If we consider the Islamic texts, their content and the devotion that so many Muslims - including in America - attach to them; if we consider the tragic upshot of these teachings in terms of our current world’s security, is it not a duty for each one of us to view Islam not frivolously but in a most serious manner?
There was an episode during the current Presidential election that greatly disturbed me. It was former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s interview on “Meet the Press.” For me this interview was a defining moment. He expressed his displeasure at some of his colleagues’ accusations that Obama might be a Muslim, and stated: “And what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim?”
Mr. Powell’s admonition at others who dare questioning Muslims, or Islam and its implications, in particular, people like me, who suffered immensely precisely because there is “something wrong with being a Muslim,” would indeed be disheartened. If Powell doesn’t understand what may be the dire consequences for being a Muslim, then who should understand? The man, who once held the post of American Secretary of State, asserts categorically that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim, even though the country he led has been suffering immensely from Muslim terrorism and has paid a high price because of it.
I appreciate that Powell, who has been nurtured by the American moral code, refuses to judge people on the basis of their religious affiliation. That is his right. But he does not have the right to nonchalantly disregard people’s apprehensions of Muslims, especially at those of us who have lived in Muslim countries. We have risked our lives to escape from them, and are now risking our lives again to speak up against the harm they cause, induced by Islamic theology and culture.
In order to understand my perspective one would have to be a woman, living in Syria, my birthplace, or any other Arab Muslim country.
Since immigrating to the United States more than five presidential elections ago, I always regarded American politics as a luxury that did not concern me. Living in the US was enough to satisfy me emotionally, physically and intellectually. Anything beyond that was more than I required.
I came to regard America’s might as much greater than any president that happened to be in power - Democratic or Republican. Hence, I assumed that any person, who attained the rank of presidential candidate, regardless of party affiliation, was capable of safely leading this great nation. Because of that, I never took the trouble to inquire which candidate was more worthy of victory; for me it was a mere toss-up.
However, the events of September 11th, 2001 stripped away my confidence. I began wondering how well Americans understand Political Islam - the underlying cause of this and other heinous attacks and how willing are we to probe into its ideology or comprehend its objectives. The events surrounding the most recent election have increased my doubts and my concerns for this country, which I love with all my heart.
So what is the problem? During and after the recent election, my fear for America was that Obama’s victory could breathe fresh life into the further rise of Islamism, including Islamic terrorism.
Islamists’ psychology is worlds apart from that of Westerners. They believe in absolute terms in their divine mission to submit the world to Islam. They are engaged in a constant search for divine meaning and inspiration - even in mundane matters.
First, there was Senator Obama’s Muslim background. It is well known that Mr. Obama was born to a Muslim father, spent part of his early life in Indonesia - a Muslim country - and attended a Muslim school there. Almost every day my inbox was flooded with e-mail rumors about Obama which reflected many American citizens’ fears regarding the Democratic candidate’s Muslim background.
But Mr. Obama reassured us that he is a Christian and that was enough to dispel the doubts I might have had about him being a Muslim. I let go of my fear for America should Obama win. For now, I regained my confidence in him.
However, Salafists interpret even daily events in a way that may not necessarily appear significant to Westerners. In this context some Islamists go so far as viewing the Islamic background of Obama as a heaven-sent confirmation of the first step in realizing the dream of submitting the West to Islam. The mere fact that American president bears a Muslim name like Hussein is enough to assure them that Islam is marching into America and has already infiltrated the White House.
Once, I was browsing through a website in Arabic and came across a news item announcing that the American actress Halle Berry gave birth to a daughter whom she named Nahla; an Arabic name meaning “bee”. I then read readers’ comments on this piece of news. A considerable number of them were jubilant, since they regarded this report as a God’s sign that Islam had begun to advance into America, because the word nahla is mentioned in the Koran.
As for Mr. Powell, does he understand that Islam is not just a religion but a political doctrine that seeks to impose itself on non-Muslims even by force? If he does, why should people not be doubtful?
This is not an Islamophobic prejudice I present. Muslims, like any other national group, can be either good or bad, and the best among them do not act in accordance with Islam’s political ideology, either because they are not familiar with it, or because they have deliberately progressed beyond it. But how are we to scrutinize the good from the bad when a high level political official like Mr. Powell undermines the questioning of any concerns related to this issue?
Certainly, Mr. Powell knows that Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, is most revered among Muslims. Does Mr. Powell realize that it is incumbent upon every devout Muslim male to emulate Muhammed’s ways? If so, has Mr. Powell studied the life of Muhammad as it is recounted in the original Arabic sources, as I learned it in my schooldays?
One particular part of the prophet’s historical account I studied in third grade at primary school. We read with pride how Muhammad beheaded eight hundred Jews from the Bani Quraiza tribe in one night, then took their wives and children hostage and spent that same night with a Jewish woman Safia, whose husband, father and brother he had just killed. This wretched story is only a drop in the ocean of numerous Arabic narratives written about Muhammad’s misconduct.
Moreover, according to Islam’s most revered jurists, a true Muslim must believe in Islam as both religion and a political entity. A committed Salafi Muslim does not recognize the American constitution. His willingness to live under that constitution is, as far as he is concerned, nothing more than an unavoidable step on the way to that constitution’s replacement by Islamic Sharia law.
The Koran states: “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends. They are friends with one another. Whoever of you seeks their friendship shall become one of their numbers. Allah does not guide the wrongdoers” (5:51). Is it legitimate for Christians and Jews to be concerned about this tenet?
American government officials must spend funds to interpret Arabic texts word for word, without distortion or falsification. Among other illuminating tenets they may find, is the concept of taqqia (literally, “caution, prudence, dissimulation”). It allows a Muslim to conceal his true cherished beliefs when he feels that non-Muslims around him have the upper hand, while at the same time working secretly to achieve his “noble” objective, so that he can attack them when the time is ripe.
Did Mr. Powell ever contemplate that what he heard from countless Muslims he met throughout his career was not necessarily what they truly meant?
I always considered Mr. Powell one of the giants of American politics. To me he was as majestic as the American eagle. But in that moment, sadly, I saw the eagle topple from its lofty peak and tumble down in front of me like a little sparrow; and with it tumbled many of my convictions.
After the events of September 11th, I watched a press conference with an American general whose name I can no longer recall. In the course of the conference, he shared that he had read the Koran twice. One of the reporters asked him, “What conclusion did you reach after you had read it?” He bowed his head for a moment before replying, “We have to defend ourselves.”
It is clear to me and many others who have lived in Islamic countries that a military man - a general - understood our perilous situation better than Mr. Powell - a politician - who held a high level government position. Had Mr. Powell done any thorough research into the study of Islam, as the general did, he may also have come to the conclusion that his question, “What’s wrong with being a Muslim?” was indeed unwarranted.