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AFTERMATH OF THE 9-11 TERRORIST ATTACK

PLEAS FROM LEADERS TO RESPECT ARABS AND MUSLIMS IN AMERICA

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Overview:

As this essay is being updated, some nine days after the tragedy, a small minority of Americans and Canadians have lowered themselves towards the level of the perpetrators of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. They have attacked innocent Americans and Canadians out of anger and hatred, solely because their victims happen to be Muslims or Arabs -- or because they are Sikhs, Hindus, or appear to be of Middle Eastern origin.

Frank T Griswold III, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Communion (Episcopal) issued a news release in which he shared several thoughts about Islam and Muslims:

bulletIslam at its essence is a way of life predicated on submission to God (who is compassionate and merciful), faith, and the doing of what is beautiful; doing the horrific is NOT Islamic;
bullet"Islam" and "Muslim" come from the same linguistic root as the Arabic word for peace. At its heart, Islam is a religion of peace, and in Islam, the standard greeting is "Peace be upon you;"
bulletThe Qur'an says: "Never allow the hatred of any people prevent you from treating them justly." There is no place in Islam for suicide or for violence against innocents;
bulletNot all Arabs are Muslims;
bulletNot all Muslims are Arabs;
bulletMost Muslims do not wear turbans; Sikhs (who often wear turbans) are not Muslims;
bulletSikhs are monotheists for whom outreach to the community in which they hold worship is part of worship itself.
bulletAmerican Muslims, Arabs, and Sikhs are suffering what they call double anguish at this time: the heart-wrenching pain of the loss of loved-ones coupled with the deep hurt brought by finding themselves the victims of generalized blame through ignorance and stereotyping. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," but to love our neighbor we must know our neighbor. We would urge you to take new (or renewed) steps toward interfaith and intercultural education. 5

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Quotations from government leaders:

bullet"We must be mindful [that]...we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve...Our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab-Americans who live in New York who love their flag just as much as the three of us," President Bush, (R) in a conversation with the mayor of New York City and the Governor of New York, on 2001-SEP-13 1
bullet"These [acts of reprisals against Muslims] have no place in Canada, no place in Canada or any civilized nation. They have made me feel shame as Prime minister....I call on our police and courts to apply the full force of our laws against them...We are all Canadians. We stand together as one against this evil. We grieve together as a family, as one nation. We defy the twisted philosophy of the terrorists and, shoulder to shoulder, we will pursue the struggle for justice." Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, 2001-SEP-21 while visiting the largest mosque in Ottawa, ON, Canada. 7
bullet"No religious or ethnic group in our diverse society -- including Arab Americans and Muslim Americans should be made to suffer because of fanatics half a world away. Americans should channel their anger into good works for others, not to acts of prejudice and hatred directed at other Americans." Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)
bullet"We will also do all we can to protect the rights that make America such a special place. We will not adopt the characteristics of those who attack us. If we begin to compromise the civil liberties of our citizens, the terrorists will have won. In light of these traumatic events, I've heard reports of Americans who have attacked other Americans simply because of their race, ethnicity, religion or clothes. These attacks must stop. This is not a war against Islam. It is against terror. Those who did this are murderers, not martyrs. They cannot get to heaven by unleashing hell. The American Muslim community has said this loudly and repeatedly. Just as terror is not Islam, we must say to anyone who would lash out against Muslims this is not America..." Dick Gephardt (D-House minority leader)
bullet"The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are not representative of the vast majority or [sic] Arabs or Moslems in the United States...We cannot allow anger at this horrible act to lead us to hate or discriminate against innocent individuals who happen to be of Middle Eastern descent. Terror has no regard for religion or ethnicity. If we attack the innocent simply because of their ethnic status, we are no better than the terrorists who attacked us." Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)
bullet"All Americans -- Christians, Muslims and Jews -- condemn this vicious act of cowardice. This is a time for all Americans to pull together and support each other. These acts seek to divide us - we must not allow that to happen." Representative David Bonior (D-MI).
bullet"...it is wrong and irresponsible to jump to conclusions and make false accusations against Arabs and Muslims in our communities. Above all, we must guard against any acts of violence based on such bigotry. Please do your part in defending America's rich religious and ethnic diversity." Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
bullet"During this period of appalling pain for the American people, for the people of the entire world, as we absorb the shock and injustice of these acts -- the Pentagon and the ashes of the World Trade Center now crime scenes -- we resolve to apply our values as Americans as we seek justice. Even as national authorities focus on suspected individuals and organizations, we must not hurt or terrorize Americans of Arab Descent or Islamic faith. We, as Americans, proudly enshrine and practice justice and not vengeance, liberty and not racism and stereotyping."  Governor Gary Locke (D-WA). Governor Locke is the first state governor of Chinese ancestry. 2
bulletMembers of parliament in Canada unanimously passed a motion sponsored by the socialist New Democratic Party. It asked political, community, and religious leaders across the country to speak out against intolerance directed at Muslims, Arabs and other visible minorities.
bullet"The spirit behind this holiday is a reminder that Islam brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people worldwide. Islam affirms God's justice and insists on man's moral responsibility. This holiday is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind." President Bush, while visited the Islamic Center of Washington on 2002-DEC-5 to celebrate the end of Islam's holy month of Ramadan. 10

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Quotations from religious leaders and organizations:

bullet"America as a beacon light of freedom has called many nationalities, many races, many ethnic groups to these shores. Among these are Arabs and Asians, many of whom are Muslims who have come to this country, not to destroy it, but they’ve come to this country and they rejoice in the freedom that they enjoy to use their skills to make a better life for themselves and their children."

"They build their mosques and schools so that they can keep in touch with their religion and their culture, not to destroy America’s culture and her way of life. Most of these immigrant Muslims came to serve America, and you can find them in hospitals, in colleges, in universities, in research laboratories, and they are aiding in all aspects of American technology and scientific progress. Surely they love the countries of their birth, but they greatly love their adopted country, the United States of America. Though some of these perpetrators of this horrible crime may claim to be Muslims and are people that speak Arabic, the American people should not attack these good citizens and destroy their mosques or beat and harass them simply because of the evil that has been done by those who may profess the religion of Islam. This would only make you like the perpetrators of this crime, who attack the innocent because of their anger and their hatred." The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam, 2001-SEP-16, five days after the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. 6
bullet"...we call our leaders and all people of good will to resist the stereotyping of enemies that so often occurs in these types of situations...." News release by leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on the afternoon of 2001-SEP-11 -- the day of the New York city and Pentagon bombing.
bullet"We especially urge churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to join in prayer and practical help. We must stand united against the temptation to retaliate against innocent persons." News release on the morning of 2001-SEP-12 by The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
bullet"Remember also that Pearl Harbor led to the impounding and imprisonment of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans. There are Arab and Muslim communities in this country and around the world that grieve as we do, and fear as we do. I hope our congregations will reach out to those communities and stand with them. We must seek justice and, as our President says, to punish those responsible. But retribution will not create safety, nor move us toward justice. This tragedy tests our faith. Where is God in this? Where is the Spirit of Life? May our congregations be centers of support where we can bring our questions and our fears, where we can find the presence of the holy in our coming together." Rev. William G. Sinkford President, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. 9
bullet"As Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, we believe that it is vital amid so much anguish and suffering to nourish all that we hold in common and to resist all that would drive us apart." Joint statement by British leaders of many Christian faith groups who joined with Jewish and Muslim representatives. 2001-SEP-12.
bullet"I'm urging people not to play into the hands of the terrorists, not to act like them.'' Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
bullet"As people of faith, our God calls us to respond to the evil of a day such as this, not with vengeance and hate but with righteousness and even with love. It is our hope and prayer that the members of our respective communities remain committed witness to these core values, especially in this dark hour." Statement signed by the president and two directors of the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry in Chicago, IL.
bullet"I hope that people of faith will not be inclined toward a widespread anger against all people of Arabic descent or of the Muslim (descent). What we have seen on Tuesday is not a part of Islamic tradition. Every religion has its fanatics who do not adequately represent that faith. I hope we will be able to separate one from the other and not assume that every Muslim is a threat to us." Dr. Edward McLeod Jr., pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Sumter, SC. 4
bullet"...we need to remember that the population of our nation is very diverse, and in the heat of the moment, we should resist the temptation to prejudge individuals simply because of their nationality, or to presume the guilt of innocent persons." Dr. Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. 8
bullet"As Southern Baptists and Americans, we believe in protecting freedom of religion and freedom of conscience for each individual. This means that every American has the right to believe what he or she chooses and to practice those beliefs accordingly. While it is our earnest desire for every person to come into a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are committed to seek such decisions by the free choices of individuals and never through coercion or the force of law.

In the aftermath of a savage attack on our country by terrorists who practiced a perverted version of a religion, it remains important for us to protect the God-given rights of all Americans. In our pluralistic society, we simply must respect those who believe differently than we do. It is especially crucial at this time that we treat Americans of Arab descent or of the Muslim religion with decency and compassion.

Sadly, they too have been placed in the position of being victims by these evil acts of terrorism.

It is also consistent with our constitutional history and Baptist heritage that anyone who violates the rights of others, even in the name of religion, should be punished.
"  Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. 2001-SEP-26.

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Quotations from other groups:

bullet"Regardless of who is ultimately found to be responsible for these terrorist murders, no ethnic or religious community should be treated as suspect and collectively blamed.'' Statement from the Arab American Institute.
bullet"[Do not scapegoat entire ethnic and religious communities because of] our collective grief, anger and shock...We simply cannot do that. Muslims and Arabs are our co-workers and our customers - and they grieve over this tragedy as well.'' Don Carty, CEO of American Airlines. 3

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References:

  1. Taken from the web site of: Council on American-Islamic Relations at: http://www.cair-net.org/
  2. "Governor Gary Locke's remarks: Memorial tribute at Puyallup Fair Grounds," 2001-SEP-12. See: http://www.governor.wa.gov/speeches/
  3. Deborah Kong, "Arab-Americans fear backlash," Associated Press, at: http://us.news2.yimg.com/
  4. Sharyn Lucas-Parker, "Strength through belief: Local religious leaders say answers, guidance can be found in faith," at: http://www.theitem.com/CityDesk/010916a_news.html
  5. Frank T Griswold III, "Interfaith matters in the aftermath of the events of 11 September," ACNSlist #2704, Anglican Communion Office, London, UK. 2001-SEP-19.
  6. "World Press Conference from Mosque Maryam: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan responds to the ATTACK on AMERICA," Nation of Islam, at: http://www.noi.org/press-events/
  7. Tim Harper, "PM 'shamed' by hate crimes against Muslims in Canada," Toronto Star, 2001-SEP-22, Page A9.
  8. Dr. Morris H. Chapman, "Pray for our nation during this time of crisis," Southern Baptist Convention,  http://www.sbcpray.net/urgentprayer.asp
  9. "An open letter from Rev. William G. Sinkford President, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations," at: http://www.uua.org/news/91101/sinkford.html
  10. Bill Straub, "Bush, evangelists in war of words over Islam," Scripps Howard News Service, 2002-DEC-5. Online at: http://www.knoxstudio.com/shns/

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Copyright © 2001 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-SEP-12
Latest update: 2002-DEC-7
Author: B.A. Robinson

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