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U.S. Muslims — The Day of Reckoning?

Why should U.S. Muslims quickly come around to condemn Osama bin Laden?

November 16, 2001

Why should U.S. Muslims quickly come around to condemn Osama bin Laden?

Given this regrettable state of affairs, why is there no explicit condemnation of bin Laden by major U.S. Muslim organizations?

This is all the more pressing an issue since these same organizations did recently condemn the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan. Do they hesitate to do the same to bin Laden himself because they fear losing support with the constituency that they seek to serve? Evidently, the shadow of bin Laden not only looms large, but it shatters decades of efforts by these same leaders at building bridges with other faith-based communities.

Muslim leaders in the United States fear that if they condemn bin Laden, even as a matter of maslaha (or public interest in the terms of Islamic law) they will be perceived as taking sides with the United States. Politically, this would be an awkward move for them in what is viewed as a war between the United States and Islam.

And yet, we Muslims living in the United States have to realize two important things: First, that bin Laden and his tactics, no matter how just his causes may be in some peoples’ minds, are detrimental to Muslims — as well as to the image of Islam. The present suffering of the Afghan people is a direct consequence of the Taliban’s association and support for bin Laden.

Second, we cannot hide behind the issue of evidence — and hedge about condemning those who murder innocent people, in direct violation of Islamic teachings. In the ultimate analysis, when we say that there is no evidence against bin Laden, what we really mean is that there is at present not enough that has been made public to meet the legal standards of American and western jurisprudence.

How much evidence does it take to condemn a man who stated in a recently released videotape that “If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism, then history should be a witness that we are terrorists”?

Furthermore, bin Laden’s statements declaring that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are “legitimate targets” and that the September 11 hijackers were “blessed by Allah to destroy America’s economic and military landmarks” certainly have incriminating undertones. But it seems that U.S. Muslim leaders will accept nothing short of the type of hard evidence that would stand up in a Western-style court when it comes to accepting bin Laden’s guilt.

But since when, we have to ask ourselves, have bin Laden and the Taliban become subscribers of the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment (that is, the due process clause) of the U.S. Constitution? Just take a look at the way in which Taliban’s courts have meted out justice over the last five years.

The video tapes in which bin Laden says “Yes, we kill their innocents, and this is legal religiously and logically…”, the fatwa’s declaring war on the United States, his promise of more such attacks, each one of these acts alone would be sufficient to hang him according to the legal practices of the Taliban.

And painful as this is to admit for modern Muslims, the same statement applies to other Middle Eastern regimes which are notorious for their kangaroo courts.

Why, we Muslims have to ask further, does bin Laden — and not the ordinary citizens of Afghanistan — deserve the full protection of civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution? Bin Laden supports the Taliban and he deserves only what they can offer. That would mean to hang him to the soccer goal post, where the Taliban have hanged many in the recent past using their medieval techniques of law enforcement.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that bin Laden has nothing to do with September 11. This man is still guilty of the following acts: He has blasphemed Islam. He has used its sacred principles to incite murder and mayhem. He has declared war on the United States — and called on all Muslims to murder Americans, in turn making Muslims targets for retaliatory attacks.

Furthermore, bin Laden has exposed millions of Afghans to war, starvation and misery to save his own skin. If he were a hero, he would have long surrendered. Not because he was guilty, but to save poor innocent Muslims from the ravages of war.

By glorifying terrorism, bin Laden has also attacked the moral fabric of Muslim life. He is trying to embroil the Muslim Ummah — or community — in a global war of death and destruction. He is doing so by calling the American war on bin Laden war on Islam.

In short, bin Laden’s use of Islamic values has made us Muslims look like terrorists. And in most parts of the world, he has succeeded. People are now associating Islam with violence and Muslims with terror.

What more proof can there be that this man does not have the interest of Islam or Muslims at heart? He is an enemy of Islam and Muslims — and should be treated as such.

As long as Muslims hesitate to condemn bin Laden, they will be seen as supporters of terrorism. Even though the issue is not pressed by the U.S. government, the matter of condemnation has become a fundamental test of Muslim loyalties to the United States. In the meantime, we can be sure of one thing: When (and if) the FBI and company do produce conclusive evidence against bin Laden — and each day they are coming closer — Muslim condemnation of the man will become meaningless.

As of now, many Muslim leaders have chosen to err on the side of bin Laden — and not America. This may make them popular in some parts of the Muslim community, but it also makes them suspect in the American mainstream.

It is time Muslim scholars and leaders fulfilled their duty, as described in the Quran, verse 11:116: Those with good sense must prohibit mischief on Earth. The Quran holds these leaders responsible for condemning bin Laden for what he is. It is time, not only to rescue Islam, but also our misguided youth from the clutches of this mischief monger.

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