- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

Should Muslim clerics apologize in the name of their faith for the massacre of September 11, and rebuke their radicals who preach Islamist jihad?
The Rev. Franklin Graham, a prominent Baptist evangelist, says yes, and his remarks have angered Muslims and offended some Christians.
Some Protestant and many Muslim leaders have scolded the evangelist for his remarks during a press tour for his latest book, "The Name."
Others, including Christian churchmen and secular pundits, have applauded his remarks, made in newspaper and television interviews.
Muslim spokesmen say there will never be an apology because their religion was not to blame for the September 11 attacks, in which more than 3,000 persons died.
Faiz Rehman of the American Muslim Council says 400 to 500 Muslims died at the World Trade Center and notes that many Muslims attended prayer services and vigils near ground zero.
"But most of the media didn't show us going there," he said. "Apologizing means owning it. Why would we apologize? Why do our American fellow citizens expect us to apologize for the acts of a few criminals? Most of the Muslims in this country felt terrible about it. Mr. Graham comes up with this stuff whenever he wants to promote a book. Since he claims to be on a higher moral ground, let him apologize for slavery and Ku Klux Klan crimes and the Crusades and for the crimes against Jews in the Holocaust and other things done in the name of Christianity. Then we'll think about it."
Christians have, in fact, often apologized for acts done in the name of their faith. Pope John Paul II apologized two years ago for all wrongs done by Catholics, including participation in the Crusades, a bloody attempt to seize the Holy Land between the 11th and 14th centuries. From 1997 to 1999, more than a thousand evangelical Protestants hiked through the Middle East wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the message "I apologize" in Arabic.
Patrice Brodeur, a scholar of Islam from Connecticut College, says "corporate repentance" is not part of Islamic theology. "Theologically, from a Muslim perspective, people are only responsible individually for their actions," he said. "They do disagree with the killing of innocent victims in the name of jihad, but they can't take it upon themselves to apologize for other members of the community who did something wrong."
David Cook, a scholar of Islam at Rice University in Houston, says the lack of apologies is due to conspiracy theories abundant in the Middle East.
"Traveling about the Islamic world this summer, I found no one who believed al Qaeda did it, even though al Qaeda has long since admitted they did it," he said. "They say it was the Jews who did it or that President Bush knew about it. The conspiracy theories are deflecting a sense of responsibility. One of the characteristics of Islam is there's no hierarchy or leadership that would say they are the responsible ones, comparable to the pope or the National Council of Churches.
"Franklin's criticism is to some extent justified, but he does frame it in a very polemical way, leading people to think he is out to get Islam."
William F. Buckley Jr., a Catholic, defended Mr. Graham in a widely remarked commentary in the National Review. "The charges by the Rev. Franklin Graham are not only justified, they are unanswerable," he wrote . "It is Dr. Graham's point that if we assume, for the sake of ecumenical bonhomie, that the terrorists were not really representing Islam, that they were extremists torturing the word of the Prophet, okay. Then that is exactly what we should be told by men of Islam in authority. And that should be easy to do, inasmuch as the high priests of the Islamic world are also its secular leaders: The Muslim religion does not condone the separation of church and state.
"What Dr. Graham is being so widely criticized for saying is that the people in charge in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and other Muslim countries should handle the al Qaeda problem less detachedly than they have done. There were expressions of regret, on Sept. 12, from the leaders of the Islamic world, but none of them repentant."
Alan Godlas, religion professor at the University of Georgia, says Muslims feel no compulsion to make amends. "To make an apology for these actions would be to take responsibility for them," he says. "But these terrorist acts were so extreme that any Muslim would say such actions have no place in Islam."
Mr. Graham, the son of the famous evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, argues that Christians would have apologized in similar circumstances. "If a Roman Catholic put on dynamite and walked into a mosque in Saudi Arabia, in Medina or Mecca, and said, 'In the name of Jesus Christ and the church of Rome, I now blow you all up,' and then took his life and killed everybody around him, the pope would be on television within hours denouncing this man and saying he does not represent the Church," Franklin Graham told Fox TV interviewers Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes.
"And they would be raising money, not for the family of this man, but they would be raising money for those Muslim victims that died. There has not been the condemnation from the [Muslim] clerics."
Though there has been little clerical criticism of the virulent Islamist denunciation of the West, particularly in Saudi Arabia and in many of the Islamic schools in the West financed by Saudis, a coalition of Muslim leaders and students stood outside the Red Cross building in Washington the day after the attacks, condemning them, and saying they would donate blood as a show of solidarity with the victims. Several Middle Eastern embassies took out full-page newspaper ads expressing condolences. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has been linked to radical Islamist groups in the Middle East, condemned "these vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism." Several American mosques held blood drives, joined candlelight vigils and collected money for victims of the attacks.
Mr. Graham argued that this misses his point. "I'm not attacking Muslims, OK?" he said in an interview earlier with The Washington Times. "How come Muslim clerics haven't gone to ground zero and had a prayer vigil and apologized to the nation in the name of Islam?"
Steven Judd, a scholar of Islam at Southern Connecticut State University, likens the sentiments of many Muslims to the views of Christians about the Ku Klux Klan. "Most people don't consider [the Klan] to be a Christian group or to have anything to do with core Christian beliefs," he says, "even though the Klan uses Christian themes and various Bible verses."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide