Letter declined

I sent a letter to the editor of my local newspaper, The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, a week ago and it appears the editor has declined to print my letter. I was responding to a letter written by a Muslim man in response to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Below I will publish both the letter from the Muslim man and my response. You be the judge of whether I wrote anything worthy of censure.

Original, published in the paper Wednesday May 4, 2011.

It is my birthday today and it is no doubt the most memorable and historic one, to say the least. I have been further reminded as of recently that I may just be part of the last generation of American Muslims to have ever experienced the pre-9/11 world.

As for the news of Bin Laden’s demise, despite the cautious skepticism from national security experts, tonight presents the kind of historical turning point that is indeed a “game changer,” at least in my hopeful mind. When the news itself broke, the last 10 years just zoomed past by me in a flashback. There is so much to grasp that I’m having a hard time sequencing the series of painful and emotionally charged events of the last decade.

My heart is heavy with sorrow as I’m reminded of the tragedy that took the lives of more than 3,000 people at the twin towers, those who perished in subsequent combats, those who were imprisoned unfairly, those who were tortured, and those who were abused unjustifiably in the name of national security. This conflict resulted in suffering across the globe, brought war to the doorsteps of many and disrupted the peace of many others.

Tonight I stand in full solidarity with the president and the decisions he has made. Tonight I’d like to ask leaders like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to cease facilitating hateful commentary against American Muslims and any related political opportunism that may come from it. Tonight I’d like to ask the leaders on the right to cease efforts to marginalize the American Muslim voice. Tonight, I’m hoping, will launch us toward an effort that closes the chapter on this conflict once and for all. Tonight, I’m hoping, that we in the American Muslim community are given full opportunity to partake in making this great nation even greater.

At least this is my birthday wish and perhaps it is too idealistic, but I must ask you to consider Bin Laden’s end as the death of fear and hate, at least toward your fellow citizens.

Peace and Blessings,

Chino Hills

I sent the following response to the paper. It has yet to be published, for more than a week now. Faisal’s letter was published within two days of the paper receiving it.

Dear editor,

I stand, along with Mr. Faisal Qazi (5/4/11), in solidarity of our government leaders to remove an evil man from society – a man who has been responsible for the deaths of literally thousands. However, I believe Mr. Qazi’s birthday wish may be shortsighted.

You see, regardless of the label given to people like Bin Laden, such as extremist, fundamentalist, and the like, the fact remains that they obtain their marching orders from within the pages of the Qur’an, and by example from Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. No amount of wishful thinking can change the fact that those who commit violence in the name of Islam do so with full support within their holy scripture. To deny the truth of this is to deceive oneself.

Likewise, Muslims who desire peace and moderation also find support from within the Qur’an. In a documentary of the Qur’an shown in 2008 in the UK, Islamic scholar Dr. Muhammad Hurani said, “You are able to make peace according to the Qur’an. You are able to declare war according to the Qur’an. Moderate people have their support in the verses of the Qur’an. Radical people have the same thing with different verses in the Qur’an.” Who would know better than an Islamic scholar?

In the hadith, the traditions of Muhammad, the idea of fighting and killing infidels is given ample treatment. Indeed, the collection of al-Bukhari, the second most authoritative text outside the Qur’an for Sunni Islam, contains an entire book devoted to the subject. This notion is also codified in all four of the major schools of Islamic legal thought: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafi’i.

Until Islamic scholars are willing to face their own authoritative texts and reinterpret them for a 21st century context, no amount of wishful thinking is going to change the mind of the other Osama Bin Ladens of the world, not even a birthday wish.

Joe Carey


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