the silence libel: do muslims condemn?

Fellow Patheos blogger Dan Peterson has a moving and well-intentioned post in which he exhorts the Muslim American community to speak more loudly and denounce terrorism:

But you have to speak up more loudly. Others — I promise you this, from innumerable conversations and questions after lectures, over years — are not hearing your denunciations of the extremists. They aren’t aware of your efforts to distance yourselves from these terrible acts of bloodshed and oppression. Your message isn’t getting out. You need to speak louder and more clearly, until it’s heard.

I implore you, as a community, to rise up and denounce these acts. If you’ve already done it, do it again. Louder. Make your disgust at these abuses of your faith unmistakably clear, unavoidably heard. Not only by non-Muslims but by that minority of extremists within the Muslim community who have made Islam a term of horror and revulsion to far too many people worldwide.

Reading his post in full it is clear that his heart is in the right place, but he has unwittingly recycled what I call “the silence libel”, which has 3 parts:

  1. the assertion that Muslims do not sufficiently condemn the abuses of terrorism in the name of Islam,
  2. the implication that Muslims have a greater responsibility for the acts of their co-religionists than do members of other religions,
  3. the idea that Islam is particularly unique in history as a faith which drives people to commit acts of evil.

All three of these are false.

I am not inclined to begin a debate on points 2 and 3 as I think that they are outside the scope of the conversation that Dan is trying to begin, though I do think that anyone invoking the silence libel needs to be aware of the context they are (willingly or unwittingly) imposing by their assertion of point 1.

As for point 1, I have addressed this before as have many other muslim bloggers, but it seems we must address it once again. The evidence is tremendous and exhaustive that muslims have indeed condemned. For example, this exhaustive list of condemnations by individuals and muslim organizations compiled by Al-Muhajabah, one of the earliest muslim female bloggers. A similarly thorough list of condemnations has been compiled by The American Muslim magazine. Numerous muslim organizations have also sprung up, including the Free Muslim Coalition and Muslims Against Terrorism.

To be blunt, these repeated calls for Muslims to make a grand showing against terror amounts to a loyalty test, with all the disquieting implications that they represent.

The truth is that Muslims do much better than condemn – we are model citizens who live our lives and contribute to our communities like everyone else. That’s not “doing nothing” as the silence libel implies:

What looks on the face of things to be doing nothing – living our lives as loyal citizens, teaching our kids the true universal values of peace and tolerance of Islam, striving to contribute in a civic sense to our communities, muslim and non-muslim alike – is actually doing Something, a great deal of something.

When a muslim American calls themselves a moderate muslim, that is doing something – its emphasizing the extremism of the jihadists’ claim to faith. When we argue against the term Islamofascism, it’s doing something – it’s objecting to giving the fascists the use f the term Islamic to cloak their actions. When we object to racial profiling and the increased curtailing of our rights and civil liberties, that is doing something – it is fighting for the very ideals of freedom that the terrorists would deny all of us.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2008/09/lets-do-something.html

Even more important, the Muslim American community has been an integral part of the domestic law enforcement and vigilance effort against home-grown terror. Again, there is tremendous data to support the fact that Muslims have repeatedly acted to prevent terror:

Muslim communities helped U.S. security officials to prevent nearly 2 out of every 5 Al-Qaeda plots threatening the United States since 9/11. Muslim communities helped law enforcement prevent 1 out of every 2 of all Al-Qaeda related plots threatening the U.S. since the December 2009 “underwear bomber” plot. This is an important parallel trend to the recent spike of arrests. It also highlights the importance of partnering with society through good relations and community oriented policing.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2012/02/muslim-informants-prevent-domestic-terror-the-data.html

(See my original post for a detailed list of all the terror plots in which muslim communities acted to disrupt and defeat).

The bottom line is that instead of recycling the silence libel and putting the onus on Muslims to condemn, non-Muslims would be better served by helping to publicize the many ways in which Muslim Americans combat terror, by condemnation as well as by cooperation with authorities and just living their lives as law-abiding citizens and members of our civic communities.

Related: my post Muslims condemn terror, again and again, Let’s Do Something, lanat upon the hirabists, and Muslim informants prevent terror: the data


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