Most Americans didn't understand Islam before September 11, and unfortunately, the tragic events of that day-and those who committed the unspeakable acts that caused them -- have become the face of Islam for many in the United States. On September 12, 2001, I released a statement that said in part:
As an American Muslim, I want to express my deep sadness and anguish at the tremendous loss of life that occurred on Tuesday. Islam is a religion of peace. Islam does not promote terrorism or the killing of people. I cannot sit by and let the world think that Islam is a killing religion. It hurts me to see what radical people are doing in the name of Islam. These radicals are doing things that God is against. Muslims do not believe in violence. If the culprits are Muslim, they have twisted the teachings of Islam. Whoever performed, or is behind, the terrorist attacks in the United States of America does not represent Islam. God is not behind assassins. Anyone involved in this must pay for their evil.
I believe these words as much today as I did when I wrote them. Some people blame Islam as a whole for the actions of a few people who claim to follow it. But they are mistaken in thinking this way.
Islam has two meanings: Surrender your will to God, and obtain peace in your soul. This does not mean that Muslims sit around and wait for God to do things: We, as Muslims, believe in doing good deeds, and that good deeds are true characteristics of our faith. Islam is more than just a religion; it is a way of life. We don't depend on doing good works in order to get into heaven; submitting our will to God is all we need for salvation. I believe that every time we do something good or bad, it is recorded and will be reviewed when God evaluates us on Judgment Day. Doing good work is one way that we achieve peace in our souls. We pray five times a day, which reminds us that God is truly the greatest and helps keep us focused on Him. We offer the greeting al-salaam alaikum to people when we meet them, which means "God's peace be upon you."
I do not claim to be an Islamic scholar, but I know that there is no room in Islam for those who would kill or terrorize innocent people. In fact, killing and terrorism are completely opposite to the peace that is so central to our faith. People who do terrible things in the name of Islam hurt not only the victims of their actions but also all Believers by damaging the true dignity and goodness of our faith.
As a Sunni Muslim, I look to the example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who respected and interacted with peoples of other faiths in his time. Muslims and people of other faiths have, despite some wars and conflicts in the past, enjoyed hundreds of years of exchange and interfaith discussions. The Prophet himself participated in such discussions when he was alive. The Holy Quran encourages Muslims to have meetings and exchanges of ideas with people from other religious traditions. It is my prayer that Muslims and all people who seek peace come together and work to make our world a better place for ourselves and our children.
( Extracted from the book by Muhammad Ali (1942 - 2016) with Hana Yasmeen Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly )