A Muslim Response to Dennis Prager’s ‘Five Questions’
Posted Nov 19, 2005


By Hussam Ayloush

[Hussam Ayloush is executive director for the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA). He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group.]

In a recent commentary, radio talk show host Dennis Prager posed five questions that “that law-abiding Muslims need to answer for Islam’s sake, as well as for the sake of worried non-Muslims.”

SEE: “Five Questions Non-Muslims Would Like Answered”

Prager said his questions were prompted in part by recent rioting in France “by primarily Muslim youths,” despite the fact that neutral experts say the violence had little to do with Islam and it was Muslim leaders who ultimately helped quell the violence.

Faulty premise aside, here are answers to Prager’s questions:

Q: Why are you so quiet (about terrorism carried out in the name of Islam)?

A: One might argue that Muslims could do more to get their anti-terror message out. But to say Muslims have been quiet about their unequivocal condemnation of terrorism is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and reeks of Islamophobia.

It was after all a coalition of American Muslim groups that issued what was perhaps the first condemnation of the 9/11 attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also published a full-page advertisement condemning the attacks.

Muslims have consistently condemned suicide bombings in the Middle East, attacks on the London transportation system, the bombing of hotels in Jordan, and many similar outrages.

Muslims scholars recently issued a fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, condemning terrorism and religious extremism. (See: www.cair.com ) Muslim groups in Texas and Arizona held anti-terror rallies. In Jordan huge demonstrations were held against the recent terror attacks. Muslims in Lebanon demonstrated against the terrorist assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Harriri.

Outrage can be expressed in many ways. Public demonstrations are merely one of many different methods available to oppose terrorism.

Q: Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

A: Robert Pape in his book, “Dying to Win - The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” shows that between 1982 and 1986, 71 percent of the Lebanese suicide attackers were Christians and 21 percent Communists/Socialists. Pape states, “Of the 384 attackers for whom we have data, 166 or 43 percent were religious, while 218 or 57 percent were secular. Suicide terrorism is not overwhelmingly a religious phenomenon.” It is a response to occupation.

Inquiring minds might also consider the suicide bombings carried out by non-Muslim groups such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the religious orientation of the abortion clinic bomber or the depredations of Serbian forces during the Bosnian conflict.

Q: Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

A: Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Turkey among many others having held free elections and being governed by popularly elected governments will dispute the charge that they are not “free.”

Moreover, only in the past 50 years, have more than half of the Muslim-majority nations been freed from their European colonizers. Despite winning this freedom, most continued to be client states of their former colonizers who through the imposition of dictatorial regimes maintained control, some even to this day.

Opposition to such lack of freedom is generally Islamically-oriented. Lack of freedom in Muslim nations is in spite of Islam, not because of it.

Q: Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?

A: All major faiths have people who commit, or have committed atrocities in the name of their religion. But no faith should be held responsible for the crimes of a few individuals. It seems Prager believes that any act by Muslims should be blamed on Islam. Just as we do not blame the Crusades or the Israeli atrocities on the faiths of Christianity and Judaism, we ask others to offer the same respect for our faith.

Again quoting Pape, “The world’s leading practitioners of suicide terrorism are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka - a secular, Marxist-Lennist group drawn from Hindu families.”

Q: Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

A: While there are areas of the Muslim world in which religious freedom is not granted to all citizens, it is unfair to claim that this phenomenon as a problem unique to Islam. Blaming persecution of minorities on Islam is akin to blaming slavery and segregation on Christianity. Choosing the Taliban as an example of religious intolerance in Islam is disingenuous, because the Taliban’s religious perspective has been rejected by mainstream Muslim scholars and Muslims worldwide.

Every religious group has a responsibility to challenge hate by their fringe groups. It is unproductive to single out Muslims while remaining silent about the extremists of other faiths who vilify the faith of Islam without similar repudiation from Prager and others.

Dealing with the impact of war, poverty, racism, and injustice is our collective duty. To achieve solutions to these real problems we need voices that accentuate our common humanity, not use opportunistic smears of an entire faith to further their parochial agenda.

I would offer a challenge to Mr. Prager. Are you willing to enter into a real dialogue, not an exercise in one-upmanship, with mainstream Muslims? If so, CAIR stands ready to facilitate that dialogue, just as I did when I appeared recently on his program.

We await your response.