Imagine the following hypothetical situations:
– A self-identified Christian student at the University contributes a viewpoint to the Daily in which he expresses approval of the murders of Matthew Shepherd and Dr. Barnet Slepian and praises the Ku Klux Klan. No doubt every Christian group on campus and every Christian clergy and lay leader would denounce these sentiments and disassociate him or herself from the statements made in the viewpoint.
– A self-identified Jewish student writes an viewpoint for the Daily in which she praises the terrorist murderer Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 innocent Muslims in Hebron in 1994. She goes on to espouse the racist ideology of the late Meir Kahane and his extremist Kach movement (which has been banned by the Israeli government). Doubtless, the next issue of the Daily would include a strongly-worded letter to the editor signed by the leader of every Jewish organization on campus and every rabbi in Ann Arbor in which they condemned the viewpoint and unequivocally repudiated the terrorism of Baruch Goldstein and the racism of Kach.
Now imagine that a self-identified Arab-American or Muslim-American student submits a viewpoint to the Daily in which he praises the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbollah both of which are responsible for the deliberate murder of innocent civilians, including children. Actually, you don”t have to imagine it: On Oct. 22, Wael Hakmeh wrote in the Daily, “We should praise Syria for its allowing Hamas and Hizbollah to fight for their freedom (sic), to rid their land of the illegal Zionist occupation.” (“Discussing diplomatic hypocrisy hypocritically,” 10/22/01).
And what was the response of the various Arab and Muslim organizations on campus to Hakmeh”s explicit endorsement of terrorism? Silence. In the days following the publication of Hakmeh”s viewpoint, there was not a murmur of public dissent by a single Muslim or Arab student organization. In fact, Hakmeh sits on the executive board of the University Muslim Students Association, according to their website.
We are told again and again that not all Arab- and Muslim-Americans support terrorism. This is true, of course, and it must be repeated loudly and clearly in order to discourage hate crimes which are a blot on the honor of America and a disgrace to our democratic society. However, we cannot ignore the unfortunate fact as demonstrated by Hakmeh”s viewpoint and the reaction to it that, while not all Arab- and Muslim-Americans support terrorism, not all of them oppose it, either.
Of course, every religious and ethnic community has its extremist elements. But it is the responsibility of community leaders to de-legitimize and condemn those who would twist their faith to justify wanton murder. The appalling public silence that greeted Hakmeh”s pro-terrorist viewpoint is evidence that, sadly, Michigan”s Arab and Muslim community leaders are not living up to this responsibility.
I hope this will change. Sherman Jackson who assured us at the Sept. 11 candlelight vigil that Islam, as he interprets it, prohibits the killing of innocents should take the lead. He can do so by publicly disavowing Hakmeh”s endorsement of terrorist organizations and by unequivocally condemning by name groups like Hamas, Hizbollah and Al-Qaeda, that deliberately massacre innocent civilians in the name of the faith he calls his own. Such a public statement would do much to discredit the bigots who seek to tar all Muslims as pro-terrorist.
Brook is a student in the University”s Law School.