Saturday, June 24, 2006

Muslims address silence on Europe attacks

Terrorism: Some heat on European Muslim leaders who have added pressure on the Muslim population pops up as an excuse.

Europe's Muslims have remained largely silent in the face of terrorist attacks that have killed 254 people in Madrid, London and Amsterdam. Europeans want to know why. Why have so few of them publicly condemned the train and bus bombings in Madrid and London? Why have so few spoken out against the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, killed because his work was considered an insult to Islam? Talk to Europe's mainstream Muslims privately, however, and it turns out they have a lot to say. Seek them out in the neighborhoods where they live and work — in the outdoor markets and butcher shops that sell halal meat, in the book stores that display literature on Islam and the West, in the boutiques that promote Islamic dress codes, in the Turkish restaurants and smoky Tunisian teahouses, in their schools and youth clubs — and they denounce, the vast majority unequivocally, attacks against civilians in both Europe and the United States. "Van Gogh was a crazy man, but no one has the right to kill anyone who says bad things about the Quran," said Mohammed Azahaf, a 23-year-old student who runs a youth center in Amsterdam. "If you kill one, it's like killing the whole of mankind," he said, quoting a line from the Muslim holy book. Why, then, the public silence? For some of the more than five dozen Muslims interviewed for this story in Amsterdam, Paris and London, it's a sense of shame, or even guilt, that innocents have been killed in the name of Islam; they say those feelings make them seek to be "invisible." For those lucky enough to have jobs, there is little time to protest or even write letters to newspapers. For others, there is fear of being branded anti-Islam in their communities. Dutch Muslim rapper Yassine SB wrote a song about his anger over Van Gogh's murder but scrapped plans to perform it out of fear of being ostracized by the Islamic community. He also turned down requests by a popular Amsterdam radio station to sing a song against terrorism. "If you sing that, it's like you choose the Dutch, not Muslims," said Yassine SB — the initials stand for his surname Sahsah Bahida — who is popular among Dutch North African youths like himself for his songs against racism. "People will say 'you are a traitor,'" said the 20-year-old musician. In the Netherlands, Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali — who wrote the script for Van Gogh's movie "Submission" — went into hiding after receiving death threats for her condemnations of Islam. And in the United States, Syrian-born psychologist Wafa Sultan's calls for Islamic reform also earned her death threats.
Tribalism and self-preservation works as a reason, no way most would go against the grain like Ali did because it puts themselves in harm's way.
But there is another reason for the silence — one that for many overrides all others. Why, many Muslims ask, should they have to speak out against, or apologize for, actions of radicals who do not represent them — people they do not even regard as true Muslims? Many find the very idea of being asked or expected to denounce such acts "extremely offensive and insulting," said Khurshid Drabu, a senior member of the Muslim Council of Britain. "I'm British," said Tuhina Ahmed, 24, a British-born Muslim in London whose family came from Gujarat in India. "I could have been blown up as well." Why, she asked, should she have to make a public statement to prove her objection to terrorism? To many, the pressure to denounce acts of terror smacks of President Bush's warning that 'you are either with us or against us.' "People and politicians say where are the Muslim people, why aren't they on the streets defending themselves? They say we should go into the streets and condemn what happened so they see us as good Muslims," said Karima Ramani, a 20-year-old Dutch born to an Algerian father and Moroccan mother. "I don't feel it's my duty. I'm not responsible for the death of Van Gogh." Many European observers of Islamic communities agree. "If they protest as a group of Muslims against these terrorist attacks, they take on an extra responsibility which is not theirs. So I can fully understand their reasons," said Ruud Peters, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Amsterdam. Yet the Internet is filled with blogs — mostly from Westerners but also by some Muslims — asking why Muslims are not expressing revulsion at the attacks. They see the silence as giving the terrorists strength. ....Many Europeans blame the Continent's Muslim leadership, which they accuse of making ambiguous and qualified condemnations that give the impression they are making excuses for the bombers: grievances over the war in Iraq or the West's support for Israel. "It's the leaders who are most responsible," said Rory Miller, senior lecturer of Mediterranean studies at King's College, London. Europe's Muslims, who originate from 57 countries, differ in culture, language and even the strain of Islam they follow. They came at different periods and for different reasons. Some were born here and consider themselves as much French or British as they are Muslim. Condemnations by most of the Muslims interviewed for this article had no strings attached.
The qualified condemnations are not just a problem with the leaders because there have been numerous reports, protests of Muslim leaders and Muslim population doing the same thing. During the cartoon riots, everything was Muslim are one big family, its an insult that the west has to correct. Everyone is looking at this thinking where is this emotion against terrorism? a couple of press releases and protest marches that are done because you feel the need to put on a show is not going to cut it. The biggest factor in questioning Muslims has to be the lack of drive to get rid of extremists, to call and point them out. Islamic extremists have been growing in numbers for decades and there was never the effort within the Muslim community to even slow it down. That lack of effort just fuels the backlash. The perfect example is the Canadian terror suspects, an MP pointed out he was invited to the Mosque where Jamal(suspected leader) had been given radical speeches. Why wasn't he kicked out the second he started going that route? How come jihad videos are being sold in the parking lot and no one knew about it? Its the little things like this that start to add up in people's mind that Muslims are not sincere. Of course the new Pew Survey won't help.

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