Friday, May 8, 2009

Only Muslims Can Save Muslims

Two days ago, at the gym, I bumped into my friend Raj. You may remember from my post of May 1, 2009- - -just one week ago- - that Raj is from Pakistan and is a devout Muslim who opposes the hardliners but is concerned his country will fall to the Taliban by the end of 2010 unless “something is done.” After the usual warm greeting and exchange of polite pleasantries with each other Raj got straight to the point. The events of the past week in that part of the world have done nothing to calm Raj’s fears. In fact he was more agitated than I’ve ever seen him and extremely concerned for his family in Karachi. Soon our casual meeting at the gym turned into a conversation I doubt either of us will ever forget.

As we started our cardio workout on the elliptical exercisers Raj said to me, “Hal, the situation in Pakistan gets worse by the day. The Taliban”, he continued, “have successfully convinced people in Pakistan the armed effort against them [the Taliban and other radicals] is strictly the work of the USA and the USA is waging a ‘War on Islam’ itself.” He went on to say even large elements of Pakistan’s Army believe this and therefore, “will not pick up arms to wage war on fellow Muslims.” “Somebody has to do something” he said, “or Pakistan will be lost for good and nuclear weapons will find their way into the hands of the Iranians as well as Osama bin Laden.” What he said next stunned me.

“Hal,” my friend said, “please get me in front of as many groups as you can . . . churches, Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce . . .anyplace where I can tell them the truth about what is going on in Pakistan and seek their help in stopping it.” Please note that in the previous sentence I purposefully emboldened the phrase “seek their help” for added emphasis and made the word “their” red to further stress who, in Raj’s thinking, had the ‘responsibility’ to get Pakistan out of this mess and keep control of the country in the hands of more moderate elements.

As we moved from cardio training to large muscle routines I explained to Raj that I could, in fact, get him in front of many of those kinds of groups but his message, while powerful, would amount to nothing more than preaching to the wrong congregation. “If you are ever going to be successful in trying to keep your country relatively free you need to preach your message in the Mosques in this country, not the Churches and Synagogues,” I told him. “If the Taliban has been successful in convincing Muslims that Christians and others are waging a ‘War on Islam’ and they, as fellow Muslims, must defend their brothers in Islam at all costs then, sending 10,000 American civilians like me to stand on every street corner in Islamabad passing out pamphlets in Arabic promising Pakistani Muslims there is no “War on Islam” but merely an armed struggle against totalitarianism would do no good - - -not because of the message but because of the messengers. No, Raj, if this battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan (and Afghanistan and Iran) is to be won it must be won by Muslims seeking to share the truth with fellow Muslims. But, until your people here and their representative organizations like CAIR (Counsel on American Islamic Relations) have the courage to speak up about their duties just as forcefully as they do about their rights- - -the radicals will get all the TV time from Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya and only their message will be heard and seen on TV in the middle east.” Now it was Raj’s turn to be stunned. We moved away from the equipment, stopped exercising and sat on a bench in a quiet corner. Then I explained.

I have lived in the Tampa Bay Area for almost 8 years now. Muslims in this area are represented and often “spoken for” by Mr. Ahmed Bedir, Director for the local chapter of CAIR (see above). I’ve never met Mr. Bedir but people I know who also know him tell me he is a decent guy trying to do right by the people he says he represents. Good enough. But, his public image is quite different and if he’s aware of it he doesn’t seem to care to change it. You see, every time- -yes, I mean every time- -I see Mr. Bedir on TV or read a story about CAIR in which he is heavily quoted it is always about a Muslim who has been discriminated against in some way, or a Muslim who has had his/her rights denied or a Muslim who has somehow been infringed upon, or a Muslim who is unwilling to assimilate to any degree at all and insists the larger culture accommodate him entirely- - - in short, a Muslim who is a victim due to some perceived short coming with the laws and the culture in the US.

I don’t think any fair-minded American wants anyone discriminated against or persecuted for their religious beliefs- -or even a total lack of religious beliefs like those pesky Atheists. It’s un-constitutional. It’s unfair. And it’s downright, out-and-out WRONG! But wouldn’t it be refreshing and confidence building to see a TV story with Mr. Bedir and his entire local membership talking about the duties (not just the rights) American Muslims have to their adopted country? How about film clips of American Muslims celebrating the 4th of July and honoring the nation’s Flag? And instead of TV stories of 500 angry Muslim cab-drivers in Minneapolis protesting the rules for carrying passengers (including those with seeing-eye dogs and those carrying unopened packages of liquor) and demanding foot-baths be installed at the airport, we were to see 10,000 Muslims marching on Washington DC in support of the US Constitution and its ‘Bill of Rights’? And when will I read a story in the local paper or Time or Newsweek magazine about Muslims assimilating into this country and its code of laws rather than insisting this country has to change its laws and customs in order to accommodate them?

When Mr. Bedir and his flock stop listening to the radicals, rowdies and resenters among them selves and start paying attention to the guys like Raj who understand just how good they have it here and what a wonderful instrument of satisfaction compromise can be, then maybe- -just maybe- -we will see more positive messages being broadcast to the middle east by Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and others. Only American Muslims can save Middle-East Muslims from a despotic existence under a radical and extremist form of Islam. We non-Muslims cannot do it no matter how much we want to or how much we try. However, American Muslims cannot save Middle East Muslims until American Muslims publicly stand up against radicalism in all its forms, deliver positive rather than negative messages about the US and respect our nation’s Constitution. In other words, American Muslims cannot save others until they first save themselves.


1 comment:

Kathleen Lamarche said...

Right on. And, as much as I completely dislike BHO's bowing to the Imam and his insistence upon not allowing Christian symbols to be visible during his speeches, perhaps there is something positive in those positions if we are to combat the jihadist's rhetoric. If we could get a dozen like Raj to tour the country and be widely seen, it would certainly be a plus. Would the MSM publicize it, though?