Marching Far Enough?

The Free Muslims March Against Terror, scheduled for this Saturday and sponsored by Free Muslims Against Terrorism (FMAT), is generating considerable excitement among non-Muslims. Could this finally be large-scale Muslim anti-terror action that the world has longed to see since 9/11?

Maybe. But there are some strange things about it. In the first place, there are a large number of non-Muslim groups among the endorsers of the March: the Objectivist Center; the U.S. Copts Association; the Institute on Religion and Public Policy; DiversityWorking.com; American Family Coalition of Virginia; Government of Free Vietnam; Canadian Israeli Students Association at the University of Calgary; Fairfax Area Young Republicans, etc

This makes me wonder in what sense this is really “Muslims” marching against terror. There are more non-Muslims on the list than Muslims. If the rally attracts large crowds, the media will no doubt report that large numbers of Muslims marched against terror, when it is entirely possible that more non-Muslims will march than Muslims. I am all for opposing terrorism, but I wonder what such a gathering would really accomplish in terms of establishing the existence of a Muslim presence against terror.

Also, I confess that I am somewhat puzzled by a list of endorsers that includes Marion Meadows Entertainment, JPJ Fashions, The Law Offices of Andrew Pakis, The Nawash Law Office, Rask Law Office, and Scentual Fragrance. What do these groups have to do with terrorism and jihad? What does their presence on the endorser list do except pad the list — enabling FMAT to send out a press release recently touting the March’s endorsement by over 50 groups?

Also, not long ago I received a critical analysis of certain premises of the March and FMAT from a writer named Erich von Abele. He noted that while FMAT statements “say they reject the violent interpretation of ‘jihad,’ they seem to leave wiggle room open for it with the following comment: ‘The Coalition feels that the concept of jihad should be reinterpreted for a modern day context in which holy war is obsolete. No holy war needs to be waged; there is no clear and present threat to Islam…’ This comment implies that a violent type of jihad would need to be waged if there were a clear and present threat to Islam…”

Von Abele sent this analysis to FMAT’s Kamal Nawash and received this response: “Dear Erich, Paranoid schtsophrinia [sic] is a treatable disease now. Please see some one about your problems. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are nuts. 21st century medicine has cures for just about anything. This is our official response. I hope you keep your word and have it published. FreeMuslims.org

For obvious reasons, I found it highly disturbing. I am used to getting abuse from Islamic apologists, but I thought von Abele’s questions were entirely reasonable, and warranted a serious answer. That Nawash instead chose to respond with vituperation and insults is more than unfortunate.

Like von Abele, I wonder what FMAT means by “terror.” It would be refreshing if FMAT could be more specific and host a Muslims March Against Jihad Terrorism. I would be happy to endorse such a March. After all, everyone is against “terrorism.” Even the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has denounced “terror” — even while three of its officials have been arrested for various terror-related offenses in recent years. That CAIR would not endorse this March is the best testimony in its favor. But in a recent phone conversation with an FMAT official, CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper stated: “The leadership of this organization does not believe that FMAT represents the interests of the American Muslim community. We believe that CAIR does, and our organization has spoken loudly and clearly against terrorism. We are not sure what this rally would accomplish.”

I’m not sure either. I’m against mass murder and mayhem against civilians, and I’m glad FMAT is finally establishing a Muslim stance against them too. Much, much more is needed. Will it come from Kamal Nawash? The jury is still out.


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