An answer to “why don’t ‘moderate’ Muslims speak up?” (or some variation)

Every single time we have had an event, lecture or public discussion, and hundreds of times through e-mail, we are asked to explain why “moderate” Muslim voices are not speaking up against the “extremists”, “jihadists”, “Islamofacists”, etc.

Of course, the premise of the question is that Muslims are not speaking up and the person asking wants to know why not. On the surface, it seems innocent and an obvious question. The person asking doesn’t  see Muslims speaking out against it, doesn’t understand why not and therefore wonder if the silence means that all Muslims approve of the actions of the most extreme. But, it also means that we are not paying attention to the actions and sacrifices of the Muslim community.

It would be easy to blame the nature of the media. A story every time a Muslim individual or organization denounces terrorism, stands up for free speech or declares their patriotism is not exciting enough to be featured in the newspapers or on television.

I used to keep a list of examples of times individuals or organizations issued press releases condemning terrorism but I lost count in the hundreds. If you look, the statements are easy to find. On any Muslim organization website, you will find a section for these statements. In some cases, the organizations have gone above and beyond, even showing support for other religious organizations that were attacked, vandalized or smeared even when Muslims had nothing to do with the attack as in this case.

For those not impressed with statements, let us look at what people are doing on the ground. Professor Ahmed uses two great examples of how Muslims are giving their lives for the fight.  In Pakistan for example, over 30,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in he War on Terror. 30,000 people killed by the Taliban or in service of the US backed fight against the Taliban in Pakistan. How’s that for Muslims standing up to terror?

Another example is Benazir Bhutto when she went back to Pakistan to stand for election knowing that she was a target. She lost her life in the service of a “moderate” Islam. Her party went on to sweep the elections against the Islamic party in an example of Muslims speaking with their votes.

How would those families of the people who have given their lives react to the assertion that Muslims are not speaking out?

Finally, here is a great example of Muslims coming together to stand up for free speech in America and “condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible”.

In this case, the statement by Muslims is taking on those who have harassed or threatened cartoonists like Molly Norris, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. For Molly’s story, click here.

The full text of the statement “A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS “ signed by (at the time of this posting) around 75 Muslim leaders can be found below. Click here for the original statement with an updated list of  signatories.

A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims.  We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance,  respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).

Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence.  We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.

SIGNATORIES:

Prof. Hassan Abbas, Quaid-i-Azam Chair, South Asia Institute, Columbia University
Ammar Abdulhamid, Executive Director, Tharwa Foundation
Imam Johari Abdul Malik, Director of Outreach, Dar-Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
Mehnaz M. Afridi, PhD, Adjunct Professor (Judaism, Islam & Genocide Studies) Antioch University
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, PhD, Director, Minaret of Freedom Foundation
Ahrar Ahmad, PhD, Professor of Political Science, Black Hills State University
Prof. Akbar S. Ahmed, PhD, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
Prof. Parvez Ahmed, PhD, Fulbright Scholar & Assoc. Prof. University of North Florida
Barbara Al-Bayati, Co-Founder, Orphan Whispers
Wajahat Ali, playwright, journalist, and producer of “Domestic Crusaders”
Sumbul Ali-Karamali, JD, LLM (Islamic Law), author of “The Muslim Next Door”
Salam al-Marayati, Pres., Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief, Altmuslim
Aref Assaf, PhD, President, American Arab Forum
Hazami Barmada, Pres, American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN)
Victor Ghalib Begg, Senior Advisor, Chairman Emeritus, Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan
Farah Brelvi, Board of Directors, ACLU-NC
M. Ali Chaudry, PhD, President, Center for Understanding Islam (CUII)
Kamran Cheikh, Activist, Committee member, Muslims for Peace, Justice & Progress (MPJP), researcher for Deen Research Center (DRC)
Robert D. Crane, JD, author of numerous books
Prof Golam Dastagir, PhD, Visiting Research Scholar, New College, University of Toronto, Canada
Almoonir Dewji, blogger – “That We May Know Each Other”
Lamia El-Sadek, political and human rights activitist
Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Communications and Community Outreach for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
Mona Eltahawy, journalist
Aziz Enhaili, Political analyst,  columnist for Tolerance.ca
Prof. Mohammad Fadel, PhD
Fatemeh Fakhraie, Editor-in-Chief, Muslimah Media Watch
Mike Ghouse, President, World Muslim Congress
Iftekhar Hai, President, UMA Interfaith Alliance
Rabia Terri Harris, Coordinator, Muslim Peace Fellowship
Hesham Hassaballa,  M.D., author, journalist, blogger – “God, faith, and a pen”
Amir Hussain, PhD, Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymound University
Arsalan Iftikhar, author, human rights lawyer, blogger – “The Muslim Guy”
Jeffrey Imm, Director, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.)
Ghazala Irshad, journalist, blogger – “The Floating Lotus”
Nakia Jackson, writer
Safi Kaskas, President & CEO Strategic Edge
Prof. Muqtedar Khan, PhD, author of several books, Blogger – “Globalog”
Farah Kinani, Journalist, blogger – “Global Voices”
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, Resident Senior Scholar, Islamic Institute of Toronto
Faisal Kutty, Visiting Asst. Prof. of law, Valparaiso University School of Law and Adjunct Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto)
M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, writer, blogger – “Crossing the Crescent”
David Liepert, M.D., blogger and author of “Muslim, Christian AND Jew”
Radwan A. Masmoudi, PhD, President, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)
Shelina Merani, community activist, artist, blogger “Muslim Presence”
Melody Moezzi, JD, MPH, writer and attorney
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, author of many books of poetry
Ebrahim Moosa, Assoc. Professor of Islamic Studies, Dept. of Religion, Duke University
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, President Sound Vision
Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim (TAM)
Muneeb Nasir, President, Olive Tree Foundation, Editor IQRA Canada
Aziz H. Poonawalla, PhD, scientist and blogger – “City of Brass” on Beliefnet
M.Waheed-uz-Zaman Rana, Imam,  Prof. Emeritus, Dept. of Surgery, Saint Louis University
Hasan Zillur Rahim, PhD, journalist
Prof. Hussein Rashid, PhD, blogger – “Religion Dispatches”
Shafi Refai, President, United Muslims of America
Louay Safi, PhD, Common Word Fellow, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Christian Muslim Understanding, Georgetown University
Ghulam Abbas Sajan, Director Islamic Ahlul Bayt Assembly of Canada
Robert Salaam, blogger – “The American Muslim”
Raquel Evita Saraswati, activist, writer, blogger
Sarah Sayeed, President of One Blue
S. Abdallah Schleifer, Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Journalism & Mass Com, American University in Cairo
Jafar Siddiqui, blogger – “Penjihad”
Prof. Laury Silvers, PhD
Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, PhD, Sr. Lecturer, Islamic Studies & African American Religion, University of Florida
Prof. Ibrahim B. Syed, PhD, President of Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.,  author
J.Tayeb, MD, President, CAIR-MI, ISNA founders committee member, Vice chair, HUDA free Clinic, Detroit
Pamela Taylor, Co-founder Muslims for Progressive Values, Panelist for On Faith
Tayyibah Taylor, Editor, Azizah Magazine
Dr. Hashim El-Tinay, President, International Peace Quest Institute (IPQI)
Tarik Trad, writer, humorist, photographer, artist and activist
Asma T. Uddin, Attorney, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Editor, Altmuslimah
Wahida Valiante, President, Canadian Islamic Congress and Chair of Islamic History Month Canada
Jason van Boom, Host of “Islam and Authors”, writer
Amina Wadud, PhD, consultant on Islam and gender, visiting scholar Starr King School for the Ministry
Svend White, blogger – “Akram’s Razor”, activist, writer
G. Willow Wilson, author of “Butterfly Mosque” and “Air” graphic novel series

by Jonathan Hayden

One response to “An answer to “why don’t ‘moderate’ Muslims speak up?” (or some variation)

  1. The reason most people don’t hear these voices is really not because of media bias, Mr. Hayden. The media has been bending over backwards to give Islam the benefit of the doubt on cases such as the Time Square attempt, Fort Hood, etc. The media is branding people who oppose the Mosque at Ground Zero as racists and bigots. They take the same tone as CAIR, Rauf, and other ‘moderates’.

    I believe these voices are moderates in the Muslim community and what I hear out of them whenever they condemn an act of terror is a “but”. A “but” usually followed by something about US foreign policy, or how Americans don’t understand Muslims and need to learn more about Islam. There is always a “but” followed by an attempt at rationalization. And if you disagree with the “but” you are labeled an Islamophobe. Case in point the Ground Zero Mosque where the attitude is “we have to respect the feelings of Muslims and not the families of the victims”.

    My point is the people who call themselves Moderates don’t offer true condemnation they attempt to rationalize and justify the actions of those who “don’t represent Islam”.

    This article below makes the point much better than I do. Everyone should read it and think about what’s being said in it. Because you don’t see very many people asking THIS question:

    http://www.aolnews.com/discuss/opinion-its-muslims-turn-to-ask-why-do-they-hate-us/19645846

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