This is the second of a two-part column exploring the lessons of 9/11. Part one tracked the evolution of the Muslim community in the five years since 9/11.
When our nation marked the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, there was much to ponder. The Muslim community has gone through a sort of metamorphosis since 9/11, as I have too. But as I look to the next five years, there is one glaring problem that still remains: The tremendous amount of injustice in the world.
As long as there is injustice anywhere, humanity can not progress forward. So long as there is injustice, there will never be any kind of real peace. So long as there is injustice, there will be people who will wreak havoc on the innocent. This has happened from the very beginning of human history: Take the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of the Prophet Adam (peace be upon him).
According to Islamic tradition and the Qur'an, both Cain and Abel gave an offering to God. Cain's offering, however, was not sincere and was not accepted by God. In revenge and without any justification, he killed his own brother. From that time, human beings have senselessly murdered each other.
There is a tremendous amount of injustice in the majority of the Muslim world. It is rank with political corruption, economic stagnation, tyrannical oppression, abject poverty, and lack of education. Muslims have been the victims of colonization, military occupation, mass murder and genocide, hunger, pestilence, and war. Most of the world's refugees are Muslims. It is a despairing situation that may only get worse in the coming years.
And this injustice must end. Just as I have been blessed to live in the peace, tranquility, and safety of the U.S., my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world deserve the same. Just as I have been blessed to worship God freely in whatever manner I choose, my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world deserve the same.
Just as I have been blessed to not be attacked for being a Muslim, my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world deserve the same. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was reported to have said that, "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother (or sister) what he loves for himself."
The lesson here is that we should want for others what we want for ourselves. Yet, though many Muslims face abundant injustice in their lives, they have a tendency to be blind to the injustice that they themselves may be committing. And that is one of the biggest problems in the Muslim world.
For example, although I believe Pope Benedict XVI was incorrect to insinuate that reason does not play a role in Islamic faith, there can be absolutely no justification for the destruction of churches, the murder of priests and nuns, and the threatening of violence in response to his rather perplexing comments. If he quotes a Byzantine emperor who said that Islam was “evil and inhuman,” then the thing we Muslims should not do is act inhuman by engaging in violence to express our disapproval of his comments.
Another good example was the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah. It was enormously distressing to see innocent Lebanese killed by Israeli airstrikes and cluster bombs. Yet, throughout the conflict, Hezbollah deliberately fired rockets at civilian targets as well killing a number of innocent Israelis. This disturbed me greatly.
In fact, I was particularly bothered by Hasan Nasrallah's plea to the Arabs of Haifa to leave the city to avoid being killed. "What about its Jewish citizens?" I thought. "Are they not human beings as well?" But when I would mention my unease about this to some Muslim friends, I would be told, "It's a war."
This is wrong. "We are at war" is absolutely no excuse for the murder of innocent civilians. Unfortunately, many Muslims failed to see this. Not because--as I am sure many are wont to believe--all Muslims are extremists who agree with the murder of innocent civilians. Rather, I believe that the injustice of the overwhelming and disproportionate Israeli response to Hezbollah's cross-border raid blinded some Muslims to the fact that Hezbollah also committed war crimes during the conflict. That is why injustice must be removed from our earth.
This brings up another extremely important point. The overwhelming majority of Muslims reject the murder of innocents and the tactics of terrorism. But there is a small minority who embrace such an extremist ideology. They truly believe that non-Muslims are "infidels" who must be converted or killed. They believe that Islam is at perpetual war with all non-Muslims. They even believe it is acceptable to kill those Muslims who do not share their twisted and radical interpretation of Islam.
And these extremists are trying to cast themselves as "Muslim heroes" who are defending the honor of the Muslims being persecuted by the "war against Islam waged by the West." They cast themselves as "defenders of the religion," slyly hiding behind the legitimate grievances of the Muslim world. Yet, we must always remember who these people really are: Violent, murderous extremists who defile the very faith and tradition they claim to uphold.
No matter what grievances Muslims might have, it never justifies cold-blooded murder. The Qur'an is clear: "Never let the hatred of people move you to commit injustice (5:8)." Let us never be fooled by their citations of the terrible injustice committed towards Muslims. Their actions are an injustice, and we must always wage our own "jihad" against their tactics and ideology. The essence of this jihad is the eradication of injustice across the Muslim world.
If, however, I could wave my hand and eradicate the injustice in the Muslim world, my work would not be done. I cannot stop there. The Qur'an commands that wherever there is injustice, it is an affront to all Muslims. And I believe Muslims are taking up this banner more and more. Muslims are finally taking up the positions they should have taken up a long time ago--taking care of the sick and indigent, feeding the hungry (especially during the month of Ramadan), and giving shelter to the homeless. This is a positive development since 9/11.
And Muslims in the West have a special responsibility to fight injustice around the world. We enjoy a good life and thus must reach out to those less fortunate. We must continue to struggle to have our voices heard and make a positive contribution to the world.
As we look move further past 9/11, we must make eradicating injustice our number one priority. Injustice is the blood feeding the cancer of the extremists. Once we eradicate the injustice, we choke off the blood supply and the cancer will melt away. And the entire world will benefit from it.