Op-Ed

Lexington muslims condemn violent extremism

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

I am speaking out now to say to my neighbors and friends in Lexington that your Muslim friends are not silent in our forceful condemnation and opposition to violent extremism.

As an American Muslim, I condemn the planned bomb attack in Times Square by suspect Faisal Shahzad and thank all those who reported their suspicions, disarmed the bomb or are participating in the investigation.

The planned attack would have hurt innocent city-dwellers of every race and creed in Times Square. The attack, described by the alleged sponsors as a sort of payback or revenge, is inexcusable and without any justification in Islam.

The murder of even one innocent person is abhorrent to the most Gracious and most Merciful God, let alone the planned mass murder of innocent bystanders in Times Square. The Quran, our holy book, says in Chapter 5 verse 32: "...If anyone slays a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people..."

It's been reported that a Senegalese Muslim immigrant, Aliou Niasse, first noticed the suspicious smoke coming from the vehicle, which was later found to be packed with explosives. Aliou's observation was relayed to local police who moved quickly to defuse the situation.

The un-detonated car left a treasure trove of evidence that quickly led the authorities to apprehend the suspected plotter.

I thank God that Aliou and his fellow vendors were vigilant enough to report the suspicious activity that led to the capture of Shahzad, before anyone was hurt. Investigations are still ongoing and officials have cautioned that there is not yet enough evidence to definitively point to a single group. However, given that Shahzad is Pakistani and said he received training in Pakistan, the authorities are looking at possible involvement from the Pakistani Taliban.

So what does this mean for Americans and our community here in Lexington?

To my fellow Muslims in our community I would say this: No matter what your views are about the conflict in Afghanistan, there is no excuse whatsoever for committing unjust acts.

Planning a terrorist attack against innocent bystanders in a crowded public area such as Times Square is something our Prophet Muhammad has forbidden and would have condemned. We must remember his advice when he is recorded to have said in an authentic tradition: "Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil."

To my fellow Americans of other faiths, or no faith: Your Muslim neighbors want to put an end to this violent extremism just as much as you do. The primary victims of these violent attacks — whether they occur in Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan —are Muslims. The evil and the hypocrisy of these criminals is not something they are trying to hide.

Over the past several years, we've seen the news stories of explosions killing innocent people, mostly Muslims, from terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Jordan, Iraq and Afghanistan. The pictures are stomach churning, showing dead men, women and children from attacks that have targeted buses, schools, even religious events and sacred spaces. Your Muslim neighbors do not think of these criminals as representing them or their political views in any way. We reject them, not only because of the bloodshed they try to cause by attacking the United States, but because of the bloodshed they continue to cause in Muslim countries around the world.

The actions of these criminals make it clear that they have no sincere interest in Islam or the wellbeing of Muslims. No Muslim in this community should think otherwise.

I urge my fellow Americans and our nation's leaders to reject the inevitable exploitation of this incident by those individuals and groups devoted to demonizing Islam, marginalizing American Muslims and feeding the unfortunately growing Islamophobic sentiment in our society.

Now is not the time to allow these terrorists to divide us, pitching countryman against countryman. They think that people of different faiths cannot share a world.

Let us use this unfortunate incident to reaffirm the common commitment that people of all faiths have against violent extremism. Let us show them how wrong and how bankrupt their ideology is.

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