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|September 29, 2001: This message was distributed by Papyrus News. Feel free to forward this message to others, preferably with this introduction. For info on Papyrus News, including how to (un)subscribe or access archives, see <http://www.gse.uci.edu/markw/papyrus-news.html>.|
This message is meant especially for my many Muslim friends and colleagues around the world. I'd like to express my condolences and support to you--for several reasons. First, by all accounts, several hundred Muslims were killed on Sept. 11, so Muslims have shared in the tragedy like every other group. Secondly, I know that this has brought a negative reaction to Muslims in the US and elsewhere, including acts of violence. I strongly condemn acts of harassment and violence against Muslims in response to this attack. Third, I know that this event is also having a ripple effect throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. In everything from cultural exchanges to tourism, your countries are already being affected. And fourth--and especially for my friends in the Middle East and South Asia--in the medium- to long-term, it is your societies which are most threatened. The strategy of the Bin Laden group is to create economic havoc in the West, then seize control in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (thus controlling much of the world's oil supply), and then overthrow governments throughout the Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia. Even if they are not successful, their efforts can bring violence, destruction, and poverty throughout the region--and let us not even ponder the kinds of societies they will build in places where they are "successful" (though the Taliban is probably their best political model).
But in every crisis there is an opportunity, and this crisis is no exception. Those of us in the West (at least the United States) have an opportunity to look deep into our hearts and souls and consider what there is about our society that allows too many people to respond to such an event with prejudice and hatred. Fortunately, I believe this process is beginning, and many Americans are taking the opportunity to learn more about Islam and reach out to the Muslim community (see number 1 below). For Muslims, they have the opportunity to think about why and how acts such as these are committed in their name, and what that means about how they should respond. (For comments on this from members of the British and American Muslim community, see numbers 2 and 3 below). This also gives all of us a chance to rethink the conflict in the Middle East, where chances at a negotiated solution have been overwhelmed by a year of violence. For two very different Muslim reactions to this, see number 4 below (a recent appeal written by the President of a large Palestinian university) and number 5 (a description of an exhibition at another Palestinian university.) Finally, the US needs to respond in a way that defeats terrorism while not harming the interests of Muslims around the world. A conceptual framework for this dilemma (though short of practical suggestions) is offered in comment number 6.
1. Expressions of Support Surprising to Muslims
2. My Fatwa on the Fanatics
3. U.S. Muslims Should Tolerate the Stares
4. What Next?
5. An Exhibit on Campus Celebrates Grizly Deeds (free NY Times reg.
6. Let the Game Theory Begin
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