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The True Muslim Spirit
Chicago Sun-Times
September 20, 2004

http://www.suntimes.com/output/letters/cst-edt-vox20a.html

In commemorating the third anniversary of 9/11, our grief as American Muslims is twofold. On one hand, we deplore the attack on our country. Our hearts bleed for the thousands of innocent lives lost. On the other hand,we realize with great regret that on that date our religion was hijacked along with those our planes. Since that day, the world has not been the same. And for American Muslims, this statement is true in more ways than one.

First, as Americans we are troubled by the notion that our homeland is under attack. Like everyone else, we fear further attacks that can cause more damage and further disrupt our way of life.

Second, as Muslims we have to worry about being scapegoated by some of our own, whose angst we share. We have to worry about being crammed together with those whose actions we utterly abhor. We have to worry about those whose careless judgment lumps all Muslims as one group and who fail to appreciate the diversity among Muslims: the notion that Muslims are as diverse in their views as 1.4 billion people can be.

Yet there is a sunny side to our double predicament. It provides an important opportunity to test and strengthen our understanding of both our American identity and our Islamic creed. Now is the time to aggressively challenge the extremists among our ranks, and also the time to raise our voices against demonizing Islam as a whole.

The Islamic spirit teaches us that love of one's nation is part of the love of God; that peace with one's neighbors is part of peace with oneself. Islam teaches us that if there are evils present in the society in which we live, then our role as Muslims is to selflessly work to increase goodness as the best way to offset this evil. The true Muslim spirit is not to destroy, but to build. We have an obligation to live this message to our compatriots in the West, and to challenge those fringe Muslims who desecrate it with their deplorable blind anger.

In such trying times, as we American Muslims struggle to deal with the dual challenges of post-9/11 life, we are mobilizing with optimism to become more American and more Muslim.

Ahmed Rehab
Director of Communications
Council on American-Islamic Relations
(Chicago)

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