By S. Amjad Hussein
Recently, I ran into one of my readers in a grocery store. He said he is angry at some of the politicians and religious leaders who blame Islam and Muslims for terrorism.
He then asked me a question I have been asked a great many times: Why don’t Muslims in this country raise their voices against terrorism?
The question is based on the premise that Muslims in this country and elsewhere do not condemn terrorism. Never mind that a great many victims of terrorism are Muslims themselves.
Many international and national organizations continue to condemn terrorism in unambiguous terms. Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest seat of Sunni Islam in the world, has given fatwas, or religious edicts, that have declared acts of terrorism to be against the teachings of Islam.
The Islamic Society of North America has repeatedly condemned terrorism.
It is the biggest organization of Muslims in America and Canada, and attracts 50,000 people to its annual conventions.
Former president Jimmy Carter was the keynote speaker at its most recent convention in Detroit last August.
Another national organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is a civil liberties advocacy organization, not unlike the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.
It points out bias against Muslims, and tries to have it addressed within the scope of American law.
Other individuals and groups have added their voices against terrorism.
Most imams have preached nonviolence and condemned terrorism from mosque pulpits.
All you have to do is spend some time on the Internet to compile a list of individuals and groups that have spoken out against terrorism.
But there still seems to be a selective loss of hearing in some people.
Excuse my cynicism, but the only things left for Muslims to do is get on their rooftops every morning and shout that they are not terrorists and they condemn terrorism.
Or else, take out a full-page ad in newspapers every week.
Germans committed one of the worst crimes against humanity, the Holocaust.
Yet they are not asked to declare every day that they are not anti-Semitic, even though anti-Semitism runs deep in German society and in many other European countries.
Not all Germans were part of the Nazi crimes. To demand repeated assurances from them would be wrong.
And we do not demand that God-fearing, church-going Catholics declare every day that they oppose paedophilia.
I believe that Islam and Muslims are subjected to unprecedented scrutiny, and that is not a bad thing. But when the scrutiny is done with an agenda, it turns into a witch hunt.
The hatred and misinformation about Islam that emanate from some pulpits and religious and political television programs is gross, blatant, and ugly.
How many mainstream newspapers and other media outlets have bothered to condemn this trend? Precious few.
The media operate with a subtle double standard.
They don’t often bother to differentiate between the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the rest of the Muslim world.
The likes of Bill O’Reilly, Bill Maher, and Rush Limbaugh, armed with a broad brush, are ready and willing to tar Islam whenever there is a terrorist incident involving Muslims.
Most Muslims and some Islamic scholars consider Muslim terrorists outside the pale of Islam. This is akin to excommunication in Christianity.
That brings me back to my conversation with the reader in the grocery store.
He said he was pained to see Islamophobia in America.
I asked him whether he feels any obligation to stand up and defend ordinary, peaceful Muslims. He said he would but did not know how.
Here is how: Write letters to newspapers, invite your Muslim neighbours for a cup of coffee or to break bread, and stop anyone who generalizes about and maligns a faith just as you would if someone were to say racist or anti-Semitic things.
One person who has done this consistently is the Rev. Ed Heilman of Park United Church of Christ in Toledo. We could all learn from his example.
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a retired Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade.