Columnist deepens stereotyping of Muslims - By Javeed Akhter
  Founding member, The International Strategy and Policy Institute, Member Muslim Public Affairs Council - Published April 25, 2006
 

Oak Brook -- It would be redundant to state that pieces published on the Commentary page are designed to provide differing points of view, to provoke and even to offend. By their very nature, these polemical pieces have to carefully skirt the line that divides provocation from incitement, and offense from inflammation.

Some of the statements that columnist Dennis Byrne makes in "Fighting over power; when conflicting civilizations collide" (Commentary, April 17) seem to have blurred the line.

He takes the rants of a madman like Zacarias Moussaoui, the "12th hijacker" of Sept. 11, 2001 , and equates them with the values of Islam.  Byrne writes, "Moussaoui unapologetically claims that the Koran requires Islamic world domination and that non-Islamic nations must pay tribute to Islamic ones. `We have to be the superpower. You have to be subdued,' he said."  That may be an accurate depiction of what Moussaoui believes.  But such views are anathema to the vast majority of Muslims in their reading of the Koran.  There is no edict in the Koran that would support that conclusion.  Muslims' struggle, in fact, is not for domination but for freedom in their lands.

At another point in the column, Byrne describes Islam as a religion "that publicly stones women, but not men, for infidelity."  I wonder where that nugget of misinformation came from.  Muslim scholars, traditionalists and modernists alike, have condemned this practice.

I, and every Muslim I know, share the intense revulsion at reading the transcript of Flight 93, where the hijackers, blinded by hate, were invoking the name of God while murdering dozens of innocents. The concept of God in the Koran is of a nourisher and sustainer, a guide that gives us the logic to differentiate right from wrong, and who has assigned for himself mercy. The hijackers were perversely corrupting this concept of God.

Byrne is using reductionism to equate Islam with evil. The unfounded generalizations in the column worsen the demonization of Islam, and deepen the stereotype of Muslims provoking incitement. This is scapegoating, not analytical thinking.  To counter the crazies like Moussaoui and the radicals like Osama bin Laden, we must support the Muslims who have spoken out against terrorism and for justice in the name of Islam.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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