Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2004 / 24 Elul, 5764

Jeff Jacoby

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Where is the Muslim outrage?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | They are still burying the victims of the latest atrocity committed by evildoers professing 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 and sickened they are that anyone could commit such unspeakable deeds as an act of Islamic faith. 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 and anger. 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.

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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 on Tuesday — four days after the mass-murder occurred and nearly a week after the terrorists, shouting "Allahu akbar," first seized the school. 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 that will let all people live in peace and freedom. 

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 said he would support hostage-taking at British schools if it were done for a good reason. "If an Iraqi Muslim carried out an attack like that in Britain," he told the Daily Telegraph, "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 general manager of the Al-Arabiya news channel. (An English translation was published in the Telegraph.)

"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. . . .  "What a pathetic record. What an abominable `achievement.' 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.

"We cannot redeem our extremist youths, who commit all these heinous crimes, without confronting the sheiks who thought it ennobling to re-invent themselves as revolutionary ideologues, sending other people's sons and daughters to certain death, while sending their own children to European and American schools and colleges."

When it is no longer astonishing to encounter such sentiments in the Muslim world, we will we know that the corner has been turned in the war against Islamist terror.

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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