Saturday, April 26, 2014

Compassionate Islam, Compassion for Islam

"The screening of this film in its present state could greatly offend our local Muslim believers as well as any foreign Muslim visitor to the museum."
"Unsophisticated visitors who do not understand the difference between Al-Qaeda and Muslims may come away with a prejudiced view of Islam, leading to antagonism and even confrontation toward Muslim believers near the site."
Sheik Mostafa Elazabawy, imam, Masjid Manhattan
Sheikh Mostafa Elazabawy, second from left, the only imam on the panel, resigned, saying the video was offensive to Muslims. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times
"From the very beginning, we had a very heavy responsibility to be true to the facts, to be objective, and in no way smear an entire religion when we are talking about a terrorist group."
Joseph Daniels, president, chief executive, National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation

"The terrorists need to be condemned and remembered for what they did. But when you associate their religion with what they did, then you are automatically including, by association, 1-1/2-billion people who had nothing to do with these actions and who, ultimately, the U.S. would not want to unnecessarily alienate."
Akbar Ahmed, chairman, Islamic studies department, American University

Yes, well, of course, it is not the Ummah, the great gathering of worldwide Muslims, but rather the religion that they worship that is at the centre of this debate. In that jihad, and violent jihad, is central to its political ideology as a religion. Jihad is one vital measure of entitlement and urgency that beckons every worshipper of Islam. It is as organic to Islam as is 'surrender' to Allah.

In service to Islam and to Allah, every Muslim is enjoined to help spread Islam, to entice, persuade, cajole, invite or threaten non-Muslims to leave their infidel ways and recognize the primacy of Islam. When persuasion fails, then force of arms kick in. There are more than enough Koranic passages that incite to the duty of all Muslims to engage in jihad. And though explainers of Islam like to delicately dance around "jihad", speaking of a struggle with the mind, jihad really does mean violence.

The 9/11 attackers believed in what they were doing, that it was a sacrifice in service to Islam, doing the will of Allah, as it was personified in its earliest historical stages by the many campaigns that the Prophet Mohammad himself engaged in, as the first and primary proselytizer. Islam's most visible symbols are the crescent moon and the scimitar, and that conjunction is not accidental, but it is a deliberate reminder to the faithful of their duty to Islam.

The September 11 Museum entrance pavilion, right, sits next to one of the September 11 Memorial pools, at the World Trade Center Monday, April 14, 2014 in New York. (The Associated Press)
Behind the controversy relating to the soon-to-open National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a very short video, about 7 minutes in length. The film is titled The Rise of Al-Qaeda, and it refers to the terrorists as Islamists, whose mission was jihad. There are images of terrorist training camps and Al-Qaeda attacks over decades, and an explanation of the terrorists' ideology. It is, in fact, the ideology of political Islam.

Pressure is arising from within the American Muslim community to withdraw the film, claiming that it smears Islam and gives a raw, incorrect picture of Islam and its adherents. Fears are expressed that it might lead to violence against Muslims. Where are all those voices of the pious leaders within the United States when atrocities occur perpetrated by Islamists both in America and abroad? Voices loud in condemnation against the intolerance written into Islamist precepts of duty to Islam.

It's fair enough that the exhibit space make it clear that Muslims, aside from being the perpetrators of the atrocity, also presented among the victims of the attacks. Sensitivity to the tender feelings of Muslims over the undeniable fact of modern life that Islam, and its followers considered to be fundamentalists, fanatics, religious lunatics, are responsible for most of the conflicts arising in today's world from the Middle East to North Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan to China and India and the Philippines.

Just incidental? Hardly. And while Muslims insist that the rest of the world comprised of infidels, Jews and Crusaders bear compassionate sensitivity to their tender feelings, where was their concerned sensitivity when the Muslim community planned to construct a huge mosque and community centre a few blocks from ground zero?

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