Saturday, July 30, 2005

'Moderate' Islam and Suicide Bombing

Mona Eltahawy is a New York-based columnist for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, and no fan of the Iraq war, Israel, or George W. Bush. That being said, in a recent column in the Washington Post, she attacks the failure of 'moderate' clerics and Islamic leaders to condemn suicide bombing.
I'm sure it was also those dog-eared statements that our clerics and religious leaders read out telling us that Islam means peace--it actually means submission--and asking us to please forget everything they had ever said before July 6, because as of July 7 they truly believe violence is bad. Their backpedaling is so furious you can smell the skid marks.
Some are not even bothering to put their feet on the pedals, such as the 22 imams and scholars who met at London's largest mosque to condemn the bombings but who would not criticize all suicide attacks.
Sayed Mohammed Musawi, the head of the World Islamic League in London, insisted "there should be a clear distinction between the suicide bombing of those who are trying to defend themselves from occupiers, which is something different from those who kill civilians, which is a big crime."
Certainly, the failure of 'moderate' Islamic clerics and leaders to assume control of the conversation is partly to blame for the suicide attacks. Who defines just what is a civilian and what is an occupier? Who were those children killed in Iraq a couple of weeks ago? Occupiers?
Ms. Eltahawy continues, questioning whether the European Muslim community has made much of an effort to become part of the general European community as a whole.

But rather than dwelling endlessly on these issues, we would do well to spend time encouraging our young people to become more active members of their communities and to not live caught between two worlds: a Muslim one at home and in the mosque, an "infidel" one outside.

And what about assimilation? It is not bigoted to ask Muslims if they are integrating into the societies they are living in. Just as the British government has responsibilities toward its citizens, immigrants included, so too do those immigrants. Muslims ask for time off work for prayer, for example, and they often get it. But are they truly living in Britain or are they perpetuating an existence that even their relatives "back home" long ago left behind?
Domestic policy is too often ignored by many Muslims who are more concerned with Palestine, Iraq or any other place where Muslims are believed to have suffered injustice.

She has a point; certainly the Muslim community within Europe has been notoriously insular. After all, one must avoid associating with the infidels, especially when those infidels do not seem to want you there. However, Europe has not made much of an effort to make the immigrant Muslim community part of the whole, instead viewing it as a source of cheap labor. As London shows, we may be seeing the consequences now (though evidence indicates that the bombers in London were at least on the surface pretty well integrated; they may be an exception to a general rule).
Ms. Eltahawy concludes by attempting to reclaim the faith of her ancestors from the extremists:
I raise these questions because London might have done it for me, but I'm not done with Islam. The clerics and the terrorists will not take it away from me.
God belongs to me, too.
Well said, and hopefully simply one of the first of many loud voices within Islam to try and take back the faith from those who would corrupt it.
(Crossposted by Bostondreams at FloridaBlues)
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