In light of the Brussels bombing last week, the vast majority of Muslims throughout the world again brace themselves for the negative backlash that naturally comes from fear and suspicion — even though it is a proven fact that the murderers that perpetuate such heinous acts in no way represent mainstream Islam and actually kill and maim more Muslims than non-Muslims in the world. Whenever these monstrous acts take place outside the Muslim world sphere, the hue and cry goes up. People ask why imams and Muslim leaders don’t speak out against such crime — and yet leaders from the Muslim world actually do speak out against these atrocities. They just may not be covered or heard in the media.
Numerous Muslim scholars and community leaders have repeatedly denounced the Islamic State as barbaric and un-Islamic. When terrorism happened in Sydney, Australia, Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the country’s highest Islamic office holder, said he was devastated and released a statement saying, “The Grand Mufti and the Australian National Imams Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam.”
An American, Imam Khalil Akbar from Charlotte, expressed his dismay over the attack in Brussels and recommended some steps that Muslim Americans can take to help fight terrorism. He said, “We need to educate our youth to the perils associated with these groups who use social media and the Internet as a means to recruit. We have to take advantage of every opportunity to speak out and educate the public about true Islam, whether it be by invitation to our mosques, temples, synagogues or churches. We have to change the narrative from one that engenders fear to one that educates and engenders mutual trust between Americans of varying diverse backgrounds.”
Leading Belgian and European Muslim groups condemned the attacks in Brussels. “These were barbaric acts,” said Said Kamli, the director of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, adding that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its terrorist activities do not represent Islam. “We do not support people who do these things. We hope they face justice.”
Muslims in the immediate area where the attacks took place made a point of showing up to donate blood for the victims of the bombings. The vast majority of Muslims in the world unequivocally condemn the evil work of extremists that claim to represent their faith. They acknowledge and abhor the fact, like the rest of the world, that these extremists must be stopped and that they are a threat to world peace.
Pope Francis in his own hospitable manner quietly gave a profound message and example by washing the feet of migrants from Mali, Eritrea, Syria and Pakistan on Holy Thursday. They were Muslim, Hindu, Catholic and Coptic Christians. After kneeling down and washing their feet and kissing them he said, “All of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Protestants, brothers and sisters, children of the same God, we want to live in peace, integrated. You, we, all of us together, of different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers and sisters.” In reference to the bombing he added, “There are manufacturers, arms dealers who want blood, not peace; they want the war, not fraternity, and there, those poor people, who buy weapons to wreck fraternity.”
Here in our own diocese, we attempt to bring together people from the Jewish, Islamic and Catholic faiths to learn more about one another’s traditions and beliefs. In the encounter itself many of the walls of fear and prejudice come down as we learn more about one another and learn that we all desire the same peace and harmony in our families and communities. Since the establishment of our Catholic-Jewish Commission, Catholic-Muslim Commission and Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, multiple visits of Bishop Sullivan to synagogues and mosques, symposiums and lectures, we have established good ties of friendship among our religious communities.
We would like to invite everyone to our “Jewish-Catholic Muslim Breaking Bread Together” panel discussion on “Defeating Extremism: Jews, Catholics and Muslims Working Together in the Spirit of Nostra Aetate,” Sunday, May 1, at 2 p.m. at Christ Our Light Church, 402 Kings Highway, Cherry Hill. Admission is free and we will join for fellowship at its conclusion. Come out and help to learn about each other’s attempts to put an end to extremism and ignorance.
Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.