kenya.2The Baltimore Sun, January 21, 2014, editorial commentary by CAIR Representative  of Maryland, Zainab Chaudry:

Earlier this month, 28-year-old Todd Wheeler Jr. of Glen Burnie [Maryland] was arrested on charges of making explosives. Had they detonated, the radius of the blast could have caused extensive damage, deaths and injuries. Also this month, Ellicott City [Maryland] resident Mohammad Hassan Khalid was scheduled to be sentenced for conspiring to aid terrorists. Mr. Khalid was a bright teenager with a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University at the time of his arrest two years ago. … . There is no easy answer for what compels people like them to venture out on the dark path that leads to destruction, loss of life and prison. But the more important question is: “How can they be stopped?” This requires frank dialogue, and not only examination of factors that promote terrorism, but also our individual and collective roles in preemptive intervention.  (Read rest of commentary here)

If I were to provide my own “counter to violent terrorism” it might go like this:

Ms. Chaudry, I read your editorial commentary in the Baltimore Sun and I could not agree with you more that something needs to be done to counter violent extremism in the world. I also appreciate your desire for all religions to live in peace and harmony, including respecting one another’s world views and religious beliefs. However, I think the only way we can achieve such objectives is in truth and, as you say, “frank dialogue.” I respectfully disagree with the logic of your view and thought I might provide my own counter to violent terrorism.

You stated,

“Biased media reports have helped shape the false perception that Muslims are more likely to engage in acts of terrorism because Islam is a “violent religion.” Yet, of approximately 180,000 murders committed in the U.S. between 9/11 and Jan. 1, 2013, just 33 can be attributed to Muslim-American terrorism.” Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-cair-20140120,0,5633737.story#ixzz2rM6sWaf6

I fail to see why you compare all murders committed since 9/11 with murders committed by Muslims in the name of Allah, and conclude that since only 33 of 180,000 were committed by Muslims, Islam is a non-violent religion. What does the Boston Marathon Massacre have to do with a husband who murders his wife and her adulterous partner? They are both murderous acts but they are not comparable to one another because the motivations of each differ. And how can one conclude that Islam is non-violent because “just 33” Americans died in an act of terror since 9/11? Perhaps, we need look at the world’s statistics on terrorism for a more reliable statistic?  A recent study compiled by the noted Global Terrrorism Index,1 the “most comprehensive dataset on terrorist activity with over 104,000 cases of terrorist attacks codified,” stated that terrorism around the world since 9/11 has quadrupled. The United States happens to be the least affected country in the world from terrorism, yet America is the country that you offer to demonstrate that Islam is a non-violent religion. What is that you said about “biased media reports”? It seems to me that you have the bias backwards and it is not the media that has it turned the wrong way. I am not so sure that Western Europeans would agree with your conclusion based on the statistics.  According to the Index, Western Europeans, in fact, are 19x more likely to experience a terror attack than Americans.2 Is America the least affected country in the world because Islam is a non-violent religion or because Homeland Security is doing a better job in America than similar agencies of foreign countries around the world? Regardless of the answer to that question, the inference you make from your data seems quite fallacious to me.

Quite honesty, we are both trying to address the quandary with our hands tied behind our banks. Consider your opening paragraph that included both Todd Wheeler and Muhammad Khalid in the same vein of “terror.” Reports are that Todd Wheeler was mentally unstable, much like Adam Lamza (read more) of the Sandy Hook massacre or James Holmes (read more) in the Aurora Colorado movie massacre. All of these were technically “acts of terror.” However, the motives of each appear to be quite dissimilar. When it comes to determining the identity of a criminal, motive is quite important.  Todd Wheeler was mentally unstable. We really do not know why he purposed to build bombs that, thankfully, were never detonated. Muhammad Khalid was not mentally unstable; if he was, he fooled lots of people, including the Admissions office, etc., of Johns Hopkins University which granted him a full scholarship. Khalid’s motive was religious in nature. He conspired with “Jihad Jane” to enable her to attempt the murder of a Swede who made the mistake of drawing a cartoon that poked fun at Muhammad. For that, a fatwa was placed upon him and Khalid conspired to see that it was carried out. Thankfully, Khalid’s efforts were thwarted as well. My point is that in your opening paragraph you made no distinction between the two acts of terror; and, they are clearly different in motive and thereby would require a different solution if we are to be successful in countering the terrorist threat. Yet, the America we reside in will not allow them to be distinguished. It is as if we have deceived ourselves into thinking they are the same and until the truth wins out, the deception will continue to blind us to a viable solution.

You also stated:

Specific passages in holy texts are often cited as proof that organized religion encourages violent behavior. However, cherry-picking verses and isolating them without proper context to justify terrorist acts committed for political or personal gain is unethical, inaccurate and misleading. Comprehensive education regarding religious doctrines is crucial to understanding any faith. Religious leaders and trusted figures of authority must vocally condemn loss of innocent life and emphasize living in harmony. Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-cair-20140120,0,5633737.story#ixzz2rM6sWaf6

Your statement appears to be a veiled act to vilify anyone who quotes the Qur’an as evidence that Islam is a violent religion. If not to vilify, to render opposing views ignorant, uninformed or simply “Islamophobic.” After all you say, only a scholar of Islam is able to interpret the Qur’an in light of its original context. I am quite aware of the importance of context in interpreting Scripture (whether from the Bible or the Qur’an). Yet, you state the problem is people “cherry-picking verses and isolating them without proper context to justify terrorist acts…”  Frankly,  by your own words, you commit the precise act that you accuse others of committing. As I am sure you are aware, in Islam there is the doctrine known as “abrogation,” the gist of which is that where two passages contradict one another, the latter passage controls. The basis of this doctrine is that when Islam first began as a faith, Muhammad was in Mecca; and, in Mecca, Muhammad sought to lead Arabs to his new monotheistic faith, and he did so using peaceful methods. Many verses in the Qur’an evidence Muhammad’s peaceful nature in Mecca, for example, Qur’an 2:256 which states, “Let there be no compulsion in religion….” However, some two years later, 622 AD, Muhammad left Mecca and “emigrated” to Medina which became the principal city of Islam for the remainder of Muhammad’s life. In Medina, Muhammad remembered revelations that were quite contrary to those in Mecca. It was in Medina that Muhammad received the “sword verses,” that I am sure you are quite familiar with. The most infamous of which is Qur’an 9:5:

And  when  the  sacred  months  have  passed,  then  kill  the  polytheists  wherever  you  find them  and  capture  them  and  besiege  them  and  sit  in  wait  for  them  at  every  place  of ambush.  But  if  they  should  repent,  establish  prayer,  and  give zakah,  let  them  [go]  on their  way.  Indeed, Allah is  Forgiving  and  Merciful.

And its companion, Qur’an 47:4-6:

When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds; then set them free, either by grace or ransom, till the war lays down its loads.  So it shall be; and if God had willed, He would have avenged Himself upon them; but that He may try some of you by means of others.  And those who are slain in the way of God, He will not send their works astray.

Actually, it is only the uninformed that are not aware that the Medinan verses trump the Meccan verses which means that Qur’an 9:5 trumps Qur’an 2:256. It is as if you are the one who got the context backwards; and since you could not be unaware of the inaccuracies of your statement, you used a veiled deception to sway the readers to view Islam as something that it is not – a religion of peace. The problem for Islam is that there is always an Islamist who takes the Qur’an at what it says and knows what to do when verses in the Qur’an contradict one another. This is not a matter of people having different interpretive beliefs, or political ideals, and if we were all just more tolerant of Islam or stopped treating Muslims so badly, then all the terrorist issues would go away. This is clearly a religious belief on the part of many Muslims; and it is not going to change if we just learn to get along– because religious beliefs are not like politics, or just ideas, they are beliefs deeply rooted in the human heart, and oft times the source of cultural or societal divides. If the problem is cherry-picking the verses out of context, why do Muslims kill Muslims in the name of Allah?  Why is Allah greatest in the death-chant of a suicide bomber whose last words before he murders the innocent are uttered to the glory of Allah? Why do Shias of Iraq or Iran fear for their lives at the hands of Sunnis when the annual anniversary of the Battle of Karbala occurs?  Why is Syria split today between Alawhite Shias in support of Bashir Assad and Sunni rebels from around the Middle East and Africa, Al Qaeda based and others? Is that “cherry-picking” the verses or Muslims willing to die for what they believe because it is the will of Allah and the Qur’an and Hadith are his or her benchmarks for truth? Violence within Islam has been going on throughout Islam’s entire history; it is not a new thing because the Qur’an is not a new thing. There is a darkness present in islam because the Qur’an has dark verses, and Muslims that believe these verses do dark things.

There is always a “terrorist” act that ruins the “religion of peace” motif for Islam, if not in America in another place in the world. Even as I write this reply, the world is gathering in Russia under the threat of Islamists who have warned the world that they will keep the Olympics from happening. Their own self-proclaimed Emir Muhammad Usman3 has lifted his own moratorium on the deaths of innocent civilians (he had earlier placed a moratorium on civilian deaths after his actions had killed hundreds in Russia) so that he and his Islamist followers can stop the Olympics. Tell me, how might we stop the terrorist actions of the Emir? Can we reason with him? Threaten him? Kill him? Or convert his thinking about the wrongness of the Qur’an that he follows? Our options are not very promising are they?

I am so waiting for a Muslim to acknowledge the truth about Islam and the Qur’an rather than blaming the problems on the “Islamophobes.” Why not take responsibility for the sword verses? Why not confess that the prophet had it wrong? Why not ask the victims of jihad, Christian or otherwise, for forgiveness as I believe the Pope at least attempted to do some time ago? It is only in the context of admitting our wrongs that we will ever be able to turn from the way we are going and right ourselves alongside one another in the hope of peace and a better tomorrow.

Respectfully,

Jack Smith

 

 

 

  1. http://economicsandpeace.org/research/iep-indices-data/global-terrorism-index []
  2. http://economicsandpeace.org/research/iep-indices-data/global-terrorism-index []
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammadu_Kabir_Usman []

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