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Response to
S.M. Atif Imtiaz

Natalia J. Garland

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Another Islamic thinker and scholarly writer whose works are well worth studying is S.M. Atif Imtiaz. I accessed his essay, "The Events of September 11: Thoughts and Emotions," from Masud Ahmed Khan's Homepage on the internet. This particular article prints out 23 pages with 3 pages of footnotes. The title is appropriate, for Imtiaz uses sensitive self-disclosure alongside thoughtful reflection.

Imtiaz comments on the American leaders who, after the 9/11 attacks, began dividing the world into those who are for civilization and those who are for terrorism. Imtiaz suspects that the democratic ideal of freedom really translates as free to be rich. Personally, I am concerned that anyone might sincerely put all Americans into this kind of grouping (greedy and materialistic?), and I would like to address Imtiaz as a peer in humanity.

There are usually shades of gray or complex layers to unfold when trying to understand human behavior and events. Behavior is often on a continuum ranging from mild to extreme. However, the horrific attacks seemed indeed to invoke an all or nothing response personally and globally. There was no neutrality. It became necessary to choose sides. But this was not a demand made by American leaders as much as it was the backfire of terrorism. It was the terrorist organizations that created the conditions forcing people to choose between civilization and destruction. Is this such a difficult choice?

The choosing of sides was actually an opportunity for individuals and nations to assess their values and take a public stand. People could decide for themselves if they wanted to be friend or foe. It was an open door for former enemies or the ambivalent to become allies. Yesterday was gone, and today had become a changed and new era of politics. It was also a golden opportunity for Muslims to assert the teachings of true Islam.

Free to be rich? What is wrong with being rich? Are there not wealthy Muslims? Speaking for myself, I have never made much money as a social worker, and there are many Americans who make even less than I do. Yes, I understand that Imtiaz refers to Middle East oil money, trade agreements, and so on. As Americans, we all reap the benefits of and have become dependent on oil. We also pay for this. Perhaps the real issue is the distribution of wealth in the Middle Eastern countries that sell the oil.

Imtiaz also criticizes America for bombing Afghanistan, "one of the poorest nations on earth." Again, this is not something that America had any choice over in terms of self-defense. Afghanistan happened to be the unfortunate country where a terrorist organization chose to hide out. What was America supposed to do? Bomb Canada? Of course not. Afghanistan was bombed not because it is poor and easy or because Afghan lives are worth less than American lives. Specific areas were bombed because of terrorist-related activity.

In fact, the Afghan leaders were asked to cooperate in turning over the terrorist organizations within their borders. They were given time to do this, and they refused. Had they cooperated, the bombing might have been unnecessary. Moreover, the American military dropped food packets for the Afghan citizens. As soon as the American defense began, America was already thinking ahead about rebuilding Afghanistan.

At present, the Peace Corps is evaluating the possibility of sending volunteers to Afghanistan. The Christian Children's Fund is helping 3,000 children in displaced persons camps, with plans to help thousands more. The C.C.F. has refurbished a school in Kunduz for refugee children. For many of these kids, this is the first educational program they have ever attended. World Vision is working together with U.N.I.C.E.F. and World Food Programme to provide food, blankets and medicine to Afghan refugees. An organizational effort known as Operation Christmas Child distributed gifts to over 100,000 Afghan children in 2001.

His essay goes on, "We are passing through a weak phase in our history and we should not feel the need to defend every Muslim for any action. Unfortunately, some Muslims can do certain things which are not only forbidden in themselves, but can also lead to the dishonoring of Islam and threaten the safety of other Muslims." This passage shows courage and reflection. Only by disowning the extremist segments can Muslims preserve their true religion and live in peace with non-Muslims.

It is very difficult, probably impossible, to analyze the mind of a terrorist without actually talking with one. Whatever motivates them, their behavior is unacceptable and not to be tolerated. If they perceive that wrongs have been committed against them by America, and if they are true Muslims, then their faith should serve as a source of guidance for any confrontation. If they are not true Muslims, then the Muslim community need not feel compelled to justify them. They deserve no sympathy. They are not folk heroes. They are to be held accountable for their actions. In the end, as I expect Imtiaz might concur, a Higher Power will judge us all. (Written 05/06/02 - Revised 12/01/03: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2002, 2003 Natalia J. Garland