The Myth of the Silent Muslim Majority

Since the  tragic events of September 11, 2001 ‘Western’ academics, intellectuals, and politicians have been apparently blind to the massive amount of condemnation coming from the Muslim majority; that is, those who oppose Wahhabism and Osama bin Laden. Indeed, the question of “why haven’t Muslims condemned the atrocities of 9/11 and other terror” is more a definitive statement than an open-ended issue for many commentators. Moderate Muslims are seen as a weak majority, unwilling to condemn and work against the ‘radicals’ like bin Laden and others.

For example, Sam Harris (a prominent “new atheist”) asserts in his book The End of Faith that:

“Surely there are Muslims Jurists who might say that suicide bombing is contrary to the tenets of Islam (where are these jurists, by the way?) and that suicide bombers are therefore not martyrs but fresh denizens of hell.  Such a minority opinion, if it exists, cannot change the fact that suicide bombings have been rationalized by much of the Muslim world”. (pg. 123)

Another example from the Evangelical Franklin Graham expressed it like this:

“The silence of the clerics around the world is frightening to me… How come they haven’t apologized to the American people… haven’t reassured the American people that this is not true Islam and that these people are not acting in the name of Allah, they’re not acting in the name of Islam?”

This conception of Islam is quite commonplace among Evangelical Christians, Atheists, Zionists, politicians in the West, and media commentators generally. However, the belief that Muslims believe that the tragic events of 9/11 were justified or that bin Laden represents “mainstream” Islam is quite ridiculous. Even commentators who should know better seem to have amnesia or deliberately lie to make their case.  For example, after the London bombings, Thomas Friedman stated that:

“To this day–to this day– no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden”.

Apparently Friedman did not read his own newspaper on October 17th, 2001 in which a full page ad from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty proclaimed that “Osama bin Laden hijacked four airplanes and a religion”.  This ad also published statements from some of the most prominent Muslim leaders and institutions.  Among those who signed were Sheikh Abudulaziz al-Shaikh (Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and Chairmen of the Senior Ulama), Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of Pakistan, Zaki Badawi (Principal of the Muslim College in London), King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Even earlier, on September 14th, 2001 the BBC reported condemnations of the 9/11 attacks as acts of terror by significant and influential clerics; for example Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University (viewed by many as one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam), and Ayatollah Kashani in Iran.

Yet another example of over forty Muslim scholars and jurists condemnation of the events on 9/11.; a few notable scholars were Mustafa Mashhur (General Guide, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt), Qazi Hussain Ahmed (Ameer, Jamaat-e -Islami, Pakistan) Sheikh Ahmad Yassin (founder, Islamic Resistance Movement-or Hamas, Palestine), and Fazil Nour (president, PAS- Parti Islam SeMalaysia, Malaysia).  Just a piece of their condemnation:

The undersigned, leaders of Islamic movements, are horrified by the events of Tuesday 11 September 2001 in the United States which resulted in massive killing, destruction and attack on innocent lives.  We express our deepest sympathies and sorrow.  We condemn, in the strongest terms, the incidents, which are against all human and Islamic norms [my emphasis]. This is grounded in the Noble Laws of Islam which forbid all forms of attacks on innocents.  God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: “No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another” (Surah al-Isra 17:15).

Surprising to many in the West, Hamas and Hizbollah condemned the atrocities in London in 2005.  Hamas claimed that “targeting civilians in their transport means and lives is denounced and rejected”, while Hizbollah joined on “humanitarian, moral, and religious grounds”.

Commentators like Harris, Graham, and Friedman obviously didn’t do any research or have motives for distorting the truth.  Whatever conclusion one may come to, the scholarliness  and truth of work by any of these men is questionable.  This conclusion should not be surprising.  According to Edward Said in his Covering Islam:

From at least the end of the eighteenth century until our own day, modern Occidental reactions to Islam have been dominated by a radically simplified type of thinking that may still be called Orientalist.  The general basis of Orientalist thought is an imaginative and yet drastically polarized geography dividing the world into two unequal parts, the larger, “different” once called the Orient, the other, also known as “our” world, called the Occident or the West”.  (pg. 4)

Said goes on to outline a entrenched bias in the West in its coverage and reaction to Islam.  Whether one accepts his conclusion about the inherent bias of the West towards Islam and the long history of Western imperialism (See: Orientalism), it is quite clear that “mainstream America” seems haphazardly ignorant on Islam, its history, and contemporary Islamic/Arab reactions to current events. Condemnation of Osama bin Laden and the atrocity on 9/11 has been supplied by literally thousands of Islamic scholars, jurists, and ordinary muslims.  As has been shown, these condemnations were immediate and strong.

Lets recall the Qur’anic verse that reads:

“Who so ever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and who so ever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind,” (Al-Ma’dah:32).

Two questions to leave you with then: A) Why is it that prominent commentators, scholars, and academics continue to distort the truth about moderate Muslims?, and B) What motivates terrorism (resistance, ‘anti-Westernism’, insurgency) in Arab and Muslim communities?

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6 thoughts on “The Myth of the Silent Muslim Majority

  1. I think commentators and various scholars distort the truth in regards to moderate Muslims because it maintains the nationalist sentiment that the Western governments, media and other actors worked so hard to build. Per say they speak the truth, and make note to the public that there is a substantial difference between a radical fundamentalist and a moderate Muslim- what would happen? What if the general public came to know that not only do moderate Muslims condemn the terrorist attacks of 9/11 but were also victims? This would reduce public support for war, whether it be Afghanistan or Iraq. American’s would come to realize that moderate Muslim’s suffer the same plight and have the same fears. It’s almost a notion of equality, something that was not aimed for under the Bush Administration.

    From personal experience, my dad is a survivor of 9/11. However, during that time American’s became very suspicious and cautious of Muslim’s in general. The media did a great job alongside the government in promoting the “us” vs. “them” approach. Many survivors were interviewed by both American and British newspapers and magazines. A given fact: none of my dads statements were published (in which he claimed he was a moderate Muslim who opposes terrorism and yet a survivor of the 9/11 attacks). Now that could just be due to random selection, but I was just trying to make a point.

    As for what motivates terrorism in Arab and Muslim communities, it could be from a variety of factors. First and foremost, countries where communities do not have resources to provide schooling and employment often leave young people with very few options to escape their state of poverty. In this sense they become prone to recruitment by terrorist organizations. So what motivates these terrorist organizations? It could be years of oppression in terms of economic, political and social conditions that occurred when Western countries interfered in internal affairs. For example, Afghanistan, although it has been involved in civil war for decades..became anti-Western after the Soviet invasion. Sure the US helped the mujahideen fight off the Soviets, but it did start to play with Afghanistan’s politics, bringing leaders to power that were backed by the US and not precisely by the Afghan people.

    There are endless assumptions we can make as to what motivates terrorism.

  2. Sana:

    Thanks for the comments!!

    I think your point addresses a serious problem in American media. Lies and misinformation are common and allow a select minority in this country to continue its expansion of power and control. Noam Chomsky has some great stuff on this in his Manufacturing Consent. I know you love him 🙂

    That is very interesting about your father. If you don’t mind me asking, who interviewed him?

    I also agree with your statements about motivations of terror. I think education and better economic conditions are two policies that would go the farthest in combating “terrorism”. Also, US meddling in the region hasn’t helped. Your points about Afghanistan could be applied to Iraq, Iran, Saudi, Egypt, Algeria, and many other states with a majority Muslim population.

  3. I’ll have to ask my dad for more detail. NY Times and a few other local NY newspapers. In addition, he participated in some British research project by Ulster University. He also participated in project HEED. The list goes on…

  4. (Here is what I discovered on the web!)

    Liberty University’s “Ex-Muslim” Scandal Etc.

    Speaking of “Ex-Muslim” Ergun Caner and other Liberty University scandals, readers can Google “Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal” (line-by-line proof that THE Jerry Falwell’s 1981 “Fundamentalist Phenomenon” book was a huge plagiarism of George Dollar’s 1973 “History of Fundamentalism in America”!). Also Google “Thomas Ice (Bloopers).” Ice is a prof at LU whose “Ph.D” was “obtained” from a tiny Texas school that was fined by the state of Texas for illegally issuing degrees! When “Dr.” Ice reproduced in 1989 Margaret Macdonald’s short “pre-tribulation rapture” revelation of 1830 (Margaret originated this 180-year-old escapist endtime view which has made millionaires of Lindsey, LaHaye etc.!), he somehow left out 49 words when copying it – the same 49 words LaHaye left out in the same sections when a book of his reproduced it three years later! (LaHaye has been one of LU’s biggest donors.) Ice, BTW, also had the same distinctive copying errors Lindsey had when he had reproduced MM’s revelation in his 1983 book! Since Liberty University is one of the top promoters of the same fringe-British-originated pretrib rapture fantasy, interested readers can also Google “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” “Letter from Mrs. Billy Graham,” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” (documented plagiarism and other dishonesty since 1830 by some of the best known names in evangelicalism) – all uncovered by the author of the bestselling book “The Rapture Plot.” (Evangelicals should take some tranquilizers before reading the above!)

    PS – Are Muslims aware that American evangelicalism’s political success is tied to its fanatical obsession with and rabid promotion of the 180-year-old “pre-trib rapture”? This endtime view is THE reason why Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970) and Tim LaHaye’s continuing “Left Behind” series have surpassed sales records – money power tied to their political agendas. If Islamic power centers were to circulate the authoritative work “The Rapture Plot” (above) among scholars, book review editors, politicians, bookstores etc., they would seriously cripple evangelicalism and leave it in disarray! The same “Rapture Plot” book can easily be borrowed through worldwide inter-library loan for a small fee. It is the ONE book that evangelicals want to keep out of Muslims’ hands!

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