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September 22, 2001
Column #1047


     Three years ago, Osama bin Laden held up a Koran and condoned terrorist attacks on Americans: ''You cannot defeat the heretic with this book alone. You have to show them the fist.''

     The same attitude drove the terrorists who transformed commercial airliners into kamikaze bombs which destroyed the World Trade Center and set the Pentagon ablaze.

     However, Farzad Derwa of the Washington Islamic Center objects to calling them ''Muslim terrorists. Terror has no religion,'' he asserts. ''The Ku Klux Klan call themselves Christian, but an average man of faith does not believe they are.'' He also puts the Taliban, Muslim clerics who rule Afghanistan, in the same class as bin Laden. No other Muslim nation bans women from education.

     Believing Muslims do not drink. Yet a number of the men who have been identified as the terrorists who brought down three airplanes, frequented bars with strippers. One had been arrested for drunk driving.

     Many Americans are lashing out at American Muslims, or anyone who appears Arabic, as if all were terrorists. Anti-Muslim bigotry and violence is horrifying. In the week since September 11, two Muslim owners of small businesses have been killed as was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh owner of a gas station in Mesa, Arizona. His killer then went to a 7-ll and shot at two Lebanese. There have been 500 cases of reported violence.

     Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute in Washington, has had death threats. One caller said, ''Jim, you towel head. Death to every Arab!. We'll slit your throat and kill your children.'' 

     There is massive ignorance about these faith traditions. Test your own knowledge:

1. Is a Sikh, who wears a turban and a beard, a Muslim?

2. What percentage of Arab Americans are Muslim: 20 percent, 50 percent, 100 percent?

3. Is Islam a religion which honors terror, promising paradise to suicide bombers?

     Sikhs are not Muslims but a totally separate faith, the 5th largest world religion with 22 million members, most of whom live in India; 500,000 are in the U.S. ''We are a monotheistic religion, who believe, as do Christians, that there is only one God who was the creator of everything,'' said Sumeet Kaur, associate director of Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Taskforce.  ''We do not cut our hair and we were taught to cover our heads by our guru, as a way to identify Sikhs.''

     A remarkable 80 percent of 3.5 million Arab Americans, are Christian. The rest are Muslim. 

     President Bush, alarmed by the U.S. backlash against Muslims, invited a Muslim cleric to pray at the Interfaith Service at the National Cathedral on Friday. Bush also visited the Islamic Center on Monday and said, ''The American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday's attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world....These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that.''

     ''Let me quote from the Koran itself: `In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.' 

     ''The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war,'' said the President.

     Another quote from the Koran, which American Muslims are citing is from Sura (Chapter) 5, verse 32: ''If anyone slew a person - unless it be for would be as if he slew the whole people; And if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.''

     Professor Robert Douglas of Lincoln Christian Seminary in Lincoln, Ill., who spent 12 years as a missionary to Muslims in Lybia, Egypt and Lebanon agrees that Muslim terrorists are a minority in Islam. They cite a few verses justifying a Jihad, or holy war against unbelievers: ''Fight them and God will punish them by your hands.'' (Sura 9:14)

     He says that Muslims worship ''the same God we do but like the Jews are incomplete in their understanding of who God is because of their understanding of Jesus. Muslims believe there is one God, that He is creative, the sovereign Lord, all knowing, all powerful, merciful and compassionate who will call all humankind to judgement on the last day.''

     Bush's comments have deepened U.S. understanding of Muslims. Jim Zogby reports, ''We have had an unsolicited outpouring of support. Our e-mails are running 10-1 in favor and sympathetic. I am humbled and gratified.''

Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.

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