Moderated by Rick Badie
Last week, the Kennesaw City Council rejected a zoning request to open a Muslim prayer center in a strip shopping center. Some protesters said it would be used to teach Sharia law. Suffice it to say, Muslims generally have an image issue. A guest writer notes efforts by moderate Muslims here and abroad to educate the public about Islam and condemn violence and terrorist acts. The other writer shares his experience touring Turkey as part of an Atlanta interfaith group.
Muslims are your neighbors, co-workers
By Alan Howard
Recently, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, along with more than 30 mosques and Muslim organizations, put out a press release condemning the violence, terror and other criminal acts of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as well as Boko Haram. This press release (http://bit.ly/1IvsjMR) represents how Muslim-Americans feel about these actions.
As a person who regularly participates in interfaith panels around metro Atlanta and gives talks about Islam and Muslims to churches, synagogues, civic organizations and other groups, I find that one of the most regularly asked questions is, “Where is the Muslim condemnation of this violence?”
I would like to address this head-on. The fact is, every major American Muslim organization has condemned acts of violence against our fellow Americans since 9/11 to the Boston Marathon bombing and up to the press release mentioned above.
Muslim-Americans and Muslim-American organizations have condemned terrorism and violent acts by Muslims and non-Muslims for years, but this fact is not given the press the violent acts themselves garner.
An organization giving an unequivocal condemnation of a terrorist act is not as interesting as speculating about what group was involved in the action, or whether the perpetrator was acting alone or not. Thus, the wider Muslim community’s condemnations are lost in the background noise and are not given full weight. This leads to your average American asking, “Where are the Muslims condemning these violent acts?” The acts are being condemned, but the wider media landscape is not listening or giving Muslims a podium to speak from.
There is another issue I want to bring out into the open — a tendency in the media and American society to believe that if a conversation is not happening in the U.S., it does not exist. What do I mean by this? All around the world in predominantly Muslim countries, scholars and governments are working to counter the radicalization of individuals, and to educate their youth on the dangers of joining organizations that promote violence. But because these initiatives and conversations are happening elsewhere, the Western world is not paying attention to them.
In Yemen, besides programs to de-radicalize captured members of terror groups, there is a television station that works to counter the propaganda of terrorist groups. In 1997, Pakistan’s parliament had a fierce debate and passed a comprehensive anti-terrorism bill that is one of the strongest seen thus far. And in Indonesia, the government and other organizations use former radicals or terrorists to reach the community and young people about the dangers of joining these groups.
These examples are unknown to most Americans because the debaters and organizations involved do not trumpet their successes and failures. Their discussions and methods are taking place elsewhere; thus, they are not picked up by news organizations.
Muslim-Americans are your neighbors, attorneys, doctors and financial advisers. In short, they are the same as you and have the same hopes and dreams for their children growing up in America. Muslim-Americans are every bit as worried about acts of terror committed against American citizens as the public at large. We are citizens too, and are members of that same public.
Dozens of Muslim-Americans died on Sept. 11, 2001; their names are memorialized in New York on the memorial. We do them and all the victims a disservice when we suggest Muslim-Americans are not condemning terrorism and not standing with our fellow Americans against this scourge.
Alan Howard of Decatur is a certified speaker for the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta.
Travel can kill prejudice
By Plemon T. El-Amin
Recently, I returned from an 11-day interfaith excursion through Turkey with an Atlanta group of Christians, Jews, Muslims and one Buddhist. For the past 13 years, Jan Swanson and I have organized and guided similar journeys through Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Spain and even to Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, under the auspices of World Pilgrims.