Muqtedar Khan, the director of international studies at Adrian College in Adrian, Mich., felt compelled to reply to last week's videotape of Osama bin Laden calling on Iraqis to carry out suicide missions against Americans. His "Memo to Mr. bin Laden: Go to Hell!" is, he says, an American Muslim's response to the "fugitive terrorist." Khan, the author of "American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom" (Amana), posted this memo on his Web site, Ijtihad.org.
Mr. bin Laden, in the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent,
I begin by reciting some important principles of Islam to remind you that there is more to Islam than just a call to arms.
1. Islam was sent as mercy to humanity (Quran 4:79).
2. Do not make mischief on the earth (Quran 29:36).
3. People, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might know one another. The noblest of you before God is the most righteous of you (49:13).
4. There are among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) upstanding nations that recite the message of God and worship throughout the night, who believe in God, who order honor and forbid dishonor and hasten to do good works. These are the righteous (3:113-114).
I am writing this to make clear that there are Muslims in America and in the world who despise and condemn extremists and have nothing to do with you, and those like you, for whom killing constitutes worship.
Islam was sent as mercy to humanity and not as an ideology of terror or hatred. It advocates plurality and moral equality of all faiths (Quran 2:62, 5:69). To use Islam to justify declaring Armageddon against all non-Muslims is inherently un-Islamic -- it is a despicable distortion of a faith of peace.
One of Allah's 99 names in the Quran is "Al Salam," which means "peace." Thus, in a way, Muslims are the only people who actually worship peace. Today this claim sounds so empty, thanks to people like you, Mr. bin Laden. You and those like you are dedicated to killing and bringing misery to people wherever they are. God blessed you with the capacity to lead and also endowed you with enormous resources. You could have used your influence in Afghanistan to develop it, to bring it out of poverty and show the world what Islam can do for those who believe in it. You chose to provoke and bring war to a people who had already been devastated by wars.
Yes, many innocent people lost their lives in America's war on Afghanistan and many more might lose their lives in Iraq. This is indeed regrettable. But we must never forget that the West is divided and agonizing over this decision to go to war in Iraq. While many Americans and Europeans oppose the war, Muslim nations have already agreed to cooperate in this war. No Muslim leader has tried to play the role of a statesman on this issue. It is a tragedy that there is not a single Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter or Nelson Mandela in the entire Muslim world who would stand up and speak for justice!
Before we rush to condemn America we must remember that even today millions of poor and miserable people all across the world are lining up outside U.S. embassies eager to come to America, not just to live here but to become Americans. No Muslim country today can claim that people of other nations and other faiths see in it the promise of hope, equality, dignity and prosperity.
Yes, we American Muslims will continue to challenge the Bush administration's proposal to wage war against Iraq. Many of us think a regime change in Washington is as necessary as a regime change in Baghdad, but that is an intramural affair. Once the war is declared, make no mistake, Mr. bin Laden (you, too, Mr. Saddam Hussein), we are with America. We will fight with America and we will fight for America. We have a covenant with this nation, which we see as a divine commitment, and we will not disobey the Quran (9:4) -- we will fulfill our obligations as citizens to the land that opened its doors to us and promised us equality and dignity even though we are of a different faith. I am sure, Mr. bin Laden, you can neither understand nor appreciate this willingness to accept and welcome the other.
Sure, at this moment, out of anger, frustration and fear, some in America have momentarily forgotten their own values. I am confident that, God willing, this moment of shock and insecurity will pass and America will once again become the beacon of freedom, tolerance and acceptance that it was before Sept. 11th. On that day, Mr. bin Laden, you not only killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans, many of whom were Muslims, but you signed the death warrants of many other innocent people who will die in this war on terror and many more who will suffer the pain and the misery of war. Before Sept. 11th, the United States was giving tens of millions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan and was content to wait for the Iraqi people to free themselves and the rest of the world from their dictator. On that day you changed the rules of the game, and Muslims in many places are suffering as a result.
When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions fought in the name of Islam, Allah made them victorious and glorified them in this world. They made Islam the currency of human civilization for over a millennium. You and your men on the other hand face nothing but defeat, global ridicule and contempt and run and hide like rats in caves and dungeons. You live in the dark. Your faith neither enlightens you nor enables you to live in the light, and you have made Islam the currency of hate and violence.
Let me tell you that I would rather live in America under Ashcroft and Bush at their worst than in any "Islamic state" established by ignorant, intolerant and murderous punks like you and Mullah Omar. The United States -- its Patriot Act notwithstanding -- is still a more Islamic (just and tolerant) state than Afghanistan ever was under the Taliban. Remember this: Muslims from all over the world who wished to live better lives migrated to America, and Muslims who only wished to take lives migrated to Afghanistan to join you. We will not follow the desires of people (like you) who went astray and led many astray from the Straight Path (Quran 5:77).
I conclude by calling upon you and your al Qaeda colleagues, and Mr. Hussein, to surrender to an international court and take responsibility for your actions and save thousands of other innocent Muslims from becoming the victims of the wars you bring upon them.