FOE ISN'T ISLAM, IT'S BINLADENISM
By Abdul Cader Asmal, Boston
Globe, August 3, 2005
WHETHER WE are American, Nigerian, Indonesian, or British, we look like
them, we dress like them, we speak like them, and we pray like them. We
cannot identify them before they strike. They hate us because we reject
their ideology. They would kill us as ''infidels." We are Muslims.
So are they. But they are terrorists and we are not. That is the distinction.
This is where we must make our stand.
As troubling as it is for Muslims to be identified as potential terrorists,
the truth is that the terrorists conducting such barbaric acts in today's
society are Muslims. That is not to say that they are the only or the
biggest terrorists, but they are the most mindless, unpredictable, and
deliberately merciless. Driven by motives or grievances that they may
legitimately share with countless other Muslims, they have devised their
own demonic modus operandi that almost all others abhor and are repulsed
by. In an open society they bear no distinctive traits.
While the recent terror acts have been committed by Muslims, there is
nothing ''Islamic" about them. They are totally antithetical to the
fundamental principles of Islam and represent a heretical deviation of
the religion. When the 9/11 Commission went out of its way to define terrorism
as not just any generic terrorism, but specifically as ''Islamist,"
this pejorative label, despite the banal niceties of ''Islam being a religion
of peace," sent a chilling message to Muslims worldwide that terrorism
is a hallmark or prerogative of Islam, or that when committed by other
groups it is in some way mitigated by intrinsic extenuating circumstances.
The leap from deviant Muslims perpetrating atrocities to a religion being
impugned for the sins of its supposed adherents is breath-taking in its
audacity. This distinction has become critical ever since the ''showdown
with Saddam" transmuted into the ''war on terror." With the
daily mind-numbing imagery of maniacal Muslim ''insurgents" savaging
troops and civilians alike, a transformation rapidly took place: The problem
was just not Muslim terrorists but an ''evil" Islam itself. This
is a theme broadcast with malevolent glee by talk shows on a daily basis
thereby intensifying suspicion, fear, contempt, and hatred of Islam. Demonizing
Islam makes it the enemy in the ''war on terror."
Ironically, it is us Muslims who have the greatest vested interest in
eradicating terrorism. We need to do this to salvage our religion and
our self-respect. As long as we are marginalized by the West and taunted
by the extremists, we are made to feel as if we were part of the problem
rather than of the solution, and our commitment becomes ambivalent. If
the so-called war on terrorism has any chance of being won, there needs
to be an immediate redefinition of the enemy.
First, to achieve a delinkage between Islam and terrorism, the term ''Binladenism"
has been suggested. It is an accurate characterization of the architect
whose unifying call is hate, whose target is the current world order,
whose modus operandi is the terrorization of innocent civilians, and whose
fascist ideology directly contravenes the basic principles of the religion
it claims to espouse.
Second, it is essential for Muslims to dissociate their legitimate concerns
from the terrorist acts that have been perpetrated to justify them. Irrespective
of whether Muslims see the victimization of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo,
Chechnya, Palestine, or Iraq, the terrorists can never find justification
for their terror tactics. In Islam the end does not justify the means.
Third, because these concerns have been hijacked by a bunch of hoodlums
as a pretext for terrorism does not delegitimize the concerns, nor does
responding to them in any way justify the terrorism. It would be crass
to ignore Muslims' legitimate concerns, or, worse still, to consider any
response to them a negotiation with terrorists. Until the issues are addressed,
the war on terror will smolder on.
Finally, with a redesigned strategy, the stand against the ideology of
terrorism (Binladenism) must be, and will be, united, unwavering, unequivocal,
and unconditional. The recent fatwa by the Fiqh Council of North America
against terrorism is a small first step.
But for Muslims the conviction for such a stand has always been and is
direct from the Koran: ''Stand steadfast before God as witnesses for justice,
even though it is against yourselves." An act of terror is an act
of supreme injustice. Its prevention is the moral imperative of every
Muslim. Those who fail this basic test should have more to fear than that
their civil rights might be infringed. In this stand lies our hope, our
security, and our future.
Abdul Cader Asmal is former president of the Islamic Center of Boston
and former president of the Islamic Council of New England.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company