Mr. Aziz Junejo
It's our responsibility to be respectful to people of all faiths
Aziz Junejo, Faith & Values writer, says it hurts to hear fellow citizens suggest that Muslims are not doing enough to condemn terrorism. Terrorism is clearly against the teachings of Islam, Junejo says, and the message of Islam is to be good to all other people.
Special to The Seattle Times
America is my home.
So it hurts to hear fellow citizens suggest that I and other Muslims are not doing enough to condemn terrorism.
Terrorism is clearly against the teachings of Islam. Rather, the message of Islam is to be good to all other people. God says in the Quran:
As for those who believe and do right actions, the All-Merciful will bestow His love on them.
Quran, chapter Mary, 19:96Attacks around the world carried out by so-called Muslims cause a lot of intolerance against true peace-loving Muslims here and abroad.
It is deeply disturbing that negative media portrayals of Islam are treated as credible, that little thought is given to verification. Immediately after such reports, Muslims in our community report instances of intolerance.
The mainstream media has characterized the Islamophobic film "Obsession" as educational and a must-see for all Americans. In the past month, 28 million DVDs of the film were distributed, free, and the effect was immediate.
Last week, two teenage Muslim girls who wear head coverings were at a mall in Seattle. Some young girls taunted them, saying, "Go back to your home, terrorist" — a hurtful incident for the American-born teens who have lived their entire lives a couple of miles from the mall.
Two weeks ago, my wife was at our local Safeway, when child pointed at her and said, "Mommy look! There is a terrorist!" The mother, obviously embarrassed, apologized profusely and asked my wife to forgive her daughter, which, of course, she did.
When interviewed by the media or e-mailed by readers, I usually begin my response by explaining that the word Islam means peace, and that its authentic teachings are peaceful.
Still, I am frequently accused of being silent in the face of terrorism around the world: "Why didn't you denounce this or that attack?" people demand.
I might gently respond: "You did not hear me."
The local Muslim community consistently denounces terrorist attacks such as Sept. 11, London bombings in 2005, or, in Seattle, the 2006 Jewish Federation shootings that killed one woman and wounded five others.
And though local Muslims do regularly and vocally condemn terrorist acts, particularly when they are carried out by people who claim, untruthfully, to share our faith, the expectation that it is our job in particular to condemn these acts feels a bit of an imposition.
Of course we condemn them!
We say it aloud, and we say it just as emphatically in the way we conduct our lives as your responsible, respectful and peaceful neighbors.
American Muslims are daily exposed to the fear and prejudice of their fellow citizens. Some of us are dealt with unjustly solely because of our faith — in a nation built on freedom of religion!
Let us all practice American values. Let us all, Muslim or not, work toward and encourage global initiatives such as the interfaith summit in Madrid, Spain, this past summer hosted by Saudi Arabia's king, where terrorism was denounced and an appeal made for common values that can unite the faiths. The summit worked to restore respect for religious values and helped show that extremism is diametrically opposed to Islam and all the Abrahamic faiths.
As U.S. citizens, and as world citizens, we all have a responsibility to be respectful and tolerant — no matter a person's color, creed or religion. The God of Christians, Jews and Muslims forbids violence and aggression toward innocent people.
The three faith traditions descended from Abraham can and must work as one to eliminate fear through education and cooperation. Together, we can build bonds of friendship, we can flourish in peace and mutual respect, and we can set an example in coexistence here and around the world.
Aziz Junejo is host of "Focus on Islam," a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. Readers may send feedback to email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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