February 24, 2006

Younis Takes on Islam in U.S.

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?Strengthening the voices of moderates is the surest way to overpower the voices of extremists, according to Ahmed Younis, national director of Muslim Political Action Committee.

As part of Islam Awareness Week, Younis spoke last night on “Islam in America: An Enemy in our Midst?” He examined the roles of Muslims in America and those of Muslim-Americans in the world. Acording to Younis, the failure to fully integrate Muslims into America has forgone the West’s only chance to create an effective moderate dialogue with the Muslim world.

“The integration of Muslim minority communities in the West is the Achilles heel of the ability of the West and the Muslim world to engage in a conversation that is both productive and healthy.” he said.

Younis began his talk by confronting the prevailing belief in a fundamental clash between the Muslim and American civilizations. Younis noted that Muslims have lived in America since its inception and that 70 percent of Muslims currently living in America are American-born.

Younis also emphasized that Muslims and Americans share fundamental values.

“There is no contradiction between the founding principles of Islam and the founding principles of America” he said.

Despite the myriad reasons for Muslims to be fully integrated into American society, Younis believes they have not reached that point. While America has successfully integrated Muslims economically and socially, he said it has failed to do so politically.

At the highest levels in the capital, Younis claimed few Muslim voices are heard.

And when moderate Muslims do not hold political power in America, he said, the only voices heard abroad are those of American “Islam-ophobe” extremists. The voices of these Western extremists then give fuel to extremists on the other side of the issue. What results, said Younis, “is a conversation between extremists.”

Moderate Muslims, according to Younis, must not only find power in the Western world but in the Muslim world as well. Younis noted that Muslims must be trained in “classical Islam” so that they can be taken seriously in the Muslim world as well.

Younis then turned his attention to the ongoing world riots that are currently occurring throughout the Muslim world. The riots were instigated by a Danish newspaper’s decision to print cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad. It is forbidden by Muslim law to draw the prophet.

According to Younis, the cartoons should not have been published in the first place. Mohammad, he said, is a sacred figure that should not be defamed “in the same way that Jesus and Abraham should not be defamed.”

Despite the fact that the cartoons were religiously offensive, Younis saw the reaction to them as political, not religious.

“The people that are rioting are not rioting because of Islam,” he said. “They are rioting to voice something in places where you cannot voice anything.”

Younis believes these riots bring attention to the need of moderate Muslims to balance the extremists on both sides of the aisle. The only two voices heard loudly in the issue were the two extreme ones: the Muslims rioting and the newspaper that printed the cartoons. Thus, said Younis, now is a time when the world needs “moderate Muslims who can help calm the fire” and take the attention away from extremists.

Roena Williams, who attended the lecture, agreed with Younis’s faith in the power of moderates. “Muslims here are able to be more educated” said Williams, “so they can have a real intelligent conversation about their religion, together, the will be able to make a change and progress forward.”

Wasif Syed Ph.D. ’08 did not agree as whole-heartedly with all that Younis had to say. Mainly, Syed seemed to believe that Younis had treated the rioters in a too unsympathetic manner.

“A lot of individuals on the street are out their repressing their personal gain, but one should not be surprised at people burning down embassies; au contraire, I’m surprised that there is not more outrage”

Archived article by Lauren Hirsch
Sun Staff Writer