira Council, Qatar:
“Our hearts bleed for the attacks that has targeted the World Trade Center [WTC], as well as other institutions in the United States despite our strong oppositions to the American biased policy towards Israel on the military, political and economic fronts. Islam, the religion of tolerance, holds the human soul in high esteem, and considers the attack against innocent human beings a grave sin, this is backed by the Qur’anic verse which reads: ‘Who so ever kills a human being [as punishment] for [crimes] other than manslaughter or [sowing] corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and who so ever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind’ (Al-Ma’idah:32).”
Statement of September 13, 2001 (via archive.org).

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Tahirul Qadri, head of the Awami Tehrik Party, Pakistan:
“Bombing embassies or destroying non-military installations like the World Trade Center is no jihad. … “[T]hose who launched the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks not only killed thousands of innocent people in the United States but also put the lives of millions of Muslims across the world at risk. … Bin Laden is not a prophet that we should put thousands of lives at risk for.”
United Press International, October 18, 2001.

Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i, supreme jurist-ruler of Iran:
“Killing of people, in any place and with any kind of weapons, including atomic bombs, long-range missiles, biological or chemical weopons, passenger or war planes, carried out by any organization, country or individuals is condemned. … It makes no difference whether such massacres happen in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Qana, Sabra, Shatila, Deir Yassin, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq or in New York and Washington.”
Islamic Republic News Agency, September 16, 2001 (via archive.org).

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President Muhammad Khatami of Iran:
“[T]he September 11 terrorist blasts in America can only be the job of a group that have voluntarily severed their own ears and tongues, so that the only language with which they could communicate would be destroying and spreading death.”
Address to the United Nations General Assembly, November 9, 2001 (via archive.org).

League of Arab States:
“The General-Secretariat of the League of Arab States shares with the people and government of the United States of America the feelings of revulsion, horror and shock over the terrorist attacks that ripped through the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, inflicting heavy damage and killing and wounding thousands of many nationalities. These terrorist crimes have been viewed by the League as inadmissible and deserving all condemnation. Divergence of views between the Arabs and the United States over the latter’s foreign policy on the Middle East crisis does in no way adversely affect the common Arab attitude of compassion with the people and government of the United States at such moments of facing the menace and ruthlessness of international terrorism. In more than one statement released since the horrendous attacks, the League has also expressed deep sympathy with the families of the victims. In remarks to newsmen immediately following the tragic events, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa described the feelings of the Arab world as demonstrably sympathetic with the American people, particularly with families and individuals who lost their loved ones. “It is indeed tormenting that any country or people or city anywhere in the world be the scene of such disastrous attacks,” he added. While convinced that it is both inconceivable and lamentable that such a large-scale, organised terrorist campaign take place anywhere, anytime, the League believes that the dreadful attacks against WTC and the Pentagon unveil, time and again, that the cancer of terrorism can be extensively damaging if left unchecked. It follows that there is a pressing and urgent need to combat world terrorism. In this context, an earlier call by [Egyptian] President Hosni Mubarak for convening an international conference to draw up universal accord on ways and means to eradicate this phenomenon and demonstrate international solidarity is worthy of active consideration. The Arabs have walked a large distance in the fight against cross-border terrorism by concluding in April 1998 the Arab Agreement on Combating Terrorism.”
September 17, 2001.

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Dr. Abdelouahed Belkeziz, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference:
“Following the bloody attacks against major buildings and installations in the United States yesterday, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Dr. Abdelouahed Belkeziz, secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), stated that he was shocked and deeply saddened when he heard of those attacks which led to the death and injury of a very large number of innocent American citizens. Dr. Belkeziz said he was denouncing and condemning those criminal and brutal acts that ran counter to all covenants, humanitarian values and divine religions foremost among which was Islam.”
Press Release, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, September 12, 2001.

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Organization of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers:
“The Conference strongly condemned the brutal terror acts that befell the United States, caused huge losses in human lives from various nationalities and wreaked tremendous destruction and damage in New York and Washington. It further reaffirmed that these terror acts ran counter to the teachings of the divine religions as well as ethical and human values, stressed the necessity of tracking down the perpetrators of these acts in the light of the results of investigations and bringing them to justice to inflict on them the penalty they deserve, and underscored its support of this effort. In this respect, the Conference expressed its condolences to and sympathy with the people and government of the United States and the families of the victims in these mournful and tragic circumstances.”
Final Communique of the Ninth Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, October 10, 2001.

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Organization of the Islamic Conference, Summit Conference:
“We are determined to fight terrorism in all its forms. … Islam is the religion of moderation. It rejects extremism and isolation. There is a need to confront deviant ideology where it appears, including in school curricula. Islam is the religion of diversity and tolerance.”
Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon), December 9, 2005.

Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, Head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs of Turkey:
“Any human being, regardless of his ethnic and religious origin, will never think of carrying out such a violent, evil attack. Whatever its purpose is, this action cannot be justified and tolerated.”
Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, “A Message on Ragaib Night and Terrorism,” September 21, 2001 (via archive.org).

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Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar), Turkish author:
“The religion of Islam can by no means countenance terrorism. On the contrary, terror (i.e. murder of innocent people) in Islam is a great sin, and Muslims are responsible for preventing these acts and bringing peace and justice to the world.”
Harun Yahya, Islam Denounces Terrorism.

Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf Islahi, Pakistani-American Muslim leader:
“The sudden barbaric attack on innocent citizens living in peace is extremely distressing and deplorable. Every gentle human heart goes out to the victims of this attack and as humans we are ashamed at the barbarism perpetrated by a few people. Islam, which is a religion of peace and tolerance, condemns this act and sees this is as a wounding scar on the face of humanity. I appeal to Muslims to strongly condemn this act, express unity with the victims’ relatives, donate blood, money and do whatever it takes to help the affected people.”
“Messages From Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf Islahi” (via archive.org).

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Abdal-Hakim Murad, British Muslim author:
“Targeting civilians is a negation of every possible school of Sunni Islam. Suicide bombing is so foreign to the Quranic ethos that the Prophet Samson is entirely absent from our scriptures.”
“The Hijackers Were Not Muslims After All: Recapturing Islam From the Terrorists” (via archive.org).

Syed Mumtaz Ali, President of the Canadian Society of Muslims:
“We condemn in the strongest terms possible what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Canadians in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts.”
Canadian Society of Muslims, Media Release, September 12, 2001 (via archive.org).

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15 American Muslim organizations:
“We reiterate our unequivocal condemnation of the crime committed on September 11, 2001 and join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of up to 6000 innocent civilians.”
Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), Muslim Student Association (MSA), Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), Solidarity International, American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice (AMGPJ), American Muslim Alliance (AMA), United Muslim Americans Association (UMAA), Islamic Media Foundation (IMF), American Muslim Foundation (AMF), Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations (CCMO), American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ), Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), October 22, 2001 (via archive.org).

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57 leaders of North American Islamic organizations, 77 intellectuals, and dozens of concerned citizens:
“As American Muslims and scholars of Islam, we wish to restate our conviction that peace and justice constitute the basic principles of the Muslim faith. We wish again to state unequivocally that neither the al-Qaeda organization nor Usama bin Laden represents Islam or reflects Muslim beliefs and practice. Rather, groups like al-Qaeda have misused and abused Islam in order to fit their own radical and indeed anti-Islamic agenda. Usama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s actions are criminal, misguided and counter to the true teachings of Islam.”
Statement Rejecting Terrorism, September 9, 2002 (via archive.org).

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American Muslim Political Coordination Council:
“American Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts.”
Full-page ad in The Washington Post, September 16, 2001.

Dr. Agha Saeed, National Chair of the American Muslim Alliance:
“These attacks are against both divine and human laws and we condemn them in the strongest terms. The Muslim Americans join the nation in calling for swift apprehension and stiff punishment of the perpetrators, and offer our sympathies to the victims and their families.”
September 11, 2001 (via archive.org).

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Hamza Yusuf, American Muslim leader:
“Religious zealots of any creed are defeated people who lash out in desperation, and they often do horrific things. And if these people [who committed murder on September 11] indeed are Arabs, Muslims, they’re obviously very sick people and I can’t even look at it in religious terms. It’s politics, tragic politics. There’s no Islamic justification for any of it. … You can’t kill innocent people. There’s no Islamic declaration of war against the United States. I think every Muslim country except Afghanistan has an embassy in this country. And in Islam, a country where you have embassies is not considered a belligerent country. In Islam, the only wars that are permitted are between armies and they should engage on battlefields and engage nobly. The Prophet Muhammad said, “Do not kill women or children or non-combatants and do not kill old people or religious people,” and he mentioned priests, nuns and rabbis. And he said, “Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees and do not poison the wells of your enemies.” The Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet, say that no one can punish with fire except the lord of fire. It’s prohibited to burn anyone in Islam as a punishment. No one can grant these attackers any legitimacy. It was evil.”
San Jose Mercury News, September 15, 2001 (via archive.org).

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Nuh Ha Mim Keller, American Muslim author:
“Muslims have nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide, and should simply tell people what their scholars and religious leaders have always said: first, that the Wahhabi sect has nothing to do with orthodox Islam, for its lack of tolerance is a perversion of traditional values; and second, that killing civilians is wrong and immoral.”
“Making the World Safe for Terrorism,” September 30, 2001 (via archive.org).

Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), prominent British Muslim:
“I wish to express my heartfelt horror at the indiscriminate terrorist attacks committed against innocent people of the United States yesterday. While it is still not clear who carried out the attack, it must be stated that no right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: the Qur’an equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity. We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims at this sorrowful moment.”
[On singing an a cappella version of “Peace Train” for the Concert for New York City:] “After the tragedy, my heart was heavy with sadness and shock, and I was determined to help in some way. Organizers asked me to take part in a message for tolerance and sing ‘Peace Train.’ Of course, I agreed. … As a Muslim from the West, it is important to me to let people know that these acts of mass murder have nothing to do with Islam and the beliefs of Muslims.”
Press release of September 13, 2001 (via archive.org), and interview of October 22, 2001 (via archive.org).

This is only a very small part of the actual list. See the full list here. Think Muslims haven’t condemned 9/11? Think Again.

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For the Families of the Chapel Hill Shooting Victims, All You Need To Do Is Hold Their Hands

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

While much of the American Muslim community, as well as Muslims around the world, are still in shock over the horrific shooting deaths of three young American Muslim college students, in accordance with Islamic proscription, the three were laid to rest earlier this week. As is always the case, the news media attention – albeit very slow to come about – will fade over the coming days and weeks. People, including American Muslims, will go back to their normal routines.

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But the families of the three victims – Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and Razan Mohammad – will be left with their unspeakable pain. Dr. Suzanne Barakat, family physician, said it at a news conference:

Six weeks ago, I cried tears of joy at my baby brother’s wedding. Today, we are crying tears of unimaginable pain…

And yes, their pain is unimaginable. My wife and I know this fact all too well because, we lost our own daughter to cancer almost six years ago. There is nothing anyone can say to ease the pain that the families of the three victims are facing now. Nothing. Their pain is unspeakable; their pain is suffocating; their pain is something that has never been felt before.

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And it is natural for many to reach out and try to say something to help ease that pain. I suspect many will say, “May God increase your reward” or “To God We Belong, and to He we shall return.” Some may even say, “May you be patient through this terrible tragedy.” And while all these prayers and well-wishes are good, and may the Lord answer those prayers, words will never ease this pain. Words do not know how to ease this pain.

As I stood at my daughter’s freshly-dug grave and watched dirt being poured over her pink casket, I lost it. I could not hold in the tears, hard as I was trying to keep them in. And the best thing anyone had done for me – at that dark hour – was hold my hand. He didn’t say anything. He just held my hand. I helped so much, more than he can ever know. And I have never forgotten his act of brotherhood and kindness. I will never forget it, as long as I still breathe on this earth.

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And so I offer this piece of advice: just hold their hands. Be there for and support them as they move forward having to bear a pain that is indescribable. Only the Lord God can bring true comfort, and He will because He is so Beautiful and full of Grace and Mercy. Yet, for those that are around the families of the victims: just hold their hands.

And for what it’s worth – especially to the parents of Deah, Yusor, and Razan – I extend my hand to they. It is always here for them. And I pray that our Beautiful, Beloved Lord bring all of us comfort, and may our respective Family Reunions be in the Highest of Paradises, in the cool shade of His Majestic Throne.

Amen.

 

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There Should Be No ‘Starving Faithful’ If Religion Is Done Correctly

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I thought, for certain, that Hozier would win “Song of the Year” at the Grammy Awards last night for “Take Me To Church.” Not that I’m disappointed about Sam Smith – whose music I enjoy – but “Church’s” fame continues to be strong. Although Hozier claimed in an interview that the song is not meant to be against religion, there is a lot of stinging criticism of religion upon first glance:

My lover’s got humor
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshiped her sooner

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If the Heavens ever did speak
She is the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week

‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’

The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you
I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen.

Obviously, I don’t like the concept of “worshiping in the bedroom,” but the sarcasm against religion is unmistakable. When reflecting over the lyrics of the song, however, this main thought came to my mind: religion should never leave anyone “starving,” which he claims in the second stanza:

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What you got in the stable?
We’ve a lot of starving faithful

Religion, when done correctly, should be completely fulfilling – for both body and soul. At its essence, religion is the personal relationship with the Creator. It is the framework for interaction with the One Who – out of His profound Love for us – gave us life when we were dead. And this “life” is not only physical, biological life, but also spiritual life. I was never truly alive until I connected with my Lord and followed His path and lived in His love.

Therefore, such a relationship with God can never leave someone wanting.  If, however, such a relationship with God does leave someone – purportedly faithful – still “starving,” then there is something wrong with the framework.

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I can hear retorts that the savages – “barbarian” is too kind a word – of KIL (aka ISIS) sure look like they are fulfilled, like they are not “starving faithful” by any measure. I completely disagree. Look at the fruits of their works: mayhem; murder; pillage; rape; destruction. They are widely condemned by the Muslim world and are even a laughing stock.

What they do is not spiritual fulfillment; it is criminal barbarity. What they do does not feed the soul; it fulfills the basest of human urges. What they do is not the glorification of the Lord; it defies His every word and law to the hilt. Scripture does not support their actions; it will actually be a witness against them.

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No. When religion is done right, it brings about peace, love, justice, brotherhood, sisterhood, safety and security. When religion is done right, the soul is uplifted to the highest of heights, giving the believer an inner peace that is truly indescribable. When religion is done right, there is no “fresh poison each week,” but rather the very cure to what ails the heart and soul of the human seeker.

Too many times, unfortunately, religion has been done wrong in our world. Too many times, so much evil has been committed in the name of God that many have dismissed religion as a force for evil, as “Take Me To Church” seems to imply. Yet, this has been the case because religion has been done wrong. And it is our job – those of faith – to work as hard as we can to make sure it is done right.

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A Welcome Addition: Women-Only Mosque Opens in Downtown L.A.

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

It always did pain me. In many mosques – too many, actually – the space for women is woefully inadequate (if not downright gross). Of course, I never saw these spaces for myself, but I learned from my own family and from my reading of some Muslim women’s experiences. Hence my complete delight at the opening of a Women-Only mosque in Downtown L.A.:

In what may have been a unique moment in America, more than 100 women gathered Friday at the interfaith Pico-Union Project. While many mosques continue to follow a tradition of separating women from male congregants, the downtown Los Angeles mosque forbids men from attending.

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Female-only mosques may exist in China, Chile and India, but Muslim leaders say this could be the first in the U.S.

The inaugural prayer Friday marked the launch of the Women’s Mosque of America, a nonprofit that hopes to create a space where Muslim women can “bring their whole self,” learn more about their faith and foster bonds of sisterhood.

Of course, I believe all mosques should have inviting spaces for both men and women. I believe that Muslim women should be made to feel welcome and part of the community as a whole. In no way, shape, or form can a community prosper if its women are suppressed or mistreated. The first Friday prayer at this mosque brought some of its congregants to tears:

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Because many spaces for women in many mosques are not as appealing or accessible as the areas for men, an open environment is integral for growth, said Sana Muttalib, co-president of the women’s mosque. Often, women are forced to enter through side or back doors to reach their segregated areas, she explained.

In most mosques, women are hard-pressed to find the opportunity to ask the imam questions after prayer. But on Friday, a female speaker (or khateeba) addressed women’s issues and held a discussion circle after the prayer service.

Many women expressed their gratitude at the chance to share their thoughts. Some cried and called the experience liberating.

On the one hand, it is sad that some of my Muslim sisters had to go to such a length as opening a Women-Only mosque to get a spiritually fulfilling experience. At the time of the Prophet (pbuh), such was not the case. Although they did pray separately (women behind the men), there was no barrier like there is in many mosques today. In fact, tradition states that the women would complain to the Prophet (pbuh) about the men encroaching upon their space in the mosque.

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Still, such a mosque is a most welcome addition to the family of mosques in America. I pray for its tremendous success, and it would bring me no small amount of joy if more such mosques dot the American Muslim religious landscape in the near future. All of us – men and women – are the beloved children of God. Each of us deserves a sacred space in which to connect to Him.

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The Protesters in Texas Would Have Learned So Much If They Just Spoke to the Muslims Across the Street

In The Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I watched with dismay a video of the hundreds of protesters that gathered outside a conference of Muslims entitled, “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate” in Texas this past weekend. Whenever fellow Americans gather to “protest” the presence of Muslims – who are also Americans like them – it is quite hurtful. Yet, what I found fascinating – all the while truly sad – was that there was a counter-protest of Muslims just across the street. And I wonder about the great things that could have happened if the protesters had simply walked across the street and talked to their fellow Americans who are Muslim.

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One of the many signs carried by protesters read: “No Allah in America.” I found that quite odd because, Allah – which is to say, “God” – is everywhere, including America. Now, I assume this person holding the sign is a Christian. I wonder at his amazement if he learned that, in the many churches in America which cater to Arab faithful, God is called “Allah.” I wonder at his amazement when he learns that Jesus Christ himself called God by the name “Allah”:

Beyond this fact, however, is that “Allah” is also the name that Jesus Christ called God. “Allah” is the Arabic equivalent of “Elohim,” which is Hebrew for God. The “im” is a plural appendage of respect, and so the wordis “Eloh,” which is very similar to “Allah.” In addition, the Aramaic word for God is “Alaha,” and Aramaic was the language which Jesus himself spoke. Moreover, the word “Allah” is found in the English version of the Bible which we read today. In Matthew 27:46 we read: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” The word “Eloi” is the Aramaic form of the Arabic “Allah.”

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He could have learned this if he just walked across the street and talked with his fellow Americans who were Muslim. Many of the protesters would have likely been quite surprised at how similar they are to American Muslims; how American Muslims believe in and worship the very same God as they; how American Muslims honor and revere the very same Prophets as they, including Jesus Christ; how American Muslims have the same aspirations and dreams as they; how American Muslims love and believe in this amazing place called America, just like they do.

They would have learned all this if they simply crossed the street and joined their fellow Americans in dialogue. Although it could not be seen, there was a huge wall between the protest and the counter-protest. But that wall would have come crashing down if the “patriots” protesting against Islam would have crossed the street.

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I know this to be true because of a personal experience I recently had. I was at a gathering of one of my neighbors when another guest walked up to my wife and me and asked, “You guys are Muslim, right?” Nervously, we both answered, “Yes.” He then proceeded to ask us what was the matter with “the Muslims.” He wasn’t particularly mean-spirited, but he was sincerely wondering based on the snippets he sees all over the media.

Frankly, given the horrific press Islam and Muslims get on a regular basis, I don’t necessarily blame him for the question. But, what I appreciated was that he came up to us and asked the question, all the while qualifying it by saying, “I see that you guys are here and having a good time.” And after my wife and I calmly explained to him that what he sees is not the reality, he hugged the both of us, in true sincerity.

That is the sort of dialogue that needs to happen more and more, all across our country. When we learn about one another, we will realize that we are much more similar than we are different. And the forces of hate and discord that seek to keep us divided will fail miserably.

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An Important Story That Was Not As Prominent In The Charlie Hebdo Saga

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

There has been so much talk about Muslims and Islam in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. This talk will most certainly continue. Yet, I wanted to highlight a very important story that may have gotten lost in the wake of the attack and subsequent show of support in France:

Lassana Bathily, a young Muslim deli clerk who was working at Hyper Cacher store in Paris during Friday’s deadly hostage-taking, is being hailed as a hero. People in Paris and around the world took to social media to sing Bathily’s praises and credit him for saving six people’s lives by hiding them in a walk-in freezer. Bathily, 24, hid the customers when gunman Amedy Coulibaly, 32, stormed the market on Friday, took 15 people hostage and murdered four more. “I turned off the light. I turned off the freezer. Once we were inside, I closed the door, and I told them, ‘Stay here, stay calm. I’m going out,’ the Mali-born Parisian told BFMTV.

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Although he was initially handcuffed by police when he went out to tell them about the gunman, it was his information to the police that led to the end of the siege. This man, Lassana Bathily, represents the truth about Islam and Muslims. This man, along with Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabat, tells the real story of how Muslims contribute to the greatness of each society in which they live.

Yes, I did tweet “Je Suis Charlie” in the immediate aftermath of the attack, out of sheer repugnance for the crime. But, I am disgusted by their cartoons, all the while condemning the violent response to it. In reality, “Je Suis Ahmed” and “Je Suis Lassana.” That is to say, “I am Ahmed” and “I am Lassana.”

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“Je Suis Charlie”: The Paris Attackers Did Not ‘Avenge’ The Prophet Muhammad…They Spat In His Face

In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful And Compassionate Beloved Lord

When I heard the news of the horrific attack on the offices of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, my heart sank in terrible grief. Two masked gunmen, in a military-style attack, burst into the editorial offices and murdered 12 people in cold blood. And what made it worse for me is the fact that they did it in the name of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad!” Charlie Hebdo was well known for publishing unflattering cartoons and other pieces mocking the Prophet Muhammad specifically and religious extremists in general, often bringing upon it and its journalists death threats.

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Apart from the revulsion I have to the murder of any innocent life, the fact that this act of terror was committed in the name of God and His Prophet is doubly painful. And what I still cannot understand is how people like this can even think that our religion gives sanction to do something like this. Of course, an insult to the Prophet Muhammad is painful for most – if not all – Muslims across the globe. Yet, no matter the attack on the Prophet, nothing justifies such a terrible crime that was seen in Paris yesterday.

Moreover, in the Qur’an, it specifically states what should be done when people mock God and His Prophet:

And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine write that, whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things  – or else, you will become like them. Behold, God will gather together those who deny the truth and the hypocrites in Hell. (4:140)

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The Qur’an also says:

Now, whenever you meet such as indulge in [blasphemous] talk about Our messages, turn your back upon them until they begin to talk of other things, and if Satan should ever cause you to forget [yourself], remain not, after recollection, in the company of such evildoing folk. (6:68)

Nowhere does it say that you have the right or even permission to kill such people. Nowhere does it say that you can threaten anyone who insults the Prophet Muhammad, however painful such an insult may be to hear. That anyone can justify such heinous acts of barbarity – such as that seen in Paris – is beyond my comprehension.

In addition, since childhood, Muslims have been taught that – throughout the Prophet’s life – he was the subject of countless insults and ridicule, and he never ordered anyone to kill those who insulted him. Since childhood, I was taught the story of how the Prophet’s neighbor threw trash on his front door every day, and he did nothing to that person. In fact, when that neighbor stopped placing trash, he visited her to see what was the matter. Time and time again, the Prophet forgave those who personally attacked and maligned him.

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That is the example we ought to follow. That is what Islam teaches. There are so many other ways that Muslims – who truly love the Prophet – can speak out against those who mock him: they could write a letter to the editor; they can hold a candle light vigil in front of the office, speaking about all the wonderful things the Prophet has done; they can meet with the editorial board and teach them how important the Prophet is to the lives of ordinary Muslims. Anything but violence and murder.

The gunmen in Paris did not “avenge” the Prophet Muhammad; they spat in his face.

I pray that the gunmen are caught and brought to justice. I pray that, if convicted, these murderers are punished in the severest manner possible. I pray for the families of the victims and all the people of Paris: may our Lord be with you, and may He comfort you in this time of terrible grief and sadness.

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Je Suis Charlie. I am indeed Charlie. I do not support the mocking of the Prophet Muhammad – any more than I support the mocking of Jesus Christ, or Moses, or Abraham – may God’s peace be upon them all. Yet, I also condemn and revile – in the severest manner possible – this barbaric act of murder supposedly carried out in his name. In no way, shape, or form is this a way to show love for the Prophet Muhammad. No way.

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