Bang! Boom! Crash! Shriek! See the glittering broken glass, dark blood, smell the harsh smell of rising smoke. Boom! Dennis Prager! Again! Virgil Goode! No, this year has not been very peaceful, has it?
This century is only six years old, but it is already so dysfunctional it may require foster care. True, the bloody and reactionary twentieth century was not a great role model. Many leaders proved to be oppressive authorities, insecure and arbitrary in the use of their power. It is not surprising then that humanity is still going through extended, angry adolescence. But every week seems to bring a new crisis.
The developing nations seem doomed to follow all the bad habits and copy all the mistakes of the West, from MTV-style materialism to religious nationalism and Bolshevik terror. There is so much negativity and blame around us, and so little conscience and self-knowledge. So much unfairness in the world, but we do not even understand how to care for our tiny, struggling soul.
Dear readers, we must go beyond hating injustice in our heart. You and I must go beyond complaining about the carnage in Iraq. We Muslims must not only comfort ourselves with families and work, or with ideals and concepts of our religion. We must put these ideals into action by negotiating a more peaceful and more just relationship with the world, in very specific ways. But how will we face this difficult task?
After 9/11, many of our leaders have been working to persuade our fellow Americans that “Islam is Peace.” But the images of conflict in Darfur, Iraq and elsewhere make this a hard sell, indeed.
Last Saturday, as Ethiopian warplanes and tanks bombarded several towns controlled by Somalia’s Islamist forces, Mogadishu mosques blared out the message: “Young men, go to the front. This is the war we’ve been waiting for!” And Somalia’s defense chief, Yusuf Mohamed Siad declared, “Our country is open to Muslims worldwide; Let them fight in Somalia and wage jihad.” The New York Times reports that UN officials estimate that there are several thousand soldiers from Eritrea, Ethiopia’s arch-enemy, fighting for the Islamists, along with a growing number of Muslim mercenaries from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Libya who want to turn Somalia into the third front of jihad, after Iraq and Afghanistan. On Friday, residents of Mogadishu said they saw boatloads of armed men landing on the city’s beaches.
United Nations officials and foreign diplomats are trying to persuade the two sides to call a cease-fire and return to the negotiating table to determine how to share power. We have not heard what the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Countries are doing. Are they all on Hajj?
May the pilgrims find nearness to the baraka of Allah! May prayers be answered! Going round the Kaaba is a return to the center and origin of humanity’s purpose on earth. But in our daily lives, you and I sometimes seem to go in circles with much less success. We do not make progress. We need our Hajjis to bring back wisdom and inspiration, like Malcolm X did. We need their experience to learn how to manage our diversity and resolve our disputes, which seem to be getting more deadly by the day.We should note that almost one-half of Ethiopians are Muslim, and their government is coming to the aid of the previous government of Somalia, which was Muslim but corrupted by warlord-style tribalism. We see similar tribalism growing in Iraq, of course, but also in Palestine, where recent violent disputes threaten any chance of a unity government.
Hamas disparages Prime Minister Abbas when he manages to get concessions of $100 million out of $500 million in tax and customs revenue withheld by the Israeli Government. Is this healthy competition, or an unhealthy power struggle? And on the extreme side, entities like al-Qaeda disparage Hamas for engaging at all with a democratic political system without overturning laws and instituting a theocracy.
Now Iran provokes Israel over its nuclear arsenal; there are double standards within double standards on this issue. And Saudi Arabia promotes a joint atomic energy program between predominantly Sunni Arab states to send a message that Sunnis will match Tehran’s nuclear power if it needs to.
Negotiating is hard work, and Muslims are weak enough without all these divisions. Instead of attacking each other, Muslims need to sort out their differences, agree on different strategies, but maintain trust and communication in order to learn from each other’s success.
Last year CAIR was calling for communities nationwide to register Muslim voters on Eid ul-Adha, with an initial target of 100,000 registrations. In two CAIR surveys of American Muslims, more than 95 percent of the respondents favored political participation.
Not all Muslims agree, for a variety of reasons. So then let each build the house he (or she) can live in. I can live in a house of diversity, a home of creativity and tolerance. This is not the same as a frathouse from “The Real World.” And even that does not frighten me as it would Sayyid Qutb. “America the Free” is the environment that I know and am familiar with. But “America the Paranoid” is harder to understand.
We can write letters to the editor about the lies of Jihad Watch, about false moderate Muslims, to offer some light for well-meaning fellow Americans. We can be gracious and dialogue with Jews and others. Or, this advice, if you prefer – attend your religious duties, but remember to fasten your camel.
In any case, next year promises to be a very bumpy ride.
Adem Carroll is a journalist and community activist in Jamaica, New York. He served in the Peace Corps in Morocco and received a Master�s degree in Near Eastern Studies at NYU.