The topic of Muslim extremism, once downplayed by American Muslims for fear of encouraging prejudice against Islam, is receiving new attention in the U.S. Islamic community in the wake of Sept. 11, reports the San Jose Mercury News (Oct. 23).
“Slowly, and for the first time,” American Muslims are “talking publicly about issues previously confined to the mosque or other private settings: the difficulty of criticizing or breaking ranks with other Muslims, and the threat of Islamic extremism.” Hamid Mavani, an Oakland cleric, says Muslims need to root out intolerant preaching at local mosques. “We’ve underestimated the rhetoric. I think we need to give these people an ultimatum.”
After Sept. 11, major Muslim groups, such as the American Muslim Council, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, issued statements condemning the attacks and protesting against a backlash against Arabs and Muslims. Critics such as Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution say there has not been “much talk about community responsibility for this.
A lot of the perpetrators lived in Muslim communities in the U.S.” Some Islamic leaders add that legitimate grievances over such foreign policy issues as the U.S. stance on Israel, has entered everyday discourse, inculturating many into an anger against America. Other leaders say that there is no need for U.S. Muslims to comment on bin Laden and other militants’ statements, since the majority reject such extremism in the first place.
Shaykh Hisham Kabbani of Islamic Supreme Council, who has been in the forefront of seeking to expose the condoning and tolerance of extremism among American Muslim groups [see last month’s cover story] says the fiery rhetoric at mosques is partly cultural. He says of his home country Lebanon, “People there, they fight, they shout, and then they have a good laugh.”