As we all began digesting the news of last week's terrorist attack, most of America's Muslim organizations issued what has become a predictable, yet empty, round of condemnations. Articulated in press releases, these rote statements are not backed up with sincere attempts to acknowledge and fix the problems within Islam. Listening to these empty pronouncements, I can't help but ask: Where is our Muslim responsibility--our duty--to protect the world from the actions of our own?
It is time for us Muslims to take ownership of our faith by moving beyond empty condemnations and ensuring that Islamo-fascists--those who seek to create an Islamic totalitarian theocracy through the use of any and all means--have no place in our world. These fascists are Muslims who have hijacked and twisted our faith. They subscribe to a medieval code where the ends justify the means. And you can hear their rhetoric not only in the Middle East; radical imams preach in London and in many cities in the U.S. Cutting off this lifeblood and its ideology should be the focus of our collective Muslim response.
Many well-meaning Muslims react to news about Muslim terrorists by insisting that anyone who commits violent acts is, by definition, not part of Islam. But who are we fooling? The Islamo-fascists did not come out of thin air. They use our scripture, our prayers, our language, and our tradition--and they come from somewhere within our community. These killers are doing incomprehensibly evil actions across the world in the name of our religion, and because of that, my fellow Muslims and I should act now--decisively, publicly, and in tandem with our leadership--against Islamo-fascism. To argue whether they are Muslims or not--and what is a 'true' Islamic society--is only deflection and denial.
Every time I experience the joy and spirituality of joining with my Muslim brothers and sisters in devotional prayer, I feel a perfect harmony of thought and movement as we bow and say God's praises together. Islam is a religion of community, and I know I can walk into any mosque in the world and join the congregation in reciting the same prayers I say at home. While my faith is very personal, without that communal energy, my religion is not complete.
But with spiritual fulfillment and community connection come responsibility. Moderate, moral Muslims--that is to say, the vast majority of the world's Muslims--may see these Islamo-fascists as far removed from our reality; however the unforgiving truth is that we are responsible as a group for our weakest and also for our most corrupt and deranged. Islam has no formal clergy, and so it falls to the community as a whole, all of us, to take on this challenge. Denial serves nothing but the empty ego and is destined to fail. As Muslims we must help bring these barbaric Islamists to justice and assist in dismantling the systems that create them.
How many wake-up calls do we need? Most faith groups have at some point in their histories seen their compasses falter, as deviants exploited their altars. However, those same faith groups have also eventually assumed responsibility for exposing, exterminating, and marginalizing the cancers who are their own. The need for Muslims to act now cannot be overstated, for it becomes exponentially more difficult after each horrific bombing. My fellow Muslims must immediately--and in large numbers--become proactive in the war against militant Islamists, or soon it may be too late. We owe it to the nations in which we live, as well as to our truly pluralistic faith.
Many people ask what they or their communities could possibly do to counter a cancer like Islamo-fascism. But all Muslims--and all Muslim organizations--can play an active role in this battle.
The immediate reaction to the London devastation should be declaration after declaration by Muslim leaders around the free world that we will immediately redirect all of our resources to combat al Qaeda and every other militant Islamist organization, in order to extinguish their barbarism. These barbarians should hear words from moderate Muslims around the globe that make them fear they will never again find a single religious haven for their ideology. As pluralistic Muslims take away from them the mantle of faith and the acceptance of their formative ideologies, they will be left with nothing but the depths of their own evil.
It's time to build an anti-terror ethos within the Islamic community. We can publicly embarrass radical imams and organizations who preach hatred. We can publicly expose the twisted interpretations of the Qu'ran and Muslim teachings perpetuated by radical Islamists who justify killing innocent people in the name of our God. We can focus the public agenda of American Muslims on publicizing our commitment to our citizenship oath and to the American secular form of democratic government.
We need to force a public debate with the Islamists, not run from it. By constantly reasserting Muslim critiques of Wahhabism, Salafism, and other fundamentalist Islamist ideologies that feed terrorist networks, we will fight terror at its core. It is time to ensure that Islamic sermons around the world teach Muslims to dismantle terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbullah, and any group that harbors, teaches, and trains the world's future Islamo-fascists.
In addition, we must root out all hate and intolerance from the educational texts in our mosques, which we use to teach our youth and our co-religionists. Anti-Semitism, anti-Western feelings, and chauvinism should be combated directly by American Muslim organizations.
And we need to teach our Muslim-American youth to feel a sense of responsibility to our America, which gives us freedom and liberty. Why is it that so many people from every minority in America are dying to liberate Iraq and Afghanistan and free the world from the Islamo-fascists while so few American Muslim organizations have actively encouraged military service since 9-11? We should sponsor public campaigns to encourage our community to join the military and law-enforcement agencies. What better way to ensure that enforcement of the Patriot Act does not unfairly target Muslims than to have American Muslims within law enforcement? Allegiance to our country is in fact a deeply Islamic obligation.
The war against Islamo-fascism has many fronts, and moderate Muslims need to be leading the struggle. We must always remember the Qu'ranic teachings on peace and justice, such as: "Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor, for God can best protect both. Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that you do." (Qu'ran 4:135).
At its core, "terror" is simply a barbarically evil tactic in a war of ideologies. Muslims, and only Muslims, hold the keys to the flood gates that can drown militant Islamists in their own twisted interpretations of scripture. But time is running short. Muslims must realize the challenge before us and step forward on all these fronts or risk losing our freedoms and our faith to the barbarism of Islamo-fascist terror. It is time that the majority of Muslims said, "not on our watch."