Jeffery J.Haas: An Open Letter to All Muslims

Many things need to be clarified to Americans about Islam if any meaningful dialogue for a solution of our problems are to take place. Many things need to be clarified by Muslims to each other if any meaningful dialogue is to take place about Muslims in America,and many issues need to be clarified to Muslims by Americans if any meaningful dialogue for peace is ever to take place. Muslims the world over have a responsibility to read what we are saying over here in America if they truly expect to have a chance to be heard and understood.This is one American's desperate attempt to call them to his table. First, understand that at this moment, and hopefully only for this moment, most Americans have never learned anything about Islam. Your faith is a mystery to us, and you have always been less than forthcoming about it. Your backgrounds and competing sects are fuzzy images with opposing ideologies that come through as only a succession of vague names and mysterious customs. Your blurring of the lines of church and state in your governmental policies and social institutions are not necessarily opposed, but most definitely contrary to our philosophy of separation and openness. Your warring conservative factions have made few, if any, attempts to bring about mainstream discussion of their problems to the American people. The first time many Americans learned about their resentment toward Western society and American policies was September 11th , 2001, and their choice of communication and their method of delivery made it clear that they had no wish to establish a dialogue. Many Muslims will take umbrage at this suggestion but I stand by it because no representative of any Muslim sect ever made any attempt to explain the reasoning to us as a whole, from the time of the first hijackings to the culmination four weeks ago. The events of September 11th have amounted to a giant step backward if any steps toward understanding were ever hoped for. Furthermore, the steadfast refusal of any Muslim cleric from any sect of this faith to adamantly apply the founding principles of peace and non-violence in an effort to implore the more radical conservative elements of Islam to speak with words instead of bloodshed has done lots to unravel what little understanding Americans have for your faith, and respect has gone completely out the window. If there were ever any reasonable Americans with a true love for their country that had wished to lend credence to the issues brought up by Islamic fundamentalists, they now know that they stand a better chance of meeting with terror, not ideas. And yet the Quaran states that Allah loves the ink of the scholar more than the blood of the martyr. Lots of blood has been shed, and very little ink has followed. And what do moderate Muslims offer by way of analysis? Silence, or at best, a slickly prepared, unemotional statement of the Five Pillars of Islam, a light condemnation of the tragic events. Most of them are too busy angrily complaining that they are regarded with suspicion and loathing. It is wrong, but it is born of this silence, the dark chasm that separates our need for clear vision and is now blanketed by mortal fear, yes mortal fear, for what you might represent. Where are the clerics from the majority of Islamic factions. Are they campaigning to reach out to these fanatics? Do they express outrage at their actions? If they do, I have not heard it yet. I would give everything I have to see tears in the eyes of a Mullah as he challenges the ruling Taliban officials to equate their concept of jihad with the killing of 5000 innocents from all corners of the globe whose only crime it is to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The time has come for all of Islam to take some responsibility for the actions of those who claim to shed the blood of innocents in the name of jihad. If Islam is to be respected by Americans as a faith whose majority means our society no ill will, then it falls upon their shoulders to declare war on those who pervert their name and their beliefs. This is Islam's problem, and it is up to Muslims to bring the issues into sharp focus, not only to Americans, but most of all, amongst themselves. No Islamic state has offered to speak out to our land in an effort to appeal to our hearts and minds for the plight of the Palestinian people. No cleric has attempted to explain why there can be no end to the problem in Israel other than the eradication of that state. No Palestinian has offered to accept any compromise or allow for any other proposals. It is all or nothing, black or white, and our attempts to suggest any efforts toward peaceful coexistence has been met with snarls of contempt before there is even a chance to lay the ideas on the table. That is how the Palestinian problem is viewed by the majority of Americans, take it or leave it, and the responsibility for this one-sided view lies squarely on the shoulders of the heads of state of all Muslim countries, for their silence has wrought ignorance. We see Kings, Emirs and imams but we do not hear them speak, and when they do, they pay lip service to us, while their radical clerics spout bitter rhetoric and rage. For the most part, Americans would like to believe that there can be granted the existence of a Palestinian state, but not at the cost of sacrificing the state of Israel. Some meeting of the minds must take place, some sharing of the holy lands must remain. It is said that Christianity, Judaism and Islam all spring from the same root. Let us remember this in our struggle to solve the problems facing our brothers in the Middle East. Tearing down will not achieve a solution, only building up, and though a tree may have many branches, it can only have one root. Perhaps all parties in this struggle need to accept this, and America alone cannot be blamed if some branches will not cooperate. America wants the entire tree to flourish, as America has flourished, again, not by tearing down, but by building up. Islam must accept the fact that it has allowed its extreme elements to gain control of its communications, and no attempt has ever been made to define these elements and to forcibly place them in proper perspective. When a parent sees that the actions of one its children are destructive to the family unit as a whole, discipline must be meted out to the transgressor. None has been forthcoming. Of all peoples who have been hurt, do you not realize what these barbarians have cost your church? The entire world is a group of families, and one of yours has hurt one of ours. If he is not your brother, then cast him out of your mosques, regardless of whether or not he claims to be of your brethren. Christianity's Cain claimed to be the brother of Abel, yet did he not kill Abel? It is not fair for your soldiers of faith to expect us to take responsibility for the criminality of your ilk, and if they do not follow your teachings, then call them for what they are, traitors and charlatans! Treat them as such! Define your faith, or be defined by the actions of a few who claim it, but do not follow its teachings! For a religion to accepted as peace loving, I think the first requirement is so obvious. They must require and even force their more extreme outer fringes to don the vestiges of civilized behavior out of respect if they expect to receive any respect. Respect will never be given out of fear, only contempt and blind hatred. Therefore, because these radical factions show no respect for any life outside their narrow sphere of influence, none will be given, and much will be taken away. Keep this in mind when you wail for the lost lives of innocent Muslims in your Middle Eastern countries. Your fanatics have brought death to America, and reveled in its gore. We simply plan to help them in their quest to be martyrs. They respond that any retribution on our behalf will ignite a holy war and bring about the mortal wrath of all Muslims throughout the world. Are they speaking for Islam as a whole? Will the holy warriors have the guts to step out in front of the innocents they claim to speak for, and if there are those innocents who do not agree, will they have the compassion to allow these innocents to step away from their battlegrounds, or will they force them to remain as their human shield? Do you honestly think any American does not see this as transparent cowardice? Where is your Quran, and what does it say about the use of Muslims as human shields? If your people declare their allegiance to their brand of barabarism, they are no longer innocents, but warriors as well. There is no middle ground in war, and if they speak with warlike tongues, they should expect to be treated as warriors. They shall die as warriors, and all those who side with them. The time has come for lines to be clearly drawn, and any Muslim who believes that the terrorists do not speak for them has a responsibility to say it loudly and clearly, so that America and all the world, indeed, all the Muslim world will hear them, and not just those who wish death to America. Your radical fringe has drowned you out with only a half effort, and to us your silence translates into aquiescence, or worse, cowardice. It is well nigh impossible for any member of a spiritual group to expect fair treatment if members who claim their name commit acts of barbarism and go unpunished by the group. We, as Americans, and even simply as people, cannot be expected to take on alone the superhuman task of wholesale forgiveness when no anger or rage is expressed by the very ones who should be most insulted by the behavior of these impostors. The volume needs to be turned up, way way up, on the part of all fair minded Muslims. Those that purport to be claiming jihad on America are committing wholesale blasphemy against every principle espoused by Islam, and it is these groups who should now feel the wrath of the majority of all Muslims who truly believe in the teachings of Allah. Their actions color themselves as the supreme enemy of that which your faith supposedly teaches. Where is your outrage? Where is your contempt for the Taliban? Where is your stridency? Where is your resolve to stamp out this adultery of your highest beliefs? Let me now take special pains to tell you that we do not for a minute believe that we are a perfect society. Because we are a mosaic, a microcosm of the entire world, it is just as impossible for us to be perfect as it is for you, and yet we love our children just as you do. We strive to do our best just as you do. We wish to learn about the rest of the world, but not at the cost of our own lives. We wish to embrace all cultures, as long as they embrace our freedoms. We welcome dissent, as long as it does not preach destruction. Our is not a campaign, it is an experiment, one that has obviously suceeded, even while it feels enormous growing pains. And yet growth comes from the act of building up, not tearing down. Is it any wonder that we cannot and will not allow our radical fringes to steer our ship of state? This is why for every Jerry Falwell, there is a Larry Flynt. Though the two are diammetrically opposed, they fulfill an important function. They define the extremes, and are distinctly regarded as such, and loudly, even by the din of their vitriol. We are keenly aware that these luminous, if not questionable figures, do not represent the majority of Americans. We also do not bow to the media estate. It is a grand folly, a noise and an amusement, and it sometimes manages to deliver some morsels of information, and we are also aware that it is sometimes tainted. But because it is also free to exist, we must take it with a grain of salt. Do not believe that this is our church, or our first fruits. Do not make it your church either, and do not allow yourselves to be lazy and equate its images with reality. As this can be fatal to an American's perception of reality, so it can be fatal to yours as well. We are not allowed to hear what is preached in your mosques. Though we depend on body language and facial expression by the very structures of our language, you react with outrage and insult if we suggest that your veils and covers now represent the masks of bandits, the thieves of freedom and security. What say you to these? If we are not justified, is it not a larger sin to withhold a warm smile, and a reassurance of your peaceful intentions? Is not our openness and gregariousness also an expression that we are open hearted? But because these values mean only immorality to you, and not ease of bearing, as it is accurately felt in our land, you close the first doors to understanding. As we now learn that your veils mean modesty, know that our extended hand and uncovered faces mean open books, books which may now be closed to you for a long time unless you make an effort to meet us halfway. Cast out your own infidels, and we will gladly help you in your struggle. If you swear allegiance to your faith, then you must also take responsibility for actions taken by others under its name and refuge, and cast them out decisively. We must help you, as we have already paid a high price, but your unwillingness to declare them as your enemy will ultimately break your Muslim house in two. Take care that you make it clear to whose house you now belong, and if you belong in the true house of Allah, the God of Peace, know that you will not be mistaken if you will only declare it so. You have seen the actions of those Americans who have given heroically of themselves to mend our land. Make your voices loud enough to be heard, and we will welcome you into our hearts and homes. Indeed, we will even mend your hearts and homes as we mend our very own. Commit yourselves to this war, not as a war against your brothers, for they truly are not, as clearly stated in your scriptures. Do not be afraid to make your stand, that is what it means to be a lover of freedom. It is your freedom as well, fight for it, and we will fight alongside you, even as our very own. Hide behind acts of cowardice, or even worse, silence, and you cannot expect to seek comfort in our fight for justice. We have been wronged, and we will seek justice with a determination far beyond that of jihad. When we are finished, all jihads will henceforth be American, on our terms, by our dictates, and in our hearts.

Jeffery J. Haas Dallas, Texas

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