It’s time we had an honest discussion about groups like Boko Haram and how we can prevent the rise of similar ones in the future. And, yes, this conversation must include addressing the role Islam plays—even at the risk of upsetting some of my fellow Muslims.
I’m not saying Boko Haram’s actions are based on Islamic principles. I believe the opposite, and in fact, I made that very point in my article last week. Of course, the anti-Muslim crowd denounced my article as inaccurate. Having those people explain Islam is like having Mel Gibson explain Judaism.
But when I say Islam plays a role, I mean that there’s no doubt that Boko Haram and their followers identify as Muslims. And I’m sure some if not most of those in that terrorist group believe they are doing God’s work by engaging in violent attacks.
Here’s the bottom line: Preventing new Boko Harams requires a multifaceted approach, and Muslims need to be one part of it. And I say this as a Muslim who for years had bristled at the idea of being called on to denounce terrorists who commit violence in the name of Islam because I didn’t feel I was in any way connected to these despicable murderers.
I would often scoff at people when they would say: “Muslims need to stop these terrorists.” My typical response was: Do you want me to fly to over there and speak to them?! I have no more to do with those extremists than the typical Christian has with those who attack abortion clinics.
But my views have evolved. No, I’m not boarding a jet to Nigeria to have a sit down with Boko Haram. I have however come to believe—as have many other American-Muslims I have spoken with—that we can and must play a role in combatting Muslim extremism outside of our borders. (Muslims have already been doing thatfor years in the United States, even though the media rarely report it.)
Shamsi Ali, a well-known New York City-based Imam who does extensive interfaith work with Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons, stated emphatically, “It is paramount important for the Muslims worldwide to speak out against any criminal tendencies within the community without any reservation.”
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