ACT OF RECONCILIATION: AN APOLOGY?
The strong opposition to the proposed Park51 Islamic Center in New York over the summer of 2010 made me ponder and think hard as to why so many Americans had serious fears and misgivings about Islam and Muslims.
Troubled and pained while agonizing over this reality all summer, I realized something that I was reluctant to admit previously. Post 9/11 many people asked Muslims to apologize for 9/11. I adamantly refused. To apologize, I said to myself, was to accept responsibility and accept collective guilt for something I did not do, nor what the majority of Muslims did. So I still refuse to accept responsibility for a crime I did not commit. And despite the crazy and vile deeds of a vocal minority of craven Muslims either rejoicing, or worse, denying 9/11 ever happened, the majority of Muslims do not condone terrorism.
But I did realize something: I need to apologize to my fellow Americans and all victims of terror who suffered for harm committed in the name of Islam. I have to do so unconditionally, irrespective of creed, ethnicity or citizenship for the terror committed in the name of my faith, my deity, my Prophet and my community. I also make this apology to Muslim victims of terror. They are the unsung thousands who have been killed and maimed by a lurid theology of terror that claims its victims daily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. These victims are not combatants but are thrown into ideological meat grinder as means to questionable and immoral ends.
So what do I apologize for? I apologize for the HURT, PAIN AND LOSS caused to the family members of those who are dead and to the survivors for the deeds committed by people who acted in my name as a Muslim. If there are others who agree with me, then we apologize for terror committed in OUR names, as Muslims. We need to forcefully disavow the crazies who have taken over the name of Islam.
New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, wrote that “more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.”
I think Mr Kristof is heading in the right direction, but I would tweak his advice substantially. I am not opposed to Mr Kristof making the suggestion, but it would have been better if this advice came from a group of Muslims or individuals for whom it was a moral action item. Furthermore, there should be no quid pro quo: I apologize for my sins, then you also apologize for your sins.
On Saturday 18 September I heard the folks of Park51 were engaged in a summit. So I posted a message on my Facebook. I wrote:
“I hope this summit will address something that I only now realize had not been accomplished post 9/11: representative Muslim groups need to reach out to 9/11 families and seek reconciliation with them. Apologize to them for the hurt caused to them by people who committed violence in my/our names as Muslims. This is not taking responsibility for terrorism but vocally reclaiming our Islam. Anyone who can spend $100m on a Center can spend $2m on publicity and reconciliation. Otherwise the Center will defeat its purpose of reconciliation. It might not be a bad idea to name, the mosque, not the Center, as the Mosque of Reconciliation.”
I still hold this view and made this plea on September 11, 2010 in a radio interview on “The Warren Pierce Show” WJR Radio AM 760 Detroit . I think the time for reconciliation in America is overdue: it should be we Muslims who take the first step. Yes, I know, it will appear as self-serving to reconcile now, given all the opposition to all things Islamic: from opposition to mosque-building, to averting Qur’an-burning, claiming Shari`a is a threat to America, and simply bigotry on the part of some, not all Americans. But we have no moral choice: reconciliation is a duty in Islam.
It took me some time to realize that it is the hurt of 9/11 that is causing many people to be angry at Islam and Muslims. If there is anything I can do to assuage this hurt and advance reconciliation, I will act unconditionally and invite those of you who agree with me to join me. Those who disagree, I would like to hear your reasoned arguments and sagely counsel.
Remember, an apology is a small step towards reconciliation; it is only the beginning. It has to be done sensitively and with care. With reconciliation and atonement, the issues that continue to cause suspicion, mistrust and anger will also in time be slowly be addressed. Only a genuine reconciliation can achieve such ends. It will not be easy, but it has to be done.
When performing the act of reconciliation, one should not ask Americans, the British, the Spanish or other nations to apologize for their role in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan for the deaths of thousands in those countries and elsewhere. This is a realization that many of these people have already reached, while the rest will hopefully in time find it in their own hearts and consciences to atone. But it is not for me to say. I was reluctant to include this paragraph, but I anticipate some people will object to my suggestion and will raise the question.
As the Qur’an beautifully advocates:
“For good and evil are not equal:
repel (evil) with what is better,
and then the one between you
and whom was enmity
will become a bosom friend.
“No one will be offered this (gift of reconciliation)
but those who are constant
No one will be offered it
Save those who were gifted with a great good fortune.”
(Qur’an 41: 34-35)