FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Muslims and the War on Terror

by FAISAL KUTTY

A tipoff from a prominent Toronto imam more than a year ago appears to be at the heart of arrests at the end of April in the alleged VIA Rail terror plot in Canada. In fact, counterterrorism police began their press briefing by thanking Muslim leaders.

Even in the Boston marathon tragedy, national and local Muslim organizations have condemned the bombings. The largest Muslim civil rights group in the country, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, even asked Muslims to offer authorities any leads that they ay have. Moreover, in an interesting twist, mosques refused to arrange Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s janaza (Islamic funeral prayers). In fact, a number of fatwas (religious opinions) have been issued recommending that prominent individuals and imams not lead his janaza. Imam Suhaib Webb, a nationally recognized cleric from Boston, said “I don’t think I could ethically lead a prayer for him, but I would not stop people from praying upon him.” The intent behind this is to send a clear message to potential terrorists.

Despite such proactive measures, some self-proclaimed experts continue to pin collective blame on Muslims, citing the “radicalization” of the community. In fact, some Islamophobes who have the ear of governments both side of the border have had the audacity to claim that 80 per cent of the mosques in are controlled by radical imams and serve as incubators of “homegrown” terrorists.

There is no credible evidence to support such bald assertions. On the contrary, the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University released a study in February titled “Muslim-American Terrorism: Declining Further,” [PDF] which concluded that Muslim terrorism was not a significant threat. It had claimed 33 lives since Sept. 11, 2001, compared with 200 victims of far-right terrorists and 180,000 murders.  The Center has also documented the active role of Muslims in combating terror in the US. The same can be said for Canada.

Moreover, as national security reporter Spencer Ackerman notes, “In just the past year, the mass shootings that have captivated America’s attention killed 66 Americans.” This is twice the number from Muslim-American terrorism in the 11 years after 9/11 leading up to the Boston tragedy.

Muslims must not be held collectively responsible for the alleged actions of criminals among them. No other community is put in such an unenviable position. Italians are not asked to condemn the actions of the Mafia, nor were the Irish asked to apologize for the actions of the Irish Republican Army. The general public is not expected to take responsibility for the actions of the criminals who vandalized mosques and discriminated against or attacked Muslims since the tragic events of Sept. 11. In fact, the FBI has documented a dramatic spike in anti-Muslim hate and this cannot be pinned on the average American.

The vast majority of Muslims condemn terrorism because even classical Islamic law explicitly classifies hirabah (terrorism) as a serious sin. In fact, indiscriminate killing and attacks are prohibited. Indeed, the Qur’an (6:151) proclaims: “Anyone who kills a person (except pursuant to law) it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity.”

Moreover, the Prophet Mohammed’s strict rules of engagement even in times of hostility were blunt: “Do not kill women or children or non-combatants.” Such nuances are lost on those with limited knowledge of their religion. Indeed, a 2010 United States Institute for Peace study [PDF] titled Why Youth Join al-Qaeda of more than 2,000 people who were attracted to terrorism confirms this. Colonel John Matt Venhaus, the author of the report, found that most of these youth “have an inadequate understanding of their own religion, which makes them vulnerable to misinterpretations of the religious doctrine.”

Muslims wonder why they must keep distancing themselves from something so antithetical to their world view. Even when they disown such conduct, it is under-reported or dismissed as a PR exercise. That said, as part of a democratic civil society the Muslim community has a duty to the mainstream to address the perception real or imagined, about the extremists within.

To its credit, the community has risen to the challenge. Many imams and scholars openly challenge jihadist ideology. From my legal and activism experience on both sides of the border over the years, numerous individuals and institutions have organized anti-radicalization events and even worked with counterterrorism officials in the interest of our collective security.

As part of the same civil society, our governments also must do their part.

First, we must re-examine our foreign policy and its consequences. It is high time to acknowledge that all innocent lives lost, whether to terrorists or to the “war on terror,” are equally deplorable. Victims do not appreciate the difference between a pressure-cooker bomb and a drone strike. Disagree with their tactics as you may, it is undeniable that there are many in the world who have legitimate grievances against our foreign policy, some of whom may allow anger to overshadow religious rules of engagement.

Moreover, Washington’s drone policy has only contributed to greater distrust in both the global and domestic arena. As Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemeni writer, testified [PDF] about a drone strike against his village just before the April 23rd Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearings into the issue, “the drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine.” He described the blowback from such attacks.

Second, at the domestic level, both of our governments have been on an undeclared and possibly unintended witch hunt. Muslim charities are unfairly targeted, Islam and its symbols are unnecessarily made into an issue and intelligence harassment is rampant. Terrorist profiling often is based simply on guilt by association, which just adds to the vicious cycle of marginalization, distrust and blowback.

In the US, between 2010 and 2012, lawmakers in 32 states introduced bills to ban Islamic law, and seven states—Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Idaho, and Tennessee—enacted such bills into law. As many commentators have documented, these bills are essentially a solution looking for a problem. In fact, these laws may have even created additional challenges for some women who sought to advance their rights. Department of Justice (DOJ) figures also suggest [PDF] that anti-Muslim “zoning bias,” where towns refuse to grant building permits for mosques, is a growing problem.

In the Canadian context, some have questioned the timing of the arrests (especially given that there was no imminent threat), which appears planned to push through The Combating Terrorism Act that would revive some provisions of Canada’s Anti-terrorism Act which had “sunsetted” after a five-year period. The bill, passed two days after the arrests, revived two draconian provisions that had expired: preventive detention for three days without charges and “investigative hearings” under which a suspect who refuses to testify before a judge could be imprisoned for up to a year, as well as new restrictions on travel.

Third, government officials must be careful not to alienate the community by seeking advice only from those with an anti-Muslim agenda. Too many hawks and Islamophobes have the ear of both administrations.

Fourth, the accused must be given their day in court in a fair, open and transparent manner. The trust and confidence asked of the community must not be squandered by resorting to the secret hearings and secret evidence provisions of the anti-terror legislation. Any attempt to deny due process and the rule of law will certainly have an impact on co-operation.

Finally, it must be understood that the majority of Muslims, who are neither secular nor ultra-orthodox, hold the key to any serious and productive bridge-building. If government agencies believe they can win the “war on terror” by undermining front-line soldiers, they had better think again.

Faisal Kutty is an assistant professor of law at Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana and serves as an adjunct professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto. He previously served as vice-chair and legal counsel to the Canadian Counsel on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN).

Faisal Kutty, is an associate professor of law and director of the International LL.M. Program at Valparaiso University Law School and an adjunct professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. He is also a co-founder of KSM Law for which he serves as counsel. He blogs at the Huffington Post and his academic articles are archived at SSRN.

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail