The Myth of Muslim Silence
I am not religious, and I never will be. But, just as I have been shown grace and kindness by Christians and Jews whose faith I cannot share, I have had the privilege of knowing a number of Muslims whose beliefs inspire me even though I will never follow them myself.
Of all the pernicious, slanderous nonsense that has emerged in the last two decades, perhaps the most harmful is the notion that Muslims are “silent” on the issue of Islamist terrorism. It is a myth that has persisted since long before the terror attacks of 9/11, but it is since then that they have gained their greatest traction; it is commonly believed by many Americans that no Muslims have ever repudiated or condemned the terror attacks of 9/11. This is ludicrous. Hundreds, thousands of Muslims have spoken out in sympathy for the victims and against the perpetrators, beginning the very day of the attacks, and anyone claiming otherwise is deliberately ignorant and bigoted.
Not only are Muslims the greatest victims of Islamist terror — far, far more Muslims have died at the hands of their co-religionists than “infidels” — but they are also the greatest opponents of it. While the West tends to react to Islamist terror only with violence, it falls to Muslims themselves to approach it from the inside, with reform, with scripture, with secularization, and with every other tool at their disposal, including, yes, vehement and absolute condemnation. Yet after every attack by murderous gangs flying the colors of Allah — after 9/11, after the attacks in Spain and London and Mumbai, after Boston and Nigeria and the Levant, after every atrocity by al-Q’aeda and Boko Haram and ISIS, every follower of Islam gets the stink-eye, and the demand that they vocally and cringingly set themselves apart from the killers. Meanwhile, no Christian is expected to apologize for the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army; no right-winger is taken to task for the heinous deeds of Andres Breivik; no atheist must do penance for the oppressions of Stalin; no Buddhist is held responsible for the hundreds of killings committed in Burma over the last few years by Ashin Wirathu’s 969 Movement.
Some of this can be attributed to the fact that Islam does not have an absolute, heirarchical church structure; it has no Pope with unconditional authority to define the contours of the faith. But much of it is nothing but bigotry, hatred and resentment. The following are only a few of the absolute condemnations of terror made by high-ranking officials and adherents to the Muslim faith only days after the 9/11 attacks; hundreds, even thousands more can be found after every terror attack involving Islamist fanatics with even a cursory search of the internet. It serves no one and accomplishes nothing to demonize a billion people over the violent insanity of a handful of fanatics.
“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.” — Dr. Agha Saeed, national chair of America’s Muslim Alliance, 09/11/2001
“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.” — Syed Mumtaz Ali, president of Canada’s Society of Muslims, 09/12/2001
“Following the bloody attacks against major buildings and installations in the United States yesterday, I am shocked and deeply saddened. These attacks led to the death and injury of a very large number of innocent American citizens. I denounce and condemn these criminal and brutal acts that run counter to all covenants, humanitarian values and divine religions.” — Dr. Abdelouqhed Belkeziz, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 09/12/2001
“Our hearts bleed for the attacks that have targeted the World Trade Center, as well as well as other institutions in the United States. Despite our strong oppositions to America’s 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 an attack against innocent human beings a grave sin.” — Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of Qatar’s Sunna and Sira Council, 09/13/2001
“God Almighty, the master of all rulers, has prohibited injustice among humans. Aggression against those who have committed no crime, and the killing of innocent people, are matters that Islamic sharia has dealt with: these are not permissible even during wars and invasions. Killing the weak, infants, women and the elderly, and destroying property, are considered serious crimes in Islam…Viewing on the TV networks what happened to the Twin Towers was like watching Doomsday. Those who commit such crimes are the worst of people…Aggression, injustice and gloating over the kind of crime that we have seen are totally unacceptable, and forbidden in Islam. God Almighty says: ‘And let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just; that is nearer to piety.’ Inflicting a collective punishment is considered by Islam as despicable aggression and perversion. Killing innocent people is by itself a grave crime, quite apart from terrorizing and committing crimes against infants and women. Such acts do no honor to he who commits them, even if he claims to be a Muslim. I would like to reiterate that Islam rejects such acts, since it forbids killing of civilians even during times of war, especially if they are not part of the fighting. A religion that views people of the world in such a way cannot in any sense condone such condone such criminal acts, which require that their perpetrators and those who support them are held accountable. As a human community, we have to be vigilant and careful to preempt these evils. Muslims have to deal in good faith with those who live beside them in all societies, since Islam does not discriminate between humans: for they are all brothers. This barbaric act is not justified by any sane mindset, or any logic; nor by the religion of Islam. This act is pernicious and shameless and evil in the extreme. I pray to God to guide the devious to the path of righteousness, and to protect us from all evils and from our own bad deeds, and to be gracious to us.” — Sheikh Salih bin-Muhammad al-Luheidan, Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council of Saudi Arabia, 09/14/2001
“Attacking innocent people is not courageous. It is stupid, and will be punished on the day of judgment. It’s not courageous to attack innocent children, women and civilians. It is courageous to protect freedom.”– Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid al-Tantawi, imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque, 09/14/2001
“The undersigned, leaders of Islamic movements, are horrified by the events of Tuesday, September 11, 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.” — A list of forty Muslim scholars and politicians, beginning with Mustafa Mashhur, general guide of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, 09/14/2001
“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. Any Muslim who is aware of the teachings of his religion and who adheres to the directives of the Holy Quran and the sunnah will never involve himself in such acts, because they will invoke the anger of God Almighty and lead to harm and corruption on Earth.” — Abdulaziz bin-Abdallah al-Ashaykh, chief mufti of Saudi Arabia, 09/15/2001
“Religious zealots of any creed are defeated people who lash out in desperation, and they often do horrific things. And if these people 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…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…no one can grant these attackers any legitimacy. It was evil.” — Hamza Yusuf, American Muslim leader, 09/15/2001
“The Arab League shares with the people and government of the United States the feelings of revulsion, horror and shock over the terrorist attacks that ripped through the World Trade Center and Pentagon, inflicting heavy damage and killing and wounding thousands of many nationalities. These terrorist crimes are viewed by the League as…deserving of 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 of the United States at such moments of facing the menace and ruthlessness of international terrorism. It is indeed tormenting that any country or people or city anywhere in the world be the scene of such disastrous attacks. “ — Statement of the Arab League, 09/17/2001
“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 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 and money, and do whatever it takes to help the affected people.” — Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Islahi, Pakistani-American Muslim leader, 09/18/2001
“We are horrified by the attack on the Twin Towers and express condolences and sadness for all the victims and their families. We strongly condemn such activities, which are against all humanist and Islamic morals. We condemn and oppose all aggression on human life, freedom and dignity anywhere in the world.” — Official statement of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, 09/19/2001
“The people who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and hijacked the fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, are criminals who deserve the severest punishment the Quran elaborates. They are murderers and terrorists.” — Sheikh Muhammad Ali al-Hanooti, Palestinian-American mufti, 09/20/2001
“Any human being, regardless of his ethnic and religious origin, must never think of carrying out such a violent, evil attack. Whatever his purpose is, this action cannot be justified or tolerated.” — Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, 09/21/2001
“It’s wrong to kill innocent people. It’s also wrong to praise those who kill innocent people.” — Nizamuddin Shamzai, head mufti at Pakistan’s Jamiat-ul-Uloom-ul-Islamia seminary, 09/28/2001
“What happened on September 11th in New York and Washington, DC will forever remain a horrible scar on the history of Islam and humanity…if anywhere in your hearts there is any sympathy or understanding with those who committed this act, I invite you to ask yourself this question: would Muhammad sanction such an act? While encouraging Muslims to struggle against injustice, Allah also imposes strict rules of engagement. He says in unequivocal terms that to kill an innocent being is like killing humanity entire.” — Muqtedar Khan, professor of political science at Michigan’s Adrian College, 10/05/2001
“We strongly condemn 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. We further reaffirm that these terror acts ran counter to the teachings of the divine religions as well as ethical and human values, stress 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 underscore our support of these efforts. In this respect, we express our 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.” — Statement of the Organization of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, 10/10/2001
“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.” — Fatwa issued by six Islamic scholars in the U.S., Egypt, Syria, and Qatar, led by Sheikh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, 10/11/2001
“Never in Islam’s entire history has the action of so few of its followers caused the religion and its community of believers to be such an abomination in the eyes of others…the nascent democratic movements in Muslim countries will regress for a few decades as ruling autocrats use their participation in the global war against terrorism to terrorize their own critics and dissenters. This is what Mohammed Atta and his fellow terrorists and sponsors have done to Islam and its community worldwide by their murder of innocents at the World Trade Center in New York and the Defense Department in Washington. The attack must be condemned, and the condemnation must be without reservation.” — Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, 10/11/2001
“Such destruction can only be condemned by any Muslim as an unacceptable attack on thousands of innocent people having no relation to American policies. Anyone familiar with Islam has no doubt about its rejection of collective punishment, based on the well-known Quranic principle that no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another.” — Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi, chairman of Tunisia’s An-Nahda Movement, 10/13/2001
“Bombing embassies or destroying non-military installations like the World Trade Center is no jihad. Those who launched the September 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 him.” — Tahirul Qadri, head of Pakistan’s Awami Tehrik Party, 10/18/2001
“Islam prohibits terrorism as well as suicide. Jihad has no place for taking innocent lives, or one’s own life. No cause, howsoever noble or just, can justify terrorism…no thinking Muslim can go along with the use of securing political goals.” — Syed Shahabuddin, Muslim author in India, 11/01/2001
“Any attack on innocent people is unlawful and contrary to sharia. Muslims must safeguard the lives, honor and property of Christians and Jews. Attacking them contradicts sharia.” — Sheikh Muhammad bin-Abdallah al-Sabil of Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Religious Scholars, 12/04/2001
“If these acts of terror indeed have been perpetrated by Muslim radicals or fundamentalists, they have reaped nothing but eternal damnation, shame, and ignominy. For nothing – absolutely nothing – could remotely be advanced as an excuse for these barbaric acts. They represent a total negation of Islamic values, an utter disregard of our tradition, and a slap in the face of the Ummah. They are in total contrast to what Islamic reason, compassion and faith stand for. Even from the more mundane criteria of the common good…these acts are treasonous and suicidal. Islamic faith has been callously and casually sacrificed at the altar of politics, a home-grown politics of parochial causes, primeval passions, self-endorsing piety, and messianic terror.” — Dr. S. Parvez Mansoor, Muslim author in Sweden, 12/10/2001