Where is the Muslim outrage?
THEY ARE still burying the victims of the latest atrocity committed, some believe, in the name of Islam -- the slaughter of hundreds of children, teachers, and parents in an elementary school in Beslan, Russia. And from Muslims the world over, as usual, has come mostly silence.
There have been no public demonstrations by Muslims anxious to make it clear how outraged they are that anyone could commit such unspeakable deeds for their version of Islam. There has been no anguished outcry by Islam's leading imams and sheiks. Prominent Muslim organizations in the West have not called press conferences to express their disgust. Once again the world has witnessed a savage episode of Islamist terror, and once again it strains to hear a convincing rejection of the terrorists from those who should care most about Islam's reputation.
That is not to say there has been no criticism at all. Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to assure him that "this terrorist act . . . goes against religious teachings and violates human and moral values." Syria's official news agency decried the massacre as "a terrorist, cowardly action." Sheik Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi of Al-Azhar University in Cairo lambasted the murderers for "taking Islam as cover" and said that "those who carry out the kidnappings are criminals, not Muslims."
But these are boilerplate denunciations, practically meaningless -- particularly when they come from sources that sustain Islamist fanaticism (Saudi Arabia), shelter and support terrorists (Syria), or defend suicide bombers as praiseworthy "martyrs" (Tantawi). They condemn no terrorists or terror organizations by name. They offer no help in destroying the infrastructure that recruits, funds, and trains them. And they contain no hint that the global scourge of Islamofascist jihad is a cancer eating away at the Muslim world.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which issues dozens of press releases every month, had nothing to say about the bloodbath in Russia until I requested a comment. The statement CAIR then issued doesn't even acknowledge that the killers were Muslim:
"No words can describe the horror and grief generated by the deaths of so many innocent people at the hands of those who dishonor the cause they espouse. We offer sincere condolences to the families of the victims and call for a swift resolution to the conflict in that troubled region." At least CAIR went through the motions of condemning the butchery. Other voices preached a different message altogether.
Ali Abdullah, an Islamic scholar in Bahrain, announced that the bloodshed in Beslan "is the work of the Israelis who want to tarnish the image of Muslims." In London, Islamist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed told the Daily Telegraph: "If an Iraqi Muslim carried out an attack like that in Britain, it would be justified because Britain has carried out acts of terrorism in Iraq."
Fortunately, a few Muslim commentators have denounced the evil being done in the name of Islam, and have done so courageously and unambiguously. (The Middle East Media Research Institute has compiled their reactions at www.memri.org.) One in particular stands out: an extraordinary column in the pan-Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat by Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the manager of the Al-Arabiya news channel.
"It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists," he begins, "but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.
"The hostage-takers of the children in Beslan were Muslims. The hostage-takers and murderers of the Nepalese chefs and workers in Iraq were also Muslims. . . . The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses, and buildings all over the world were Muslim. . . . Does all this tell us anything about ourselves, our societies, and our culture?. . .
"We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to us. . . . They are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image. We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly implemented by Muslim men and women." When it is no longer astonishing to encounter such sentiments in the Muslim world, we will know that the corner has been turned in the war against Islamist terror. Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.