We Must All Look to Our Wrongs
01 August 2004

Anyone in the West who has the arrogance to think that
Muslims don’t understand the concept of forgiveness should read a new booklet produced by a British Imam and 19 co-religionists.

Why Terror—is there no alternative?*, compiled by
Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony, UK, gives a voice to Muslims who have forgiven in circumstances where many Christians and others would fail the test. After six years in solitary confinement, how many of us would seek out the man who put us there and offer him our forgiveness? How many would let go of our hatred for those we blame for the deaths of thousands of our people or for driving us into exile?

It’s hard to buy the generalization that Islam is a religion of violence when you read of the young Lebanese militiaman who laid down his gun when he realized that the civilian in his sights could have been his grandmother. Or read the Qur’anic injunction, ‘He who has killed one innocent soul, it is as if he has killed all humanity.’

The contributors to the booklet do not mince their words when it comes to the need for change in the Muslim world—an approach picked up with approval by the columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the British daily newspaper, The Independent. She quotes Hisham Shihab from the Lebanon, ‘The lack of democracy and human rights in Muslim societies creates a vacuum of leadership that is often filled by extremist groups. We must look to our own wrongs.’ And she responds, ‘Amen to that I say.’

And if Muslims must look to their own wrongs, so the West must look to its policies in the Muslim world, and to its apparent indifference to the sufferings of those who live in poverty and conflict. The widening gap between rich and poor, the plight of refugees, the injustices, humiliation and desperation suffered by millions combine to create a breeding ground for bitterness and revenge. Palestinian researcher Imad Karam puts the need succinctly: ‘We need help in convincing our own people that the West can change.’

We too must look to our own wrongs.
Mary Lean

* Published by Caux Books, 2004, and available for purchase from the online shop at www.iofc.org