Masood N. Khan M.D.

The whole world is looking for moderate Muslims. The search happens to be intense and perpetual in the western world. For every violent act committed by a Muslim, there is an outcry and an onslaught of screams; where are the moderate Muslims? even though they may be standing right there. The everlasting search for moderate Muslims is so rampant that it seems the western world enjoys looking for them so that the imaginary moderate Muslims are intentionally kept out of sight. Psychologically speaking, this could be a mental derangement, either a kind of sadism that is Muslim-blind or an obsessive compulsive behavior where the obsession is that moderate Muslims, whatever their definition might be, should remain absent and the compulsion of course is to keep looking for them. Perhaps in its fully matured form, this derangement is a form of dementia where a person is so devoid of recent memory that he keeps repeating the same question again and again until people stop responding.

First of all, to condemn any unjust act of violence why are we looking for moderate Muslims? That can be done by any Muslim and Muslims have done so repeatedly. It is another matter that in the West those condemning voices do not count because they come from those who are not ideally moderate by western standards.

Here are a few examples. I think it will be handy for Muslims to know about them because then they could confidently convince a demented moderate Muslim seeker that he is indeed stupid.

  1. Shaikh Abdul Aziz Alshaikh, grand Mufti and chairman of Senior Ulema Saudi Arabia issued an official statement that said, “hijacking planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding of blood constitutes a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts”.
  2. Shiek Mohammed Sayyed al-Tantawi, leader of Egypt’s great mosque, Al-Azhar said in a statement, ”[The attacks] will be punished on the day of judgment.”
  3. A Fatwa, signed by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Grand Islamic Scholar and Chairman of the Sunna and Sira Countil, Qatar, Judge Tariq al-Bishri, First Deputy President of the Council d’etat, Egypt, Dr. Muhammad S al-Awa, Professor of Islamic Law and Shari’a, Egypt, Dr. Haytham al-Khayyat, Islamic scholar Syria, Fahmi Houaydi Islamic scholar, Syria; Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, Chairman, North America High Council, says “The terrorists acts, considered by Islamic law, the crime of hirabah (waging war against society).”
  4. Zaki Badawi, Principal of the Muslim College in London said in a statement “Neither the law of Islam nor its ethical system justify such a crime.” Cited in Arab News.
  5. Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, Pakistan: “It is wrong to kill innocent people. It is also wrong to praise those who kill innocent people.”
  6. Abdullah II, King of Jordan said: “What these people stand for is completely against all the principles that Arab Muslims believe in.” cited in Middle East Times.
  7. Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, an independent body established to promote consultation, cooperation and coordination on Muslim affairs in the United Kingdom, issued a statement that said that attacks were “horrific and abhorrent. My thoughts and prayers for the families of those killed and injured and for the people of France, our neighbours.”
  8. Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University in England, commenting on the fact that at least one of the terrorists yelled the common Islamic phrase “God is Great” before opening fire, said: “ They shouted, we are told, ‘Allahu Akbar” to support and justify their inhuman actions. With this they told a lie and a truth. Their lie is related to Islam and its message as not even one of its teachings, ever, can justify their actions. The truth is that these acts are the result of minds inhabited by the worst.
  9. The American Muslim Political Co-ordination Committee (AMPCC), which is a group of major American Muslim organizations, including ICNA (our parent organization), issued a statement on September 11, 2001 condemning the terrorist attacks. The AMPCC statement read in part: “American Muslims utterly condemn what are vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts.”
  10. American Muslim Response to the September Attacks released September 21, 2001.
    “We, the undersigned Muslim organizations, support the President and Congress of the U.S. in the struggle against terrorism. Holding to the ideals of both our religion and our country, we condemn all forms of terrorism, and confirm the need for perpetrators of any such acts of violence to be brought to justice, including those who carried out the attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
    At the same time, in the planning of this “war against terrorism,” we call upon the President and Congress to reaffirm the values and principles that make this country great, namely that one is innocent until proven guilty, that all accused have the right to a fair trial, that no one be punished for the acts of another, and that respect for human life is supreme, regardless of race or religion. To this end, we urge the U.S. government not to abandon the due process of law in determining responsibility for the attacks and punishing the guilty parties.
    We are saddened by the possibility of military action, as we do not believe that terrorism can be eliminated solely or even effectively through military force. Rather we call upon our leaders to recognize that in order to rid the world of the ugliness of terrorism, our nation must understand its root causes. We hold out the hope that these root causes can be addressed through non-violent means, in a way that promotes peace and harmony between the nations of the world.” Following are the signatories to the report.
    – Afghan Muslim Association (Fremont, CA)
    – American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice (AMGPJ)
    – American Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism (AMILA)
    – Arab-American Congress, Council on American
    – Islamic Relations (Northern California)
    – Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Bay Area
    – Islamic Networks Group (ING)
    – Islamic Society of the East Bay (Union City, CA)
    – Islamic Society of San Francisco
    – Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) West Zone

    – Muslim American Society
    – Muslim Community Association (MCA)
    – Muslim Peace Fellowship (Nyack, NY)
    – South Bay Islamic Association (San Jose, CA)
    – Zaytuna Institute (Hayward, CA)

In spite of the above, and the ongoing condemnation of unjust violence and killing of innocent people by Muslims all over the world, this tenaciously sticking notion that Muslims do not condemn terrorism is indeed very intriguing. You not only begin to wonder what could be the motives behind these oft-repeated propagandist accusations but also what exactly is this brand of Muslims called ‘Moderate Muslims’.

First of all, is there such a brand existing and if so who are they and what kind of Muslims are worthy of this title? With lots of brain storming, perhaps rather brain banging, I could think of two answers to this question.

One is based upon the uncommon commodity of common sense and the other perhaps upon the common commodity of stupidity. In the former situation the answer would be “there is always a span stupid!” In interpretation and application of matters relating to faith, people will always take a place in a horizontally linear spectrum between extremism and liberalism, not to mention their position keeps changing with time. Does it not happen with any faith be it Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism etc? So precisely at which point in the spectrum would you like the moderate Muslims to be standing, all clustered, intellectually suffocating? Every individual Muslim in the spectrum occupies a station that is gradual, subtle and evolutionarily moving in both directions. It is like a shade of color that is gradually and insensibly replaced with another color.

In the latter situation the answer would be “yes!”. By the force of delusion such a brand called moderate Muslims could be created irrespective of the spectrum. It would be made to perfectly comply with behavioral standards defined by the western world.

Let us examine those behavioral standards that make a perfect ‘Moderate Muslim’ acceptable to the West. I think the desirable characteristics would be:

  1. When compared to a westerner, they have to look alike and live alike. This relates to dress, food and life style. Hijab and veil is of course not acceptable and immediately will exterminate them.
  2. They should not be consistently and seriously practicing religion because that is scary. It is a risk factor for becoming non-moderate any time.
  3. In their world view they accept the dominating role of the West culturally, economically and politically and submit themselves to it with a sense of fascination.
  4. They differentiate between terrorism and invasion of one country by another. They will never categorize the invasion of a country even on a false pretext killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people as a kind of terrorism because that is a war for a noble cause and cannot be terrorism.
  5. In analyzing violence around the world and the causes of terrorism they understand that Islam is to be blamed and among non-religious reasons it is the hatred against western lifestyle and freedom as simple as that.
  6. In discussing the causes of terrorism, they never talk about underlying political economic and human rights issues because these will open a pandora’s box that could incriminate the western countries.
  7. They should possess such a calm and composed temperament that no violence against them, nor desecration of their scripture nor demonizing of their prophet should upset them.
  8. They are always blind to the hypocrisy of the western countries in the matters of freedom of expression and policies on human rights, for example, they should be indignant when India bans “Satanic Verses” but should understand the reasons when France bans a play that is satirical of holocaust.

While there may be few Muslims who adopt above characteristics trying to sell themselves in the western world for fatty social rewards, such make-believe Muslims are not there in the real world and never will be. Yet the search in the western world for moderate Muslims goes on and gets activated each time a terrorist act is committed. This artificially created link between terrorism and absence of moderate Muslims is so strong that you wonder if the west would ever have cared for moderate Muslims had there not been terrorism in the world. It is possible people in the west would perhaps have loved extremist Muslims in a peaceful world.

Terrorism of course is a crime condemnable in the highest possible terms. But the deeper question is why only Muslims are required to condemn and own up any act of terrorism committed by a Muslim. By the same token, would it not be a justifiable demand by Muslims as to where were moderate Christians when Iraq was invaded and hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed including children, and when Afghanistan was attacked in total disregard of international law, where were moderate Jews when Israel occupied Palestine and displaced millions of people and violated international law by building settlements in the occupied land, where were moderate Buddhists when Muslims were killed in Burma and where were moderate Hindus when Muslims were massacred in Gujrat, India. There are many crimes more heinous in this world than terrorism. What about molestation of numerous children by Catholic priests and organized crime committed with utmost brutality by the Mafia of Italy. Why should they not be labeled as Christian crimes?

The world should learn to judge human beings based upon the absolute of good and evil, not based upon their faith. With this criterion, Muslims could be either good human beings or bad human beings like there may be good or bad human beings among Christians and Jews or people of any other faith. Since all faiths denounce violence, much less killing of innocent human beings, no crime can be labeled as Islamic, Christian or Jewish. All crimes regardless are essentially committed by human beings possessed by evil and they violate humanity. This idea has been beautifully expressed in Qur’an in a verse that says “killing a human being unjustly is tantamount to killing the whole humanity.” Perhaps the key to peaceful co-existence in this world lies in understanding and upholding of this divine verse.