Muslim Americans have a religious obligation to fight terrorism and to engage others in dialogue to find ways to protect our mutually cherished American values.
The ongoing events in the Middle East add to the urgency of countering the mind-set of vengeance permeating our communities. We especially cannot allow our youth to fall prey to radical manipulation. The holy Quran teaches (41:34-35): "The good deed and evil deed are not alike. Repel evil with what is best. You will see that he, with whom you had enmity, will become your closest friend."
It is time for American Muslims to do some soul searching and for all Americans to indulge in a quest for the root causes of the violence our world faces.
Peaceful, law-abiding Muslim Americans must take it upon themselves to monitor potential troublemakers and take preventive measures -- as would be expected of any faith community -- to check right-wing/extremist elements within. The so-called Jihadists are villains within Islam.
The current climate is particularly disturbing, because Islam has now become an integral part of western civilization and the American landscape.
Muslims have actually made impressive contributions toward religious tolerance throughout their 1,400-year history, living with diversity and building inclusive communities around the world. Muslim Americans must take back this heritage from the agents of terror who defame their faith -- and American policymakers must include Muslims in achieving peace and security with justice.
Muslim communities have long been ghettoized in Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere, but not in America. The recent Muslim fury in Europe is the product of a community that has been marginalized and discriminated against -- much like African Americans, who have faced discrimination, deprivation and being cut off from educational and economic opportunities.
On the contrary for Muslims in America, according to the Detroit Mosque Study by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, (www.ispu.us), 52% of mosque attendees have bachelor's or graduate degrees, while another 25% have some college education. The Muslims in America are not only educated, they are also economically well off -- many of them are doctors, engineers, scientists, educationists, public servants, businessmen and other respected professionals. As contributing citizens of America, Muslims have a duty to be part of the solution -- a responsibility to themselves, their families, their congregations, society at large and, above all, to God.
What may motivate some members of a successful community to participate in radical behavior? How can we stop this toxic hatred from spreading in our neighborhoods? The answers must be found by engaging all quarters of our community -- faith, business, media and political leaders need to come forward to discuss prevention.
Interfaith Partners of the National Conference for Community and Justice, for example, brings congregations together for dialogue and joint service projects. Such efforts need wider support, including funds from the business sector. Media must avoid painting all Muslims with a single brush. Political leaders must work with the interfaith leaders to isolate all extremists.
After the 9/11 attacks, our country chose to take the military route to settle the score with the terrorists. Any discussion of the root causes of terror was discouraged and Muslims raising such questions were called terrorist sympathizers. We cannot afford to stand idly by any longer in light of the current events and must speak up. U.S. military actions abroad and Homeland Security at home alone cannot be the sole answer.
True, Muslims generally oppose the Iraq war and have serious differences with American foreign policy. Yes, Muslims are on the receiving end of civil liberty constraints and profiling.
But there are also other Americans who disagree with American policies and others who have faced and continue to face greater civil rights challenges. The American way is to participate fully in the decision-making process, articulating disagreements in a peaceful fashion. It is imperative for the Muslim community to build interfaith alliances, working with others, including our government, to foster in America a culture of tolerance and peace.
Victor Ghalib Begg chairs the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan.