Chron : Moderate Muslims speak, but they are rarely heard

March 18, 2010, 7:52PM

Recently two events have occurred that describe opposing views of how some Muslims see the world. The reactions of Muslims in the United States to these two events will affect how their non-Muslim fellow citizens view this new and growing minority.

One of the events occurred March 7 when Adam Gadahn, an American-born “spokesman” for al-Qaida, called for terrorist attacks on American targets, including “mass transportation systems.” Many non-Muslims will hear about this through the widespread media coverage it got and will wonder, “Where are the moderate Muslims among us? Why don’t they speak out?”

But they have been speaking out. For example, the Muslim Public Affairs Council issued the following statement March 7: “MPAC rejects this latest call for criminal acts by al-Qaida, considering it a failed attempt to deliver its bankrupt ideology to Western Muslims, who have continued to reject terrorism in all its forms.”

The Islamic Society of North America has also emphatically rejected Gadahn’s statement: “American Muslims … reject al-Qaida’s attempts to lure our young men and women to their revolutionary fantasies. … Adam Gadahn and his masters have deviated from justice by calling for the indiscriminate murder of vast numbers of people on American soil.”

The other event occurred March 2, when Pakistani-born Sheikh Tahir ul-Qadri, a prominent theologian, launched a seminal fatwa in London condemning terrorism in all its forms. “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses of ifs and buts. The world needs an absolute, unconditional, unqualified and total condemnation of terrorism.”

This is only one of many such statements that have been issued by Islamic scholars since 9/11, but it is significant because it is one of the few that was issued in English and publicized in the United Kingdom, where most British-born extremists have family or cultural links within the Muslim community.

Regrettably, our news media will probably devote significant coverage to Gadahn’s statements, and too few non-Muslims will hear of the condemnations of his statements issued by American Muslim groups, or of ul-Qadri’s fatwa.

The Muslim community is large and diverse, and there is no one central body that can speak for it. Unfortunately, there will always be some who publish outlandish statements and make hateful and un-American pronouncements in mosques, on blogs and at gatherings. Supporting the vast majority of peaceful, law-abiding Muslims living in the West could be key to keeping the small minority of Islamist terrorists from gaining more recruits.

Yet we continue to ignore the majority and focus on the minority, to our own peril.

We are part of a group of Jews and Muslims who have come together to understand each other’s narratives under the auspices of Interfaith Ministries and the Institute for Sustainable Peace. Our group has discussed many topics. We continue to hold differing views, and we also have found much common ground and understanding through listening and dialogue. We are hopeful that eventually more and more of our fellow citizens will benefit from similar dialogues, and the voices of reason will drown out the voices of hatred that are all too often fueled by the media’s focus on the events that break us apart.

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