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Wednesday 14 December 2011

Mistakes made about Muslim violence

Mistakes made about Muslim violence

Mr. Sarkissian makes at least two common mistakes in his Dec. 7 Viewpoint on Islamic violence. First, he equates his experience and research with the totality of possible experiences and the full breadth of research. When a person's proof that something doesn't exist rests on their not having experienced/heard/seen it, you should ask how big their ears are, how diverse their sources and how open their eyes. Mr. Sarkissian professes to have paid close attention, but still managed to miss countless Muslim voices post-9/11 denouncing terrorism. I suspect Mr. Sarkissian is not fluent in Arabic, Javanese and Urdu, for starters, and did not read every regional newspaper and blog or listen to every radio and TV broadcast in the immediate weeks and months after 9/11. His assertion that "there were no Muslim clerics who denounced the attacks"¬ùis not supported by facts, even if he personally can't recall any denunciations (was he waiting for the grand imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque to pay a special visit from Cairo to West Newbury to personally denounce 9/11 and soothe Mr. Sarkissian's concerns?).
Mr. Sarkissian's second mistake is believing Muslims worldwide adhere strictly to a universal set of beliefs or a single prominent voice on matters of religion. Plenty of Muslims practice their faith in a manner similar to Catholics who pick and choose among the Vatican's teachings or Protestants who only make it to church on Christmas and Easter. And much like Protestants who have no pope, Sunni Muslims follow no single cleric or imam. Mr. Sarkissian mistakenly looks for a single or small group of prominent and authoritative pope-like Islamic voices, instead of understanding that Islam is a religion as complex as Christianity, practiced in a wide variety of ways.
Hopefully, Mr. Sarkissian and others who commented online in support of his letter will at least recognize their mistakes: It may be intellectually easy to believe, but 1) absence of personal knowledge doesn't prove something doesn't exist; and 2) Islam is not a monolithic religion and culture with central authoritative figures. As for the nasty and fantastical assertions (such as, "there are 70,000 Muslims right now in the U.S. whose sole reason for being here is to kill you"): Mr. Sarkissian compounds his other mistakes by having studied Islam and the Koran only enough to confirm his prejudices. If Mr. Sarkissian made those comments publicly about any other religion, he would be shunned for his bigotry and laughed at for his ignorance.
Patrick M. Heffernan

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