[Parvez Ahmed is a board member of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations, headquartered in Washington, D.C. CAIR is the country’s largest
Muslim civil-liberties advocacy group. E-mail: pahmed@cair-florida.org]

Another American is beheaded in Iraq. While we hope it is the last, our
fear is that many more may follow. Not to say that the beheading is by
itself not repulsive, but the accompanying image of hooded men standing in
front of Islam’s sacred text and chanting Islam’s sacred creed, “God is
great,” makes the picture even more troublesome.

What could be worse than the taking of an innocent man’s life? A life taken
in the name of a merciful God and in the supposed cause of defending a

Each round of beheading brings with it condemnations from Muslim groups,
both in America and abroad. Muslim groups keep condemning the brutal acts
of terror, partly because it is the right thing to do but also partly to
protect their community from backlash.

Each condemnation from Muslim groups is inevitably preceded by
bone-chilling hate mail from people who, like the terrorists, hide behind
anonymity. It is almost mind-numbing to think that both groups believe God
is on their side.

Islam does not teach such wanton violence no matter what the level of
grievance is for the aggrieved. There is no doubt that Iraqis and Chechens
have a lot to be angry about. They have not just paid in blood but in lost
human dignity. But their legitimate grievances do not justify the
illegitimate and barbaric acts of beheading innocent souls and planting
bombs in schools”¦

If bone-chilling cries of a helpless and defenseless human being moves
nothing in their souls, what meaning do words from sacred texts have for
them? If thousands of American soldiers using sophisticated weaponry and
backed by an equally impressive intelligence infrastructure cannot hunt
down the terrorists, what chance does a community of Muslims in America
have in influencing actions thousands of miles away?

At the heart of this dilemma today are the central questions: Who are they
and why do they hate us? In “Imperial Hubris,” a recent book by an
anonymous U.S. intelligence agent, the author contends that terrorism is
not rooted in any inherent hatred toward America’s championing of freedom,
liberty and democracy, but rather has everything to do with U.S. policies
and actions in the Muslim world.

Among the root causes are perceptions that U.S. policy turns a blind eye to
the legitimate aspirations of Muslims who desire to live in freedom – with
dignity, and in control of their own destiny. Our continued support of
brutal dictatorships, even as we toppled one, have a lot to do with the
current rage.

Muslim societies also need to be introspective of their
socio-political-religious structures and examine how the situation evolved
to a point that life has lost all its meaning. Blaming America first is not
going to absolve them of their own shortcomings.

Unless both sides hunker down into a meaningful dialogue, the current spate
of incoherent policies will be followed by more acts of mindless terror,
leading to harsher reprisals. The unending cycle of violence will send the
world into a spiral of chaos, fear and confusion.


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