Dear Imam Johari,
You probably don’t remember me. Actually, I’m certain you don’t. I think I’ve met you only twice; once at an MSA Iftar dinner we shared a table, and the other time I attended a campfire lecture you gave at Dar al-Taqwa, where, I might add, you displayed quite a beautiful voice in singing some nasheeds.
And eventhough we’ve only met twice, I’ve known you for quite some time, as is true for most of the American Muslim community. Your reputation precedes itself and I humbly acknowledge that your years of service at the national level for the cause of Islam dwarf my meager local community efforts of years past.
And that is why it has pained me to read your past few posts.
You started with an open declaration calling for Muslims to adopt the principle of non-violence. Surely, non-violence has its place in a larger movement of resistance, but it cannot be its sole strategy. There must be, as it always has been, space at the table for resistance by force. Surely, you are intimately aware of the American civil rights struggle with the existence of the black power effort in conjunction with the non-violence movement. Also, armed resistance played a significant role in the other example you cited, the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
And the same type of armed resistance has been playing a vital role in defying the authoritarian control of Israel over both the Palestinians as well as Lebanon. It can be argued that if not for the constant thorn-pricking by Hamas (in Gaza) and Hezbollah (in South Lebanon), Israeli forces would still be firmly established in those territories.
Dear Imam Johari, you would be well served to read this excellent piece by Max Ajl on the inability of a purely non-violent movement to affect positive change, especially in the I/P conflict.
“But the sort of non-violence Taylor supports is the sort that castrates resistance, and takes resistance out of the realm of history and into the realm of religion. What would Taylor have recommended to the Vietnamese? There is nothing nefarious about defending oneself from armed attack. Making it nefarious writes the Palestinian right to resist out of history, reserving righteous violence and force for the Western powers that already almost monopolize it.”
As the writer notes, look at the emasculated example of the MV Rachel Corrie, the June 5 ship that attempted to break the Gaza blockade. The IDF swiftly diverted the ship and the activists quietly complied with nary a cry. How effective was that?
In your call for non-violence you have mysteriously conflated the issue of illegitimate violence (e.g. suicide bombings of civilians) with the strategic usage of force employed by resistance groups. While the former is clearly indefensible, the latter is essential in opposing oppression.
It is a bit dispiriting to hear from a prominent American Muslim leader as yourself the unconditional call for non-violence by the Palestinians, as if such tactics have never been employed by the weaker side. For years, non-violence has played a leading role in the resistance against Israeli aggression, especially with the increased participation of foreign peaceful organizations.
So, for you to state your thoughts as you have, you are (unknowingly) bolstering the argument that Israel is justified in its actions to defend itself against this delusional ‘barrage of violence’.
Surely, that is not a sentiment you wish to express.
Ajl sums it up in the end of his article: “Those who resisted violently were brave. Those who resisted non-violently were brave. All were right. All were just. Solidarity organizations can agree in advance to resist or not to resist, as Taylor instructs us. But most oppression in human history has been thrown off by horrible violence. Frankly, if a man has a gun pointed at my head on my own territory and has shot the person standing next to me, and I can disarm that man, I will disarm him. And there is something surreal, if not pitiful, to demand not only that I abjure that basic human response, but furthermore, abjure it when the gun is pointed not at my head but at the person standing next to me. Writing about it admittedly makes for good copy and good employment for those living and writing in Western countries where power is eager to dissolve an internationally-sanctioned right to resist. For those living under the gun, Taylor’s prescriptions may seem a little odder.”
My other grievance is with regards to your blog post on the topic of Imam Anwar Awlaki. You write that Islamic bookstores and other businesses should stop selling his famous lectures, such as Lives of the Prophets, due to his recent calls in support of unIslamic acts of violence. You cite your concern that innocent Muslims who may be positively affected by his lectures, which you acknowledge as being extremely beneficial, could be led down the slippery slope towards his more recent lectures advocating unIslamic acts of violence.
How ironic is it that your warning of a slippery slope is itself leading you down another slippery slope. If we begin to advocate the censoring of Islamically legitimate material due to questionable views held by the author, where will this take us? You are creating a precedent that can be used in future calls to ban such revolutionary authors such Syed Qutb or Maududi.
Surely, that is not a precedent you wish to set.
As intolerable as Imam Anwar’s views on suicide bombing may be, it is equally intolerable to censor his legitimate work in fear of leading astray the ‘naïve’ and ‘ignorant’.
This reeks of paternalistic totalitarianism. Because lay-Muslims are too stupid to tell right from wrong, the Muslim leadership must censor the good stuff from the bad stuff.
While we’re at it, let’s get rid of all the Shia material. And all that goofy Sufi stuff as well. These books could really lead people astray, no?
I’m sure you realize that such an approach is inconsistent with the principles of a free society.
Many know you as a man of serious principle and strong leadership. But I must say that your past few posts have come off as someone trying to appease more than lead. I don’t think even Fox News has made such demands of the Muslim American community. So why would you? Also, what gives with you admitting that you've learned from Steve Emerson? The clown journalist has no interest in creating a working relationship with the Muslim community, as evidenced by his obnoxiously condescending response to you, yet you are touting his approval?
These past few posts seem like some ill-conceived PR campaign attempting to win over the distrusting American public. ‘Hey, look at us American Muslims. We understand you all are afraid of us, so watch us bend over backwards to prove our allegiance by cutting all relations with this new bogeyman, Imam Anwar, no matter how positive his work may have been to thousands and thousands of young Muslims. And we won’t stop there. We’ll throw in a complete rejection of all forms of violence resistance, choosing the more acceptable (to the American Empire) approach of non-violence. Now can someone please call Michelle Malkin so we can schedule a nice photo-op?’
In conclusion, while my letter is addressed to you, my thoughts are not solely restricted to you. They are more intended to address a trend I am fearful may be growing in the American Muslim community in specific, and the international Muslim community at large. That is why I chose to share my thoughts on my humble blog instead of writing to you in private.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Dear Imam Johari,
Saturday, June 26, 2010
clash of civilizations,
war on terror
This entry was posted on Saturday, June 26, 2010
and is filed under
clash of civilizations
war on terror
You can follow any responses to this entry through
the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response,
or trackback from your own site.
This entry was posted on Saturday, June 26, 2010 and is filed under American Islam , clash of civilizations , Muslims , Palestine , war on terror . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.