September 11th, 2008
07:02 PM ET

Spending seven Septembers hijacking my religion back

Editor's Note: We are devoting many posts today to the anniversary of 9/11, with first-hand accounts, insight, and commentary dedicated to that day seven years ago that changed our world. Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of themuslimguy.com and Contributing Editor for Islamica Magazine in Washington DC.
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Arsalan Iftikhar | BIO
Founder, themuslimguy.com

Mahatma Gandhi once said that, “I have nothing new to teach the world…Truth and nonviolence are as old as the hills.” Since time immemorial, our human experiment has revolved around the enlightened advancement of collective human thought. Within the current ungodly global mix of perpetual war, everlasting human poverty, extremist terrorism and global racism; our human race has completely and utterly lost its collective mind. Since our world has gone completely bonkers, the unquenchable thirst for social justice of this young American Muslim human rights lawyer and public diplomat must be positively channeled at this juncture of infinite global sadness towards a purpose-driven life guided down an untaken road called Islamic Pacifism.

9/11 was ten days after my twenty-fourth birthday. As a second year law student at the time, even though I had already lived more than two decades; in many ways, my life only truly began at 8:46 am EST on September 11, 2001. Because as an American Muslim, that would be the day that my country was attacked by people who would also infamously hijack my religion.

Since that fateful day seven Septembers ago, my life as a human rights lawyer, media troubadour and public diplomat has now become one big absurd game of television musical chairs and YouTube video clips. From CNN to The TODAY Show to BBC World News, I have spent a dizzying chunk of the last several years on the proverbial 'hot seat'; as a global Muslim public intellectual for over a billion mainstream Muslims who never want to be represented by the bobble-headed terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

So alas, with my trusty ThinkPad and red Swingline stapler, that day began my never-ending quest to condemn terrorism as an international media spokesperson, defeat hate crimes as a leading American Muslim civil rights lawyer, educate the general public about Islam and help create a millennial version of Islamic Pacifism for our entire global community today.

This revived gentle giant of global pacifism shall welcome all people; regardless of any race, religion or socioeconomic status. Whether you are white, black or purple, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or celebrate Festivus; our next generation of youthful global pacifists can help reclaim our culture of humanity from sinister warmongering dinosaurs with names like Osama, Coulter, Hamas and Cheney.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” By giving global pacifism a millennial makeover, we shall use the witty humor of Jon Stewart, the humanistic nuance of Noam Chomsky and the fearless determination of Nelson Mandela to quench our collective thirst for social justice.

With the hipster slyness of Danny Ocean to the groovy idealism of John Lennon, for anyone in the world who has ever earnestly prayed for a Muslim Gandhi; you can sleep peacefully at night knowing that the life memoirs of this young Muslim pacifist shall one day be playfully entitled ‘The Autobiography of Gandhi X’.

Finally proving that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, everyone can rest easy knowing that Barack Obama is not the only brown civil rights lawyer from Chicago with the audacity of hope running through his every vein.

Do not worry, ladies and gentlemen, a billion Muslim pacifist sisters and brothers continue to challenge those who hijacked Islam and we will spend our lives serenely hijacking it back; by any peaceful means necessary.

Even though some Americans may mistakenly think that Muslims only know recipes for Molotov cocktails; here are some other societal contributions of Muslims to modern civilization:

For example, it was Muslims who invented algebra.

Most people would also probably be surprised to learn that it was a Muslim who designed the Sears Tower in my sweet home of Chicago.

Even more surprising is the fact that 4 out of 57 Muslim nations on earth have already elected female heads-of-state; something that we as Americans have been unable to do thus far in history.

Additionally, the greatest American boxer ever, Muhammad Ali; and the funniest dude in America, Dave Chappelle, are both Muslims.

Most importantly, 3 out of the last 5 Nobel Peace Prize winners have been Muslims; one for fighting poverty in Bangladesh, one for disarming nuclear weapons and Shrin Ebadi, the Iranian Muslim human rights lawyer valiantly fighting for the rights of women worldwide.

But more important than Nobel Peace Prizes, Muslim culture has brought crunchy falafel, henna tattoos and yummy hummus to our American shores.

But all because of one terrorist cave-dweller, 1400 years of Pan-Islamic cultural and societal progress goes down the drain.

Thanks a lot, Osama…

Your ‘Gandhi X’ has also been cast in an upcoming Leonardo DiCaprio Hollywood spy movie thriller (Body of Lies with Russell Crowe) and has also emerged victorious at The Doha Debates in front of 300 million BBC World television viewers.

Honoring the fact that two Nobel Peace Prize winners and an American president (Bill Clinton) had also previously graced that same stage in Doha; this Muslim pacifist used that same global stage to call for the complete eradication of every form of global racism in the world, including Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.

Black. White. Muslim. Jew. It doesn’t matter. It’s all wrong.

Nonetheless, I still get called a 'terrorist' by knucklehead racists because of my unabashed love of Islam and am still called a Muslim 'hippy' by knucklehead extremists for my unabashed platform of peace.

Well, since Islam means 'peace' anyway, I shall proudly wear the 'Islamic Peacenik' label as a badge of honor. Because with such seething hatred in the world today, the only thing that anyone can condemn me for is my seething love.

As the Religious Lefty or whatever other silly names Osama and Coulter can conjure in their puny little brains; this Islamic pacifist will continue to reclusively perch atop the shadowy rooftops of the world somberly awaiting the next global light beacon from the Muslim Bat-Signal in the form of silly Danish cartoons, ungodly acts of terrorism or diplomatic calls for reconciliation.

In explaining the utter human simplicity of my global pacifism, we should be reminded of the sage words of Albert Einstein: “My pacifism is an instinctive feeling; a feeling that possesses me because the murder of men is disgusting…My attitude is not derived from any intellectual theory but is based on my deepest antipathy to every kind of cruelty and hatred…”

It should be no secret that our world is in darkness tonight. A pacifist Mozart to every racist Salieri out there, by successfully turning the world into a United Colors of Benetton advertisement, we can ensure that the only thing that all the beautiful babies of the world will ever need to worry about is filling their cute tummies, pooping in their smelly diapers and deciding which color Nerf ball to play with today.

Alas, everyone on all sides should now lay down their bombs and/or water-boards for one moment and contemplate whether we collectively wish to take a path towards perpetual war or coexistent peace and align ourselves with devilish racist warmongers or choose to be on the side of loving warrior angels.

Until that wondrous day when racist warmongers worldwide are overcome with the righteous ferocity of global peacemakers, this Islamic Pacifist welcomes one and all to our globally-warmed Sherwood Forest as our merry band of billion pacifist believers continue to gently comfort the afflicted, ruthlessly afflict the comfortable and lovingly wonder if God will ever forgive us for what we have done to each other.

soundoff (244 Responses)
  1. David Derby

    Thank you Mr. Iftikar for writing this article and thank you CNN for publishing it.

    It's too easy to make collective statements and classify people on the basis of race, religion, etc.

    The world needs to see Muslims (and everyone else) as people (for those of us who are religious, children of God) first and everything else second. As a Christian pacifist, I could never understand those of my religion who so quickly neglected their teachings and readily disparaged Muslims as a group, rather than speaking about individuals who had committed a crime by attacking the U.S.

    The fact is that most people, when they meet can find good in each other and common interests. As you said, we need to discuss our problems rather than fight over them.

    And by the way, my favorite delicatessen is owned by a Muslim family. They're normal people, just like me (and you and most others). I just wish everyone who groups Muslims into a prejudicial collective could meet them.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:47 pm |
  2. George

    Thank you for your article. The insecure people of every religion will continue to be unable to act in the best interest of themselves or others. I pray that all of us who are secure in our spirituality will actually demonstrate love in our relationships a way of living that works. Sometimes our selfishness and violence is part of a much more systemic battle plan. My religion could end much of the suffering in the world by living well at at lower level and sharing. If we did it, the violent fundamentalists would look absurd. Maybe I'll skip Starbucks and send something to ....

    September 11, 2008 at 12:47 pm |
  3. Jcspring

    All religions have their share of violent fanatics. Religion is predicated on the acceptance of irrational belief; any culture that takes this as a norm is bound to go through periods were violence motivated by faith is not only acceptable but encouraged.

    I am sorry that you feel your religion was hijacked by violent extremists. I feel like my species has been hijacked by religious nuts, many are violent, all are dangerous.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:47 pm |
  4. Grant

    Very moving commentary. However, I see significant problems with the fact that the Muslim leadership in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elswhere has failed to loudly and collectively condenm the use of suicide bobmers – especially the use of young women and children aswe have seen in Pakistan, Iraq, and Israel. This failure does not speak well for institutional Islam. Instead we see instances of Imams and Aytollahs applauding this barbaric behavior.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  5. Marge

    God made man.

    Man made religion!

    September 11, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  6. Chase

    Most religions today are out of control vehicles for hate, so I do not look at the Muslim religion any different today than I did in 1999.
    I grew up in the South and know that you don’t have to be blowing up buildings to be terrorist, anyone been to a Baptist church? Anyone heard of fallwell and others like him?
    These are the ones to be afraid of because they destroy through brain washing using terms like ‘Family Values’ and ‘Freedom’.
    Tearing the country apart this way is no better than the 2001 attacks by those cowards.

    God bless and God save me from your “good” people

    September 11, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  7. Mohamed

    American Muslims, and Muslims around the world have been condemning violence and terrorism from well before 9/11. Organizations, mosques, and communities world wide have been clear that they will not accept it. Why has it continually fallen upon deaf ears? Why is it that the press releases condemning acts of violence are rarely picked up on by the TV stations and newspapers?

    I've never characterized my Christian friends as terrorists because of the acts of the KKK or other white supremacist organizations... I don't say that white males are more susceptible to white collar crimes... so why is it said that Islam is inherently violent and Muslims are more susceptible to hatred. It's just not true.

    Are there issues in Islam? Absolutely – as in any faith. Are there violent people out there? Absolutely – as in any faith. Ken Lay, Eric Robert Rudolph, and Timothy McVeigh don't represent their religions – despite some pretty horrid acts – so why do we assume that all Muslims are like that jackass Bin-Laden.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Ish

    Great article! Thanks so much. This made my day!


    Do you even know any Muslims? It's astonishing that after reading such an informative article, you still felt compelled to GENERALIZE Muslims.

    Peace and Love to ALL Mankind!

    September 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  9. Fatimah

    Salam and thank you for this article. I see a lot of people raising the question as to why they don't see a lot of muslims standing against injustice or terrorism. Hello, muslims worldwide have done this and still do it every day! Just because the media doesnt wanna portray those muslims doesn't mean they don't exist. See, the media chooses to display what they want to display so they can manipulate the viewers. They will not show any knowledgeable muslim on an interfaith debate, let alone show someone who knows something about Islam! You want to know how muslims feel, go and ask muslims, don't let FOX or CNN tell you how muslims feel. You want to ask a muslim woman how she feels, please have a conversation with a muslim woman and ask her about how she feels about her religion, don't let Barbara Walters tell you about how a muslim woman feels! Islam is a religion of peace. I am a muslim woman and I love Islam, it has given us women so much freedom, peace and a voice when noone wanted to listen! Please do not hijack my beautiful religion, I want it back!

    September 11, 2008 at 12:45 pm |
  10. Aluster Farmer

    Bravo! My thanks and appreciation to the author. This spring I vacationed in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. It was perhaps the most rewarding time of my adult life. I was unaware of how ignorant I was in regards to Islam, it's origins, and the true teachings. My heart and mind were opened to a greater love, respect, and understanding of my Muslim brothers and sisters. I wish you Peave, Love and Knowledge.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:44 pm |
  11. Farva Shah

    An excellent article. Thanks for expressing the views of myself and all the other muslims I know on a platform like CNN. Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, of tolerance and patience. Anyone who reads this beautiful book will find peace and solace and answers to how and why this world was created. The number of times that sea and land is mentioned in the Quran is equivalent to the exact ratio (percentage) of sea and land on earth. This is an example of the genius in this book. Unfortunately, a sect of misguided people have given our religion an image which has nothing to do with Islam. But you are right, Islam will prove it's beauty in the end.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:43 pm |
  12. Bev C Town of Tonawanda, NY

    If only more Muslims like yourself would speak out . . .

    September 11, 2008 at 12:43 pm |
  13. PhillyPretzel

    You write well and are very brave. Unfortunately, were you to have written this in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or other parts of the Muslim world, you would be risking jail, or perhaps your life.

    Wherefore the Muslim Pacifists? Are they hiding behind those who cheered the attackers on 9/11? Protesting intentional attacks on civilians justified by religio-politic reasons? Challenging those who continue to make excuses and place blame on others? Condemning teaching children to hate and become martyrs (e.g. see Hamas TV)?

    Find them – show them to me. I will stand beside them.

    By the way, Algebra was not invented by a Muslim, but yes Muslims contributed to a field predating Islam.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm |
  14. NS

    BEAUTIFUL. And for everyone who finds this viewpoint refreshing and issurprised by the lack of it in the media I would say that it is just that, a lack of media exposure. In the Muslim, Middle Eastern, or Arab community, this is not a novel viewpoint. This is how the majority of us view Islamist Extremism. That story just doesn't get as much attention or coverage. Extremely frustrating. And sadly, the media is such a powerful thing in America, that if it's not being covered it's almost as if it doesn't exist.

    commentor Richard: Put down the confederate flag and read a book please.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm |
  15. Yousaf Hassan

    As an American Muslim who is also in the U.S. Army I applaud you for the beautiful article. I love my country of U.S. more anything and I beleive we all need to take a stand to protect the freedom and the rights that it has granted us. I am sick and tired of the media painting all Muslims in a negative way and I hope that the media will pay more attention to people like you. Thank you

    September 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm |
  16. L.B. in OK

    But all because of one terrorist cave-dweller, 1400 years of Pan-Islamic cultural and societal progress goes down the drain.

    Not quite true. "One terrorist cave-dweller" who put into practice the teachings of your infamous "prophet," who stated:

    "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah ... if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me ..."
    Sahih Bukhari V4, B52, No.196

    Also, Islam does not mean "peace," it means "submission."

    September 11, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  17. AA from Koker

    Excellent article Arsalan. Loved reading it. Like others have said, mainstream media needs to pick up on this article, and others like this and show the world that there are people who are standing up for whats right.
    Bravo to you for writing this, and bravo to CNN for posting it.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  18. Haris

    A very strong article written on 9/11 2008. As accustomed, much heat is bashed upon the Muslims of America or those from around the globe. So unlike the years before. I decided to turn the table and question my self as an American that after 7 years what have we learned as a nation. It is evident that no progress has been made to over come the forces of Evil ie Osama & his gang of murderers (& i wont use the word Jihadist or Islamist because these group of term are an Oxymoron to one another).

    We tend to negate the fact that for us 9/11 has become a mere symbol of delusional unity that begins on the 1st hour of 9/11 year after year and ends at the 24th hour. But for fellow human beings all across the globe, 9/11 is not limited to a single day rather its 365 days out of the calender year after year. Be it in the face of act of terrorism, hunger & death from starvation or death in the face of a war. Simple put death is death and for a loved one to lose a loved one, every day is 9/11.

    After 7 years of War & lack of diplomacy our achievements have been nil. Though many Gov still stand behind our President to show there solidarity there respected citizens don't. Our ratings globally have diminished not only that of our president but as a nation.

    After 7 years of war, we are more venerable of getting attacked and our common enemy has only grown stronger and the echoes of worry have now finally reached the Pentagon it self.

    To cut it short, its time that we can American should sit back, on this day of sadness & sorrow and question our self's, Question that have we been marching on the right path in the right direction or have we played into the hands of warmongers or fear mongers & terrorist who are stripping us of of our intellect and power to use logic & reason. For long my patriotism as an American Muslims has been questioned but it is time that we question our patriotism as a nation and say Enough!

    "we will spend our lives serenely hijacking it (Islam) back" & that we will!

    God Bless American & the Ummah.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:35 pm |
  19. Desmond Jones

    I appreciate the sentiment, but the truth is that most Muslims hate Western cultures and societies. It is also true that there is no such thing as Muslim pacifism. Yes, there might be notable exceptions, but the Majority of Muslims around the world applauded the 9/11 attacks, and they overwhelmingly still support al-Qaeda's methods and goals.

    I work with many good Muslims every day, and I have great relationships with them, and on a personal level they are no different from anyone else. But when we get around to talking about politics, the hatred for the US, the hatred for anything Western, the justification of violence means, all those are unanimous.

    Yes, all religions wend through violent phases. Yes, history is laden with religious violence. But today, on 9/11/2008, it is the Muslim masses around the world who feed, arm, and support violent Islamic extremism.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:35 pm |
  20. Klearwater

    Thank you, I am humbled by your wisdom and remain hopeful that the collective conciousness of people like yourself will one day reclaim the country to a "for the people by the people" status.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:34 pm |
  21. Al D.

    Straight out, after 9/11, I realized god was a silly and childish notion. Why, what caused that reaction? When I heard people who escaped the buliding say that "god was with them" or "god helped them out"...that's when I realized god was a childs concept ...What he just said to hell w/ all those other people??? Rediculous. Why would he help you (those that got out) and not those other people? You are somehow better more fitting to live....nonsense...it didn't matter if you were the most religious god fearing person on the planet, a priest , a nun, an imam; if you were above where those planes struck you were dead, god or no. That was the only criteria. Well you could say, "maybe it was just their time." Well then it could be any of our "times" at any moment, so what does it benefit me to believe...there is no benefit and no god watching over.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  22. Drury Armistead

    A breath of fresh air. The climate in the US is such that one is almost afraid to talk of "peace" and "tolerance". Religion is a dangerous thing....it allows groups of "us" to form and therefore creates "them". The evolution of our collective soul depends on seeing us and them as the same.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  23. Kulture Kritic

    Ahem Ahem. Excuse me. I think is you who have hijacked Islam.

    In your article I see references to a lot of peaceful people, from Gandhi to Lennon but, If you wanted to effectively back the claim that Islam can peacefully coexist with other religions without dominating them or taxing them; why don't you quote from the Koran? I don't want interpretations by wetern-liberal Muslim scholars. I want a verse that says that you can live with people from other faiths without coercive taxation or outright domination. Then I will believe you. Oh yeah, there is no such verse.

    You live in denial of the fundamental tenets of your religion; It appears that every religion and ideology that comes in contact with the politically correctness of the American culture dilutes overtime. But when articles like this one are written they offend intellectual people like me who read and understand instead of watching regurgitated information on the TV.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  24. Hassan

    I totally agree 9/11 has hijacked Islamic religion, who ever did those atrocities are enemies of man. They dont belong to any religion. Muslims are not different from any other group ,they are also humble hard working people, love peace and harmony. What we see in middle east is violence against long lasting occupancy and double standard policies. We cant equate them only muslims and portray them as only attitudes of muslims in the globe.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:32 pm |
  25. Cris

    I was very moved by what you have written. It is sad that more people won't be reading your words. It is difficult enough to raise children in this world and teach them to love everyone, and the events on 9/11 certainly made it more challenging. I will share your words with my children so that they too can see that ultimately we all just want the same thing, understanding of what makes us different. Thank you.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:31 pm |
  26. jennifer

    As someone who has had the great priviledge of knowing many people from all over the world and many different religions, you have stated something I already knew. No matter what religion or ethnicity people are all fundementally the same, they all want to live their lives in peace.

    To Richard, I cannot share your xenophobic and bigoted beliefs. Christianity in it's 2,000 years has done more harm than islam ever has. You don't believe me ask the native peoples of the americas or all the descentants of people killed during the spanish inquisition or better yet the descendants of slaves bible thumping preachers of the 1840's said it was allowed in the bible to keep other people in chains.
    So we did not slam an aircraft full of people into a building, Islam did not do that , hate did.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:31 pm |
  27. mat

    Hard to believe you are an islamic pacifist when you worked for cair, an organization that to this day still refuses to acknowledge that hamas and hezbollah are terrorist groups. That seems to be the problem today. To many muslims are against terrorism, or they say they are, but their view of who is a terrorist and who isn't a terrorist is not the same as non muslims.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:30 pm |
  28. Siddharth

    Wonderful to read a true heartbreak of a pious Muslim. As a devout Hindu, I feel we all are in the same boat. Take any religion for that reason. All of them have been hijacked by those who tremedously PROFIT from that. Profit may be in form of money or power, but ALL THE RELEGIONS OF WORLD have been hijacked. Those who are profiting from religion have distorted all possible HOLY BOOKS and have created their own version to benefit their cause. It is upto the CURRENT survivors (mentally) to fight and take their religions back. To start with, each and every religious person has to read and try to understand about his/her religion AND NOT ACCEPT THE VERSION forwarded by the so called religious authorities.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  29. Frank

    We shouldn't be surprised about the condition that our world is in. One of the basic military concepts is that if you're enemy is divided he is more easily conquered. How many countries are there in the world? About 195. Within those countries how many races are there? How many religions? Social classes? How many other categories can someone come up with to show how much we are divided from each other that I simply don't have the time, or space to list. I am a Christian and would like to offer some food for thought. In Matthew 4:1-10 Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and do just one act of worship to him. The apostle John described the entire world as lying in the power of the wicked one. 1 John 5:19. I know there are many Muslims, Jews, Budhists out there and people of other religions that don't read the Bible however I think we can all agree we certainly stand divided. What's next?.....

    September 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
  30. Dave

    I appreciate your stance but i dont beleive this is the majorty view in the Islamic world. I agree with all the great things Islam has contributed but the followers of this religion are at cross roads. Look ate the armed struggules in the world right now. It is not just one guy "Osama " who is the culprit.Look at the terrorists in India,Pakisthan,Chechenya,Xiang province in China,Algeria,Phillipines etc. There is a fundamental problem of illitracy and milatant thinking in many muslim enclaves. They refuse to assimlate in the country they are in and cuase a lot of problems. If they are 10% or less the country there is a victim of civil unrest and terrorism. If they are 15% or more there is out right Civil war. Look at all the conflicts going on right now. More than 70% of the time there is a muslim on one end or both ends of the conflict.Islam as a religion may be peacfull but its followers for the most part are not. Who do the muslims live in peace with? JEWS? HINDUS?CHRISTIANS?BUDDHISTS? Who ? I have livied in predomnently islamic areas. You come to the United States and demand freedom but go to a Muslim country and try for any sort of freedom. You get none. So please spare me the "Muslims are Peacfull or muslims are Victims act". While a minorty are peacefull the majority are miltants or sympathisers of miltents.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:25 pm |
  31. Khalid

    You hit the nail on the head.
    Our religion and country were hijacked on this infamous day.
    We may think otherwise but there are many in fact the majority of Muslims I know that were totally aghast at the events of 9/11.
    We could have used the goodwill that was generated after this to come together to defeat the perpetrators but, unfortunately, all of it was wasted and there was a counter-effect after our invasions abroad.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:24 pm |
  32. Barrie O. Ward The Canadian Geezer

    While wandering the www it is most heartening to come across such a finely crafted article .... and that it was posted on this date makes it ever more significant .... Thank You!

    September 11, 2008 at 12:24 pm |
  33. bob puharic

    I don't think the 9/11 Islamists hijacked Islam at all. They were, and are, a small, but a very real part of Islam. It makes no more sense to say they 'hijacked' Islam than it does to say the Amish aren't Christians because they make up such a small part of that religion.

    Islamist fanaticism, like Christian fundamentalism, is a worldwide phenomenon. Every Muslim country has Islamists. Having just returned from a trip to Malaysia, I've personally seen what happens when a religion becomes established by the state. It's not pretty. (And yes, I did have a dicussion with a moderate Muslim who thought the WTC attacks were done by the US govt.)

    Unless and until both Christians and Muslims deal with the problem of fundamentalism in their midst, these ideologies will continue to exist, threatening us all.

    Denying they exist will not solve the problem. The courageous among those religious traditions will confront the fanatics. They have not yet done so.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  34. James

    I loved reading this, my only problem is why hasn't the general muslimcommunity had an uproar about this? Why haven't religious leaders spoken out against the terrorists and govern themselves?

    That is my problem with all of this, all the killing, and blood, and hardly any large displays of intolerance by Muslims. If it were terrorists doing this in the name of Christianity I can guarantee the pope and people would be in the streets with signs either stating to stop, or disclaiming that these people are even christian. I don't see Muslims fighting for their religion other than bombs and rocket propelled grenades.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  35. Ken

    Religion is *always* hijacked by political groups to meet political goals. Suni vs Shia, Protestants vs Catholics, etc. It has very little to do with religion, religion is just the stated reason for the conflict. Similarly, do you really think Neo-cons are that against gays, abortion, etc? Of course not, it's just a way to motivate people to do what they want.

    Power-hungry people will say whatever it takes to get what they want done, even (or perhaps especially) if it means being a demagogue. Religion is an easy stick with which to prod people.

    Anyway, I totally agree. Extremists does not a religion make.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  36. T Ott

    Thank you for this well writen piece. I truly appreciate your point of view and hope it will inspire those close minded individuals that believe all Islamist are extremists to see the light. Now the only thing I can fault Muslims for is inventing algebra – I am terrible at math!! Kidding! Thanks again!

    September 11, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  37. Ttravis

    I believe what is needed is more public show of unity on the Muslim front. At this point, the average American is lost in the "Violence of Islam." We are being fed what ISN'T main stream, but a consistent douse of terrorist attacks, honor killings all IN the name of Muslim beliefs sure makes it seem like this is "all these people do." We need more of your Sir, to publicly voice and condemn. Sure peace is great....but being silent isnt going to get it done. I think a showing of unity, a showing of common beliefs, a showing of peace (publicly), speeches etc is needed.

    Take for example African Americans. There has been alot of progress, to where they are today. Unity,....public reform from within the black community. From within they unified and stood as one. Currently as it seems, the followers of Islam, are shattered fragments. You have extremist publicy bombarding airwaves, and TV, but few voicing peace (or a small voice). We need someone to stand up and take the reins much like MLK did, and show us, show the average American how peace is the way.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  38. atheist

    As an atheist, I view the unquestioning faith in ancient religious tenants (i.e. religion) as the problem. As a realist, I know that religion is not going away any time soon, so I will settle for increased maturity. This article points us in that direction. Peace.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  39. Madhu

    That was inordinately articulate and heart felt. To peace, love and happiness.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  40. Bill

    You can cherry-pick any religious book and find exhortations to follow a peaceful path. As a whole, all the Abrahamic faiths encourage oppression, torture, and death to "outsiders." Take the high road: reject religion and embrace rationality.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  41. Brad

    To the athiest, why do you care? If you don't believe in God, then what does it matter to you when others do?

    If you understand religion, it is the calling of God to bring people to him. If you don't belive in God, why don't you kill people? Is it the little voice inside that says its wrong? That is God! God brings that moral standard to you. Animals kill without remorse because they have no soul, that is the same as humans that kill without remorse.

    Where does the athiest get a soul?

    September 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  42. Heather

    Amazing article...I too hope that the world could stop for a moment and realize the wars will be never ending if we don't learn to coexist.

    Good Luck in your future...I hope you continue to spread understanding successfully.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  43. Peter

    You know, I agree with the purpose of this article, but why does there have to be jabs at republicans?? I didn't see any reason to throw politics into this when you're talking about the hijacking of your religion. I support muslims fully, but likening Dick Cheney and Anne Coulter to Osama bin Laden was a cowardice stab.

    Other than those few stabs, this was a well-written, heart-felt piece. Goodluck in your effort.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  44. Josh

    Craig, well said, I agree we all must pursue peace. Just to be accurate to the Truth however, it must be noted while Constantine probably promoted Christianity for political gain, he is not recognized as a religious leader in that religion, but a political one. And yes, if he was in fact a Christian, he did lead many others to do some terrible things. This was again the case with the Crusades. It is unfounded to argue, however, that their actions in any way reflect the example and words of Christ; which is what Bin Laden et al. DO argue as far as it concerns Muhammed's example of violence.

    And Peter Franklin, sadly your goal is noble, but your means would be unjust. Some of the greatest tools to unite Humanity come through religion, as well as some of the most inspired acts of art and governing. You cannot deny that the rights we enjoy and the nation we dwell in were not in part a result of the religious convictions of those who fought to see them realized. A world without religion is not the goal, neither is a world with unconfronted evil (reference Hitler going largely unchallenged by other powers in the beginning of his Holocaust against the Jews.) A world free from unjustified violence and killing (especially to promote your specific religion or worldview through force) is the goal we are striving for. Govt. sponsored atheism, and the "rationality"/enlightenment/hegemony you think would follow, is nothing more than tyranny and injustice in another form.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
  45. jack2

    Muslim moderates exist on in the west.
    Whats the point in trying to convince me that the rest of the muslims hate violence.
    I'm from India- and I see Islamic terrorism in the Kashmir valley being supported by the 'everday muslim' in India. Muslims have got themselves into a corner by years of ignorance and violence. They have ended up in poverty and strife and now believe they are the victim. Victim of what? the west? the Hindus and jews?
    Look at the rampants human rights abuse in muslim nations, the corruption, the lack of respect for human lives and the way they treat women.
    Dave Chapelle and Mohammed Ali were muslim? Is that such a good thing-look at the statistics-more black in prisons convert to islam. obviously the find solace in a religon which matches their perception of the world.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
  46. Bev Meslo

    I share in the sorrow felt not just in America but around the world for the loss of so many innocent lives. I truly believe my American neighbours when they speak of freedom, of individual rights, of world peace. I am confounded and frustrated by their continued support for a president, an ideology, a party that continues to speak of freedom, individual rights and peace while it strips Americans of those rights in an unparalleled way and continues to destroy the homes and lives of others in the name of freedom and peace. Why would they re elect a party that impales their freedoms at home and curtails the freedoms of others. If military rule is held in such disdain by Americans that Cuba, Venezuela, and China are ridiculed would they insist on electing the very military complex they argue against?

    September 11, 2008 at 12:19 pm |
  47. Taylor Banaszak

    Unfortunately the bad apples are usually also the loudest, get the most attention and therefore befall the entire group which they are often the fringe of...with the labels of their craziness. The religious right get labeled by the Jerry Falwells and James Dobsons of the world, the Muslims get labeled by the terrorists, pro-lifers get labeled by the morons who bomb abortion clinics, animal rights advocated get labeled by the idiots who blow up laboratories, etc. The truth is the normal, sane, everyday middle of the road people who may have opinions on one side of the road or the other get swept away in the irrational and extreme side of the argument they represent. Until we all learn to be able to point out and denounce those in our own particular groups that are extreme...our differences will never be reconciled with the oppositions.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:18 pm |
  48. Christie

    Spectacular piece!

    In response to the several comments along the lines of "Why aren't there more Muslims speaking out like this in the media?" Um, our media isn't exactly free of bias. What makes better press– the endless stories of war-mongering battle words (Bush, Cheney, etc...) or peace-loving Muslims talking about the real Islam? Which would Americans have believed in the early days after 9-11 when they were terrified and seeking vengeance? Those voices WERE there (I remember them), they just got swamped out by all the hatred. And then slowly we descended into a deepening state of distrust and paranoia towards ANY Muslim who dared to speak out and say this was not the real Islam. Or any Muslim, period. This has to stop.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  49. Paul in Miami

    Not only hijacked, but dragged trough the mud. The sad part is that some non violent muslims secretly agree with all this crap! Yes the USA deserved it yada yada yada. Its OK to blow yourself and kill innocent people yada yada yada. All in the name of islam yada yada yada. Enough of this crap! You either join the modern world or wallop in sand. I would be very upset about this if I were muslim.

    September 11, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  50. MKS, Georgia

    Thank you for bringing this perspective. Like other readers, I agree that it's a shame the media does not focus on the millions and millions but on the one or two that give a group a bad name. Unfortunately, it's not just Muslim. Look at the Catholic Church (which I belong). Instead of focusing on the positive things the church has done for many years in many countries, the media targets those that, somehow, manage to give the entire religion a bad name and provide a punch line in a comedy bit. Stereotypes have got to stop; they are ruining us all! Not all Southerners are ignorant, not all Northerners are rude, not all Catholics are child molesters and not all Muslims are terrorists. Peace to all!

    September 11, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
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