More than one hundred prominent Islamic scholars, thinkers and leaders of Islamic movements from among different Muslim countries were among the first to condemn the terror attacks of September 11. They condemned the dastardly acts as un-Islamic and crimes against humanity.
Islam respects and protects human life, regardless, whether it is of a Muslim or non-Muslim. The Qur'an states:
"Do not kill any soul - which Allah has made sacred, except by right" (Al-Asra 17:33). Attacking an innocent human is a grave sin, enunciated most emphatically by the Qur'an in the following. "Whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind" (Al-Maida 5:32).
Thus these Muslim leaders condemned the dastardly terrorist acts as un-Islamic. That these were crimes against humanity and that the Muslims join with the United States to mourn a common loss for humankind. That whoever is responsible for these acts - individual, group or government must be brought to account. Along with this, they also affirmed that victims of terrorism wherever they may be, deserve equal sympathy.
We must condemn the attacks in New York and also the provocative campaigns by the leaders and media against Muslims.
These leaders were among the few voices urging the U.S. government to be cautious in its response. They cautioned that any punishment that is arbitrarily carried out, as a 'war against terrorism' without impartially establishing the guilt of the suspected, would also constitute an act of terrorism. That the principles of justice and natural and international law demand that the guilt of those accused must be proved independently.
They appealed to the governments of the world, and particularly the U.S., not to resort to any arbitrary or unilateral use of force based on suspicion alone. They asked that the U.S. should not become the accuser, the prosecutor, and the judge all by itself. They beseeched the U.N. Secretary General and the leaders of all Arab, Muslim and European countries to save the world from wanton bloodshed and escalation of violence leading to greater conflicts and confrontations between peoples of the world.
They were categorical in announcing that only by adopting means that are just and conducive to peace could fight terrorism and steps that are taken in retaliation and vengeance would lead to its escalation. Therefore, addressing the people of the world they asked them that they should stand for justice and eliminate all kinds of injustices and exploitations, which lie at the roots of terrorism.
Another notable attempt to stop the war in Afghanistan was the convening of a summit conference on October 3-4 in Rome, Italy of the Islamic scholars with their Christian counterparts. It was hosted by the Community of Sant'Egidio and included in addition to Sunni and Shiite Muslim scholars, a number of Catholic cardinals from the U.S., Europe and Africa and representatives of the U.S. Orthodox and the Protestant churches. Cardinal Marteeny Monseignior represented the Pope.
A respected scholar of the Islamic world, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, addressed this summit, among others. He emphasized that this was a critical stage after the attacks, with its grave repercussions and its timing served as a test of moral example for the leaders assembled. It would provide an approach that might bring the Muslim and Christian scholars to cooperate on common grounds to find solutions to problems of concern for the humankind. Therefore, this approach must be based on sound understanding and mutual respect for each other. It is also important to offset irresponsible attempts in the present critical situation that would inflame and lead to an all-out war between Islam and Christianity and resurrecting the era of Crusades.
Muslims are required to hold constructive dialog. The Qur'an states:
"And invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly advice and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious; for thy Lord knows best who have strayed from His path and who receive guidance" (Al-Nahl 16:125).
Thus Muslims welcome all types of dialog as a substitute for conflict between religions and civilizations.
However, the recent tragic events have revealed an abysmal chasm in the Western mentality, as a lingering remnant of Crusaders as is evident from countless published articles and dialog on the Internet. Therefore, we must condemn the attacks in New York and also the provocative campaigns by the leaders and media against Muslims must also be condemned. And the causes of terrorism must also be earnestly addressed. It is the absence of justice, freedom and democracy that is the cause of terrorism in Muslim countries. Muslims want to freely govern themselves according to the tenets of their Islamic creed, which is denied to them by the current repressive, secular regimes.
Dr. al-Qaradawi asked the Christian and Muslim scholars to come together in confronting the enemies of faith by upholding moral values and working against the current endemic ruination of humankind. These efforts must be carried out in the spirit of tolerance, kindness and mercy, and not fanaticism, cruelty and violence. Religious and other differences arise naturally because God has created us each with a different mind and a free will. But only God is the true Judge of those who go astray would take place in the Hereafter and not in this world, which is the place for endeavors and tests of our conduct. And any judgement is His, not our responsibility. Therefore, it is the public duty of religious leaders to stand together against unjust powers and also against fanatics, which are not exclusive to any particular religion.
Dr. Siraj Mufti currently serves as an Islamic consultant for the Correctional Corporation of America in Arizona. Previously he worked as a research professor at the University of Arizona and a chaplain with the U.S. Department of Justice.