Moderate Muslims blaze new path (WASHINGTON TIMES OP-ED) By Joel Mowbray 05/24/05)
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Though met by modest crowds, the recent first-ever Free Muslims March
Against Terrorism could be considered a success in one key respect:
It further exposed the unwillingness of most major Muslim groups to
condemn the radicals that have come to dominate their religion.
It also further cemented the growing reputation of organizer Kamal
Nawash, head of the Free Muslims Coalition (FMC), as one of the only
genuine moderate leaders of a national Islamic organization.
While most Muslim groups gripe about being expected to condemn every
Islamic terrorist attack they aren´t directly responsible, they
reason Mr. Nawash wastes no opportunity to do so. To him, the
problem is one shared by all Muslims, even moderates, because most
Muslims have allowed the extremists to take control of the religion,
more or less without a fight.
Thus his inspiration for the rally against terror. Speakers at the
event, which drew roughly 150, were clear in condemning the real root
cause of terrorism: radical interpretations of Islam.
Groups like Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Muslim
Public Affairs Council (MPAC) have a track record of condemning but
only targets like the Fox television show "24," which they blasted
earlier this year for having terrorists who were Muslims.
Never mind that CAIR officials have refused to condemn Hamas and
Hezbollah when asked to do so by The Washington Post and others,
describing questions about the terrorist groups as a "game." And MPAC
maintains, for example, that the Hezbollah murder of 241 Americans in
Lebanon in 1983 was not a terrorist attack.
Although not shy about badmouthing Mr. Nawash and FMC, CAIR and MPAC
largely stayed silent regarding the rally. But CAIR was careful to
refer people seeking comment about the rally to Hussein Ibish, former
communications director at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination
Committee (ADC), who used to work in the same office as Mr. Nawash
Mr. Ibish has been on a tear of late, writing two rambling smear
pieces on his former co-worker. In one, he labeled Mr.
Nawash "unsavory" and called his efforts to condemn radical Islam in
the same breath as terrorism "appalling." This is a marked contrast
to how he responds to fellow Muslims who call for "jihad" and "Death
Appearing on CNN in August 2002, Mr. Ibish was asked about a 1991
fund-raising letter from suspected (and indicted) terrorist Sami al-
Arian that read, in part, "Jihad is our path! Victory to Islam! Death
to Israel and victory to Islam! Revolution, revolution until victory!
Rolling, rolling to Jerusalem!"
His response? " ´Death to Israel´ does not necessarily mean violence.
Jihad can mean a lot of things," he explained. Without explanation,
Mr. Ibish abruptly and bizarrely switched the topic. "I´ll tell
you who is advocating violence. It is Harvard professor Alan
Dershowitz, who advocated torturing people."
Someone who received far less criticism from Mr. Ibish was a man
convicted of encouraging jihad against the United States. When
prominent local cleric Ali al-Timimi who had successfully
cultivated a moderate image was charged and later convicted of
telling his followers in the days after September 11 to join the
Taliban, Mr. Ibish was eerily silent. As were most of the Muslim
groups that refused to join Mr. Nawash´s rally.
One high-profile Muslim leader, Muslim-American Society head Mahdi
Bray, even went so far as to defend al-Timimi after the imam was
convicted last month. In an open letter on the MAS Web site, Mr. Bray
wrote, "The verdict in Dr. Al-Timimi´s case is a sad day for American
Muslims and the U.S. Constitution. It bodes ill for the Bill of
Rights, and especially the First Amendment (Freedom of Speech)."
MAS is the most ardent advocate of the United States forging closer
ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the worldwide Islamist organization
that has served as the theological inspiration for many of today´s
leading terrorists. Muslim Brotherhood´s main goal is to create
Islamic states around the world.
The kinds of Islamic states that Muslim Brotherhood and MAS would
create, ironically, would be most inhospitable to someone like Mr.
Ibish, who loves both wine and women. Though he does not shower
praise on Islamist organizations, Mr. Ibish rarely criticizes them.
Targets of his wrath, in fact, are almost always the enemies of the
Islamists whom he should consider his enemies.
Were Mr. Ibish to change course and attack rabid Islamists rather
than defend them, his stock among Muslim leaders would plummet. Such
is the culture of conformity that punishes the likes of Mr. Nawash,
while Mr. Ibish and other secular defenders of venomous Islamists
Though his coalition is barely a year old, Mr. Nawash hopes to blaze
a new path, one where moderate Muslims can fight back and reclaim
their religion. Until he does, though, even secular Muslims with a
public profile are more likely to follow the path of Hussein Ibish.
(Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc. 05/24/05)
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