By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Editor-in-Chief of The Muslim Observer
Showing placards reading â€˜God Bless Hitlerâ€™ and â€˜Freedom Go to Hell,â€™ the Dutch politician Geert Wilders in his documentary entitled â€œFitnaâ€ has tried to conclude that God is responsible for all the hatred that Islam shows towards Christians and Jews and the rest of the world. He quotes from the Qur`an to suggest that the divine scripture of Muslims poses a definite threat to freedom, peace and prosperity. The question any reasonable and a good hearted person should ask after viewing such hate speech, â€œWhy spend so much time on spreading hate?â€
Is that too much to ask one to think? The average Joe would agree.
However, anyone who watches Wilders documentary without being objective in his or her analysis is likely to develop a very negative image of Islam.
Doubtlessly, people with Muslim sounding names can be blamed for a lot of violence that has taken place in our world since 1993 when the first attack on the world trade center took place. Many organizations claming to be Muslims have expressed their determination to perpetuate violence against those opposed to them.
But the world in general has failed to acknowledge that the victims of these so-called Muslims and their organizations have also been Muslims who draw strength for peace and compassion from the same Scriptural source, the Dutch movie maker holds responsible for violence.
During the last 15 years, the toughest challenge, the advocates of violence have faced within the Muslim community, has come from the Muslim masses and intellectuals.
Their pressure has forced the religious clergy in different parts of the Muslim world to maintain a distance from those who are still hiding in the caves, but theologically, they have also developed a stronger response against terror.
A cursory survey of all the daily newspapers in English and vernacular languages published in some 56 countries that have a majority of Muslim population clearly indicates that the articles denouncing terrorism and violence far exceeds the opinions supportive of acts of terror by a margin of 10,000 to one.
Not a single website operated by a respectable Muslim organization and individual has ever published any article that supports terrorism.
Of course obscure websites without any visible identity may be found all over the Internet. A look at the number of visitors to these sites indicate that only those who are monitoring these websites usually have access to them.
During the last 15 years, in over 2,000 mosques and Islamic centers in America, Muslim clergy and scholars have delivered Friday sermons on the themes of peace, pluralism, love and harmony and freedom, compassion and kindness. Of the themes of the conventions organized by five major US organizations the emphasis has always been outreaching and interfaith with our Christian and Jewish brethren. Some 35,000 meetings between Muslims, Jews and Christians have taken place under different forums during the last 15 years in the United States alone. Upholding faith and serving humanity, Islam in service of the society, peace and interfaith dialogue are some of the topics discussed at these conventions.
Muslims in America have held many seminars and workshops against terrorism resulting in the publications of several monographs against violence.
In at least 1200 forums organized by Muslim Americans in different parts of America, the Muslim clergy and scholars have clarified the verses that are often used in a negative context by the likes of Geert Wilders and other hate-mongers.
Through their tireless and consistent work, Muslim Americans have been at the forefront against violence, terrorism, racism and bigotry. They believe that the struggle or jihad against terror is a common jihad. They are not shy of saying openly and clearly that every human life is sacred and must be defended. Those who misuse Islamâ€™s name to serve their own political and zealot religious schemes do not represent the Muslim world nor the Islamic faith and are considered fanatics and uneducated.
Geert Wildersâ€™ documentary, in fact, portrays these same fanatics as mainstream Muslims, which in reality is clearly not the case. Wilder perpetuates the hatred that some special interest groups on all sides want to promote so that more blood can be shed and more violence can be promoted in the name of the â€œWar on Terror.â€ People are free to say whatever they want and no one can stop them from spreading hatred or negative feelings about Muslims. However, what we must realize that freedom cannot be used as a curtain to hide our historical prejudices. Those who misuse freedom must also be exposed the way those who misuse religion, are to be exposed.
Many people ask why the Muslims of the world are not responding to violence the way Muslim Americans have been? Our media, intelligence agencies and special interest groups pick up only those stories in general that are bias towards Islam. However, during the last five months alone, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, at least 300 forums denouncing violence took place in various universities and mosques. The struggle for peace is and justice and sensibility is a Muslim cry and a Muslim story along with the rest of humanity and unless, we all show our commitment to peace and reject violence in principle we will not be able to serve our common interests, Muslims in America are committed to defending their country like any other American. No one should have any doubt about it. This concept must be understood by those committed to defaming Muslims, Islam and its Holy Book the Qur`an, which is a great book for all of mankind and was read by great men including one of the founding fathers of America, Thomas Jefferson. Granted his opinion, Wilders documentary, however is a personal prejudice farce that demonizes an entire people for whom the majority of are not responsible. Furthermore these types of documentaries do not promote solidarity or understanding but only reveal the darkness of the groups or individuals who are making them. Lets move beyond the labeling and hate filled documentaries, movies, speeches ect. and begin to heal each other and work towards making the world a better place.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is Editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic society of Nevada, Las Vegas and acting president of the Muslim Council of America, a Washington-based newly formed groups of Muslim activists.