(Blog entry October 5, 2012, Higher Ground http://www.highergroundgroup.org/?p=1237)
By Imam Plemon El-Amin
I’m always slow to respond to requests for comments on any and every travesty that occurs in the Muslim world for quite a few reasons. First, although news travels unbelievably fast today, the truth comes at a more deliberate pace. Secondly, I hesitate because abhorrent and/or criminal behavior is unacceptable and unjustified in Islam, no matter what the perpetrator may claim. Their crime is theirs, not mine and not Islam’s.
I also understand that usually the requests are seeking two things. One, reassurances of where Muslim Americans stand , and two, a simple explanation for strange, absurd, and sometimes deadly behavior, as in the protests and riots ignited by the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’, and certainly the tragic and despicable murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens (may G-d grant him and his family Peace). Where I stand is where the vast majority of Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world must stand if we believe and truly practice Islam – upon justice, decency, freedom, peace, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. As a Muslim, we must reject murder, aggression, revenge, deceit, oppression, and compulsion.
There is no simple explanation for any of these horrid and trying episodes, but rather a complex and cascading myriad of causes and effects. Most of the Middle East and now North Africa has become a huge war theatre since the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. Witnessing the murder of nearly 3000 innocent Americans changed our lives and really the lives of most of the world. Two wars, 12 years and 7000 more American deaths, over 150,000 Iraqi deaths, and nearly 50,000 Afghani deaths later, it’s too late for a simple answer to anything that happens in and around the theatre of war.
Within the theatre, we have witnessed ancient cities devastated, villages destroyed, populations displaced, countries occupied, dictators caged, hanged, and murdered. War is Hell, perpetuating immeasurable misery, uncertainty, insanity, and all types of ‘collateral damage’, yet we crave a simple answer for aberrant behavior in the midst of the war theatre. That’s why I hesitate. It’s never simple, always complex. But I will say what we all know, when it comes to freedom of speech: “You don’t yell ’Fire!’ in a crowded theatre.”
Plemon T. El-Amin is the Imam Emeritus of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, one of the largest and most progressive mosques in the country.