While a substantial number of non-Muslim Americans and their organizations have been protesting against the war in Afghanistan, American Muslims and their organizations have been silent. It's likely that many Muslims are hiding in the shadows in fear of a likely backlash from fellow Americans. Many are also worried that they too will become one of the nearly one thousand Arabs and Muslims detained by federal authorities since September 11.
But Mahdi Bray, President of the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations (CCMO), broke this silence and expressed dismay with the Muslim leadership, which was quick to give full support to President George W. Bush for his campaign against terrorism. Bray arranged a peace rally on October 19 at the State Department in Washington saying that he didn't think it was unpatriotic to disagree with policies of his government. Stating that he had to answer his conscience, he then said, " I have to stand before God, and He's going to ask me, what side did you stand on when Afghanistan was attacked?"
There is a mounting frustration of the Muslim world with the American administration that not only condones, but often supports their oppressive autocratic rulers who ruthlessly crush all dissent and violate basic human rights without any compunction.
Others agreed with him. Erik Gustafson, Executive Director of Peace in Iraq echoed his remarks saying, "The U.S. policies do not reflect the moral conscience of the American people ... and we have to speak out against that." He spoke of neglecting the suffering of the people in the formulation of the U.S. foreign policy and cited the economic sanctions on Iraq and the harsh conditions Afghans are currently facing.
Indeed they are both correct. Afghanistan is very poor nation. Subjected to 20 years of war and three years of drought, its population is facing famine and starvation. These conditions would only be exacerbated by a U.S.-led war. Offers of help from the U.S. while innocents are killed is no consolation. One only needs to remember that it was the U.S. who allied with Afghans to bring down its rival USSR, but when the Russians were defeated and Afghanistan lay in shambles, it abandoned them unceremoniously. Even today, a hundred Afghans die each month from the land mines left by the Russians.
Osama bin Laden is the suspected criminal and the administration is going after the Taliban because they are harboring him. But no evidence of direct involvement has been presented to the American public who do not question their president. The public approval of the administration handling of situation is very high. Unquestioning support in times of emergency is hallmark of the American public. This support following the horrendous crimes of September 11 is very much understandable.
But excessive patriotism should not blind us to look at the facts. There is a mounting frustration of the Muslim world with the American administration that not only condones, but often supports their oppressive autocratic rulers who ruthlessly crush all dissent and violate basic human rights without any compunction. They would not last a day if backing was not there and free and fair elections were held. That is what breeds terrorism. It is important that America insists in its relations with all on the fundamental values of the American people: freedom, justice, equality, and democracy. The American people want to treat other people with fairness and justice and strive to be a moral force for human dignity in the world.
Thus Shaker Elsayed, secretary-general of the Muslim American Society (MAS) put it correctly that the issue of foreign policy was no longer a "closed-door issue" and that its controllers should be the American people. He questioned, "Why are we creating enemies instead of making friends? Why are we taking lives instead of giving lives? Why are we shedding blood instead of giving blood?" Then he continued, "The American people are not to blame for what the administration is doing ... but our silence amounts to approval."
Just look at what the current U.S. policies have caused. The death of over a million Iraqi children through U.S. sponsored sanctions and the daily atrocities, assassinations and dispossession of Palestinians by the U.S. armed and funded army of Israel.. And now what is the solution it offers as an alternate to the Taliban in Afghanistan? The reinstatement of a senile monarch who wants to rule Afghanistan but, as reports say, does not intend to move from his villa in Italy. Is this a "nation-building" mission and furtherance of democracy?
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.