An Open Letter to Dylan Ratigan, from a Muslim

Dear Dylan,

It was refreshing to hear you speak so candidly and powerfully about the (mis)treatment of Muslims in today’s media. Clearly, the other commentators on Morning Joe were not used to hearing such penetrating critiques of their profession. Your words may be hard to swallow for some people, but self scrutiny is the only way to mature and improve. We need more discussions like this in our country.

As a Muslim – and I think I speak for many, many others – the first thought that came to mind after hearing your commentary was alhamdulillah (thank God).

Thank you for speaking up for Muslims, especially when there are so many incentives for you to perpetuate the standard narratives.

There was one thing, though, that I wish you would have added. Midway through your comment, Mike Barnicle interjected:

You have referenced, to my mind, the most valid point that Bill O’Reilly made, and it is that in the wake of everything that has occurred around the world since September 11th – and before September 11th – the [USS] Cole bombing… The leadership of the Muslim world has remained uniquely silent about what has happened. You get no encyclical from the Muslim world about condemnations.

It was surprising to hear a veteran journalist make such a patently false claim with so much self-confidence. In reality, terrorism has been roundly condemned by the most influential scholars and institutions across the ‘Muslim world’. This, in fact, is exactly the reason why extremists like Anwar Al-Awlaki have to warn their followers:

Don’t consult with anybody in killing the Americans. Fighting the devil doesn’t require consultation or prayers seeking divine guidance.

Al-Awlaki says this because he knows that Muslims would be hard-pressed to find any reputable scholar that would endorse his warped idea of jihad.

The most prominent and respected Muslim leaders across the globe have condemned terrorism, time and again. Perhaps Barnicle thinks that because these condemnations are made in languages like Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Indonesian and aren’t widely reported, they must not exist. The myopia is breathtaking.

To illustrate my point:

[Unique Silence: Indonesian scholar Ustadh Abdul Hakim bin Amir Abdat responds to a question about the “legality of suicide bombs, like in Palestine” (“Apa hukum-nya bom bunuh diri seperti di Palestina?”). He says that no real scholars have given fatwas approving the practice, that it is not jihad, that those who do it will go to hell, that it is fasada fil ‘ard - “corruption on the face of the earth” (a Qur’anic phrase) and that it amounts to killing without justification, disrupts public safety and undermines trust between people. He describes those who encourage suicide bombings as “the enemies of Islam”, “dressing like Muslims, talking like Muslims … destroying Islam.”]

The imaginary “unique silence” of Muslim leaders on the issue of terrorism has been a right-wing talking point for years now. To debunk this myth, several lists of Muslim condemnations have been made. Here are only a few of the most famous figures who have spoken out:

Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad (Tim Winter) (BRITAIN)

“Bin Laden’s violence is a heresy against Islam.”

Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti (BRITAIN)

“The result in Islamic jurisprudence is: if a Muslim carries out such an attack voluntarily, he becomes a murderer and not a martyr or a hero, and he will be punished for that in the Next World.”

Over 500 British Muslim clerics

[The fatwa] states Islam condemns the use of violence and the destruction of innocent lives and says suicide bombings are “vehemently prohibited”.

Syed Mumtaz Ali, President of the Canadian Society of Muslims

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Canadians in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts.

Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, one of the world’s most well-known scholars (EGYPT)

“I categorically go against a committed Muslim’s embarking on such attacks. Islam never allows a Muslim to kill the innocent and the helpless. … If such attacks were carried out by a Muslim – as some biased groups claim – then we, in the name of our religion, deny the act and incriminate the perpetrator. We do confirm that the aggressor deserves the deterrent punishment irrespective of his religion, race or gender. … I have been asked several questions on TV programs and on public lectures about the martyr operations outside the Palestinian territories, and I always answer that I do agree with those who do not allow such martyr operations to be carried out outside the Palestinian territories.”

Shaykh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of historic Al-Azhar University (EGYPT)

The grand sheikh replied that terrorism was aggression against innocent men, women and children, but the jihad was legitimate self-defence against injustice and oppression.

Sheikh Tantawi then made it clear that he did not agree with the view held by some Muslims that all Israelis were legitimate targets because at some stage they would all carry a gun.

6,000 Indian Muslim clerics, including Darul Uloom Deoband, India’s top Islamic institute

“Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form. Cooperation should be done for the cause of good but not for committing sin or oppression.”

Prominent Indian scholar and author, Shaykh Wahiduddin Khan

table { font-size: 10pt; }“Terrorism is an abomination in the eyes of God and opposed to a proper understanding of our respective scriptures. It is also opposed to every principle of humanitarian concern.”

Popular Indian Islamic scholar, Ali Asghar Engineer

“Osama bin Laden has his own agenda and his acts by no means represent Islamic teachings. No religion in the world, much less Islam, teaches terrorism or inspires any one to kill innocent people.”

Ma’ruf Amin, Head of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars)

“Terror and suicide bombing are totally forbidden in Islam. It is not the form of jihad and martyrdom whatsoever.”

Hasyim Muzadi, Head of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim org. (40 million + members)

“I push the police to be brave enough to take action against terrorism and to join with NU. NU can give information to society that religion is not violent, but if there’s violence the police must act quickly. … Prosecuting terror through the courts takes a long time but it’s a safer process. All convicted terrorists should be executed.”

Din Syamsuddin, Head of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s 2nd largest Muslim org. (35 million + members)

“There is no place in Islam for terrorism since our religion teaches its followers not to kill other humans.”

Abdurrahman Wahid, Former Indonesian President and former head of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)

“Once again the cult of death has proved its ability to recruit misguided fanatics and incite them to violate Islam’s most sacred teachings in the very name of God. The only way to break this vicious cycle is by discrediting the perverse ideology that underlies and motivates such acts of terrorism.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

“Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned” he said “wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be.”

Ayatollah Imami Kashani (IRAN)

Kashani spoke of a catastrophic act of terrorism which could only be condemned by all Muslims, adding the whole world should mobilise against terrorism.

Iraq’s foremost Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

A Canadian Muslim leader said Wednesday that Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, had called on his Canadian followers to abide by a fatwa or religious edicts barring them from acts of terror or violence against innocent people.

Shaykh Muhammad Hussain Fadlallah (LEBANON)

But Sheik Fadlallah, now 66, has been relentless in his condemnation of the attacks in America.

He preaches that they were “not compatible with Shariah law,” the Koranic legal code, nor with the Islamic concept of jihad, and that the perpetrators were not martyrs as Mr. bin Laden has claimed, but “merely suicides,” because they killed innocent civilians, and in a distant land, America. In an interview with a Beirut newspaper, Al Safir, Sheik Fadlallah again accused Mr. bin Laden of having ignored Koranic texts.

“There is no concept of jihad as aggressive combat,” he said, quoting verses of the Koran that Islamic theologians have argued over for centuries. In misreading these texts, he said, Mr. bin Laden had relied on “personal psychological needs,” including a “tribal urge for revenge.”

Leading cleric Shaykh Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri (PAKISTAN)

“They can’t claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma [the wider Muslim community], no, they become heroes of hellfire, and they are leading towards hellfire. … There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered Jihad.”

Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid (SAUDI ARABIA)

“It is not permissible to kill a kaafir who is not hostile or who has a legitimate peace treaty with the Muslims; rather treating a non-hostile kaafir with kindness is part of the Islamic religion.”

Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Abd al-Aziz bin Abdallah Aal al-Shaykh

“What you call suicide bombings in my view are illegitimate and have nothing to do with jihad in the cause of God. I am afraid it is another form of killing oneself.”

Shaykh Tijani Cisse (over 50 million followers) (SENEGAL)

Shaykh Tijani went on to speak of Islam’s doctrinal and historical orientation toward peace, salam. Those who associated Islam with violence and terrorism, whether non-Muslims or Muslims themselves, were ignorant of Islam’s true worth.

Grand Mufti of Syria, Shaykh Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun

“There is no holy war, because a war can never be holy: it is peace that is holy.”  Later he said it was wrong to use religion to justify killing.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (US)

“In Islam, the only wars that are permitted are between armies and they should engage on battlefields and engage nobly. The Prophet Muhammad said, “Do not kill women or children or non-combatants and do not kill old people or religious people,” and he mentioned priests, nuns and rabbis. And he said, “Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees and do not poison the wells of your enemies.” The Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet, say that no one can punish with fire except the lord of fire. It’s prohibited to burn anyone in Islam as a punishment. No one can grant these attackers any legitimacy. It was evil.”

Esteemed scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr (US)

“Even in war, however, the inflicting of any injury to women and children is forbidden as is the use of force against civilians.”

Imam Zaid Shakir (US)

“No matter what political context we may try to fit that gristly act into, right is right, and wrong is wrong. What happened on Tuesday, September 11th, was wrong.”

There is more here:


These will be illuminating for many Americans to read. Please be sure to pass them on to Mike Barnicle.




Filed under Commentary

3 responses to “An Open Letter to Dylan Ratigan, from a Muslim

  1. It is absolutely atrocious to hear anyone talk about Muslims being mistreated in the media today. As a Muslim, I realize we’re not always presented in the greatest light, but this results from the impotent behavior of Muslim leaders nationwide to constructively demonstrate our unquestionable loyalty to the United States. What is even sadder is that we should take the offer of this blog seriously: the only reason Muslims are socially discriminated against today is because the half dozen high profile terror attacks and attempts of terror attacks in our country were committed by individuals claiming to be Muslims. Unless we actively purge radicalism and dual loyalties from our community, and proactively engage in actual attempts at mutual dialogue as the author of this blog claims he supports on Twitter, then our community will remain suspect for years to come.

    • As-salaamu alaikum, brother.

      We certainly have different views on the media. On a related note, I highly recommend the documentary “Reel Bad Arabs”, which discusses the exhaustive work of Dr. Jack Shaheen, whose book (of the same name) extensively documented the bigoted stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs that have been ubiquitous in hollywood since the beginning of American cinema. You can watch it here:

      As for “the impotent behavior of Muslim leaders nationwide to constructively demonstrate our unquestionable loyalty to the United States”, this strikes me as a very un-American thing to say. Just as “innocent until proven guilty” is a foundational axiom of our justice system, Americans should be assumed “loyal until proven treasonous”. I also don’t agree that Muslim leaders have failed to somehow prove they are not terrorists. I find the idea rather ridiculous, frankly.

      This is also relevant: A tracking of plots by Muslim and non-Muslim violent extremists against the United States

      Salaam and jazakallah khair for commenting

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