Friday, July 08, 2005

Friedman's Folly & London Updates

Substantial additions and edits were made to this entry on Sunday, July 10 and Monday, July 11, taking into account the most recent information and available statemens from relevant parties and individuals.

Renowned New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman's (below right) recently had a column published, "If It's a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution," on July 8 in which he states that no major Muslim organization or leader has issued a religious opinion (fatwa) condemning Osama bin Laden and the attacks of September 11, 2001.

To view Friedman's column, see:

He makes no mention of the fact that many Muslim religious and political leaders across the globe did issue such condemnations. I would refer Mr. Friedman to the following web sites that document these responses; all are connected to reputable American academic organizations or professors:

Among the leaders who condemned the attacks were several who play important roles in the worldwide Muslim community. These individuals include Shaykh Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi of al-Azhar Mosque and University in Egypt; Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar; 'Abd al-Aziz ibn 'Abd Allah al-Ashaykh, grand mufti of Saudi Arabia; Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah in Lebanon; outgoing Iranian President Muhammad Khatami; the foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; 15 major American Muslim organizations, including the Council for American-Islamic Relations; Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a prominent American Muslim religious leader; Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens; and former Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Even organizations such as Hizbu'llah and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood condemned the attacks and in the U.S., major figures in the progressive Muslim movement, including Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA (left), Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina of the University of Virginia, and Professor Omid Safi of Colgate University, also condemned the attacks and acts of terrorism.

In short, Mr. Friedman's inference that no major Muslim leader or organization has condemned the attacks of September 11 are simply not true and I encourage him to look at the evidence more closely.

Mr. Friedman also states his opinion that, "“When jihadist-style bombings happen in Riyadh, that is a Muslim-Muslim problem. That is a police problem for Saudi Arabia. But when al-Qaeda-like bombings come to the London Underground, that becomes a civilizational problem.” This comment infers that violence committed in "Islamic" lands is somehow not a "civilizational" problem. By that logic, racism and segregation in the U.S. and South Africa was also not a "civilizational problem," but was instead a local issue to be dealt with by "those people." In a related question, what exactly is a "civilizational" problem? Are Muslims not part of a global "civilization?" Clearly Friedman has a very "us and them" view of the world.

Related Comments
There are a large number of individuals who believe that all Muslims bear some guilt for terrorist attacks launched in the name of their religion. While I would agree that the Muslim community should continue to be strong in its condemnation of terrorism, I would also question the idea of "collective guilt." Are all Christians guilty of attacks on abortion clinics and practitioners by radical Evangelicals? Are all Jews guilty of the crimes committed by radical Israeli Jewish setlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? Are all Hindus guilty of the massacres of Muslim civilians, the destruction of the Babri Mosque or the racist policies of the BJP Party in India? Are all Americans guilty for any war crimes committed by our military or the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians (the so-called "collateral damage") abroad?

I think that the same people who support "collective guilt" for Muslims would balk at extending that to other groups. There is a constant call for "Islam" to say this or that. However, generally speaking "Islam," being an inanimate object, says nothing. Muslims, however, do.

Yes, the Muslim community should make sure to speak out against terrorism, and in fact it has and continues to do so. Yes, those that support al Qaeda from inside the Muslim community should be criticized and ostracized. Yet, an entire group of people, over a billion people or 1/6 of the world's population, cannot be "convicted" for the acts or thoughts of some. For those who are so ignorant as to hold all Muslims responsible for the acts of people like Osama bin Laden and his ilk, no amount of convincing will change their mind; they have decided that they are happy to reside in their shallow world of ignorance and bigotry.

There is also a claim that Islam cannot exist in a "democratic" or egalitarian society. The evidence against this idea is strong: Islam exists in some of the largest parliamentary/republican democracies in the world, including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the U.S., Canada, Turkey, Bosnia, and throughout Western Europe. Even Bernard Lewis, the renowned Princeton University emiritus scholar, argued recently in the May/June 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs that from within Islam there are potential tools that fit the "democratic" mold. He also states that those who claim the Middle East in specific is somehow not conducive to "democracy" because of some inherent (i.e. religious) flaw are ignorant of the region's history and callous toward its future.

And for those that believe or hope that Islam will wither and disappear, here's a fact for them: by many accounts, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and by 2025 it will be the largest; no longer will Christianity be the largest faith, instead, it will be overtaken by Islam and the secularists.

Update on London Attacks
The death toll has been raised to at least 50 and is expected to rise. One of the bombed subway trains has not yet been reached by British police and rescue squads and it is believed it will contain other dead victims. Reports say that there is no evidence that suicide bombers were involved; the bombs seem to have been package bombs set off by timers connected to cell phones.

Arab and Muslim condemnation, at the government and civilian levels, has been strong and continuous since the bombings:

In a related note, Professor Tariq Ramadan (below right), one of the most renowned European Muslim intellectuals and academics, wrote in an op-ed that was published in the Saturday, July 9 edition of the British newspaper Guardian:

"We must condemn these attacks with the strongest energy; Muslims in unison with wider British society. But to condemn is not enough. Our values, our societies, our common future require that we become aware of our shared responsibilities. Yes, London is a multicultural society but - in common with the rest of Europe - it will preserve its pluralistic equilibrium only through the personal engagement of every individual in their daily life, within their own neighbourhood.

Muslims must speak out and explain who they are, what they believe in, what they stand for, what is the meaning of their life. They must have the courage to denounce what is said and done by certain Muslims in the name of their religion. They will not reassure their fellow citizens by pretending to be "like them", saying only what they want to hear and becoming invisible. They have to assert their identities, refuse simplistic discourses, promote critical and self-critical understanding and get out from their intellectual, religious and social ghettos. European societies need to see European Muslims involved in the society's questions of the day: citizenship, school, unemployment. Their strength must lie in refusing to be victims and in becoming active citizens, politically engaged both domestically and internationally.

In the name of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, we cannot accept that the rights of individuals (Arab or Muslim) be trampled upon, or that populations are targeted and discriminated against in the name of the war against terrorism. The strength of democratic societies relies on their capacity to know how to stand firm against extremism while respecting justice in the means used to fight terrorism."
To view Professor Ramadan's full op-ed, see:,3858,5235159-117079,00.html

Professor Ingrid Mattson (below left), who teaches Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary where she is also the director of the Muslim chaplaincy program, wrote in an article for BeliefNet:

"Frankly, American Muslims have generally been more critical of injustices committed by the American government than of injustices committed by Muslims. This has to change...American Muslims, in particular, have a great responsibility to speak out. The freedom, stability, and strong moral foundation of the United States are great blessings for all Americans, particularly for Muslims. So let me state it clearly: I, as an American Muslim leader, denounce not only suicide bombers and the Taliban, but those leaders of other Muslim states who thwart democracy, repress women, use the Qur’an to justify un-Islamic behavior and encourage violence. Alas, these views are not only the province of a small group of terrorists or dictators. Too many rank-and-file Muslims, in their isolation and pessimism, have come to hold these self-destructive views as well."

To view Professor Mattson's article, see:

Feisal Abdul Rauf (right), imam of the al-Farah mosque in New York and director of the ASMA Society, is a renowned American Sufi Muslim leader. Sufism is the mystical tradition within Islam, a tradition that has given the world the passionate poetry of Ibn al-Arabi and Jalal ad-Din Rumi and the philosophical masterpieces of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. In a recent BeliefNet article, Imam Rauf said:

"The Holy Quran teaches us that "Whoever kills a human being, for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it is as if He has killed all mankind: and if he saves a human life, it is as if he has saved the lives of all mankind" [Quran 5:32.]

There can be few things as antithetical to religion, particularly my religion of Islam, as the wanton violence wreaked by the recent attacks in London. It is at times like these that the responsibility falls again on us, those of a truly humane spiritual nature, to speak out against the violence, and to console those who have suffered from it."

To view Imam Rauf's full statement, see:

Professor Juan Cole (right), an expert on Islam who teaches South Asian and Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, was recently interviewed by BeliefNet. This interview is strongly recommended for those who wish to increase their knowledge of Islam and particularly radicalized Islam.

To view the interview with Professor Cole, see:

It was reported on July 9 that al Qaeda is actively seeking recruits from amount the large number of unemployed British Muslims, many of them who were born to immigrant parents in the country:

There are signs that segments of the European Muslim community, particularly the younger generations, are increasingly coming under the influence of radical Salafi shaykhs, who generally are immigrants from countries abroad such as Egypt and Algeria. Many of the traditionalist, middle-aged religious and community leaders, the majority of whom have been thoroughly assimilated into Western Europe without losing their faith, are being challenged by these radical religious leaders from abroad. While the indigenous, moderate religious leaders, such as Switzerland's Tariq Ramadan, envision a "Western" Islam that is fully integrated into European and Western societies while still remaining true to the tenets of the faith, the radicals, such as Abu Hamza al-Masri (right), rail against Crusaders and Jews, turning a blind eye toward militancy or even actively supporting it. The decision is a stark one: who will win the war of words and ideas? The important, revolutionary ideas of Ramadan and his colleagues or the bitter diatribes and violent outbursts of al-Masri and the radical Salafis?

To view an article about the new, "defiant" trend among young Muslim Britons that ran recently in The Christian Science Monitor, see:

There have been two new op-eds published since I originally wrote this entry, one by Behrooz Ghamari, assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University, and Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International:

To view Professor Ghamari's op-ed, which critiques Thomas Friedman's, see:

To view Fareed Zakaria's, see:§ion=opinion&col

As an interesting side comment, thousands of innocent Iraqis have been murdered this year by terrorists in their country. Are their lives worth any less? Do most Americans and Europeans feel as bad about those innocent lives lost? If not, then any criticism of Arabs and Muslims for not feeling sympathetic enough toward Western victims is hypocritical, plain and simple. It is a sad fact that human nature tends to prioritize the importance of death.