Faith: The Journal of the International League of Religious Socialists

Autumn 2001 Edition (HTML Version)

Previous Editions
Dealing with Terror
Perspectives on 11 September and Beyond:

Dealing with Terror

This edition of Faith is devoted to the question of terror and how to confront it. We have included different views on the subject, and will continue to hear more from our community as events develop.

The ILRS released two statements on the events related to 11 September. You can view them below:

Perspectives on 11 September and Beyond

The terrorist attacks of 11 September have sent the world into a period of new fear and uncertainty about the future. Even among socialists, there is a wide variety of opinion regarding how we should respond to the threat of terror. Two articles follow which explore that question, and they are the personal perspectives of the authors. A third article comes to us courtesy of Dr. Muqtedar Khan, from the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

To Counteract Terrorism
Evert Svensson

It is extremely uncertain if bombs can eliminate or counteract terrorism. This doesn't help in anyway but merely creates a countereffect by producing more terrorists, who are ready to sacrifice their own lives and the lives of others.

The US is living in a dreamworld where the juxtaposition of military and economic power jades their insight. This could be summed up as the power of arrogance. In reality civilians suffer, refugees increase - which altogether results in catastrophe.

The development of impending state terrorism with the same brutality experienced by victims in the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. Apart from this recent incident, there are many examples to refer to.

Initiated measures to alleviate sufferings must be connected to the UN as well as led by the UN Security Council. The US and Britain as self-elected pioneers of power cannot implement ideas at random and then inform the UN afterwards on the measures taken. International law that includes Human Rights and Children's Convention ought to be weighed in on such decisions.
The leadership role of the UN must be strengthened because UN lacks operative power to implement decisions - such ought to be created. An independent international court also ought to be created - where terrorists can be tried, judged and sentenced in accordance with International law.

The US immediately ought to join and support this available suggestion. It is not appropriate for a president of the US to decide death penalty on others´ soil. The death penalty ought to be abolished because it is obsolete.

One could see two acute reasons in connection to terror deaths. The economic sanctions against Iraq resulted into the deaths of more than 100.000 children due to the lack of medical needs. The Palestinian situation is no longer viable. It has instead detoriated. Both incidents instigate hatred and terror towards the US - seen as the cause in both ends.

The sanctions against Iraq must therefore stop - (it only helps to strengthen Saddam Hussein’s position) and a peaceful solution between Israeli government and Palestine National Authority to be achieved)

There are already in the world ready-made plans. A general and comprehensive agreement is an immediate necessity.

The underlying factor of terrorism is also no doubt the injustice between the rich and the poor. It is therefore a high time to do something seriously in order to alleviate seriously world poverty - at a high political level instead of resolutions.

Isn't it cynical to observe that nations of the world have enormous amount of money for war machines but no money for the needy when it comes to reality.

The US and Britain gave out Official development assistance (ODA) 0,2-0,3 per cent of their GNP (the Nordic countries and The Netherlands meet the requirements from UN of 0,7 per cent) whilst their defence budget is being redoubled. Parliaments decide, without any obstacle, billions to spend on the war machine whilst the voluntary organisations have to put up with begging cans (alt. go around with money collection boxes) to get a dime to help those in acute need.

Ambitions are certainly not lacking. Many high level meetings have been held in favour of fighting poverty, disease, and the availability of housing, food and clothing for people in need. But paradoxically when the bills need to be paid - economic means are always out of range. There are many possibilities to harness resources. For example: A raise of 0,7 per cent on aids from the GNP of the West. Also the implementation of the so-called 'Tobin tax' - or a US dollar on every gallon of oil, or extra addition (alt. charge) on international flight tickets. There are lots of possibilities to materialise these aims.

The world has never been as rich as it is at the moment! In the long run nobody loses in social and economic equality. This has been demonstrated in the Nordic affluent system. 'Send bread over the ocean and one day you'll get it back' as indicated in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Implement a system of international child allowance.

Small allowances to mothers for the upbringing, education and welfare of their children. This was suggested by a former Member of Parliament in Sweden - Mrs Lena Klevenås of the Social Democratic Party in Sweden.

Risk for strong antagonism between the western world of Christianity and the Muslim Arab World.

This must be discouraged at all cost. In both sides some are talking of evil and Satan. It's typical that the other side is always accused of these negations - whilst one imagines himself as the element of goodness. At this juncture we have no need for extremists.

It is late now and a great deal is already lost. Broken promises are galore but it is still not too late for reparations. Maybe current problems can help the world to see clearly in a more realistic way the injustices in today's world.

Gathering a Sense of Socialist Opinions
Andrew Hammer

As the hours passed on 11 September, along with trying to grasp the size of the tragedy, my thoughts moved toward how the socialist movement would respond to the day’s events. I knew that such horrible acts would be condemned, but I wondered about how our political world would react regarding what should be done about them. I also reflected on how closely the motives behind the attacks corresponded with our own organisation’s focus on religious and political extremism.

In the days ahead, we would see the social democratic governments of Europe not only supporting the right of the US to invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter, but also agreeing to send their own troops to support US efforts against terror. Socialist leaders have provided careful but not uncritical support to the US, as they have joined the fight against terror throughout the world. The Socialist International has been quite clear in its language against terrorism. At the Socialist International Council meeting in Santo Domingo, SI President António Gutierres stated that ‘poverty is not the cause of terrorism’, and that ‘a Saudi millionaire is not the representative of the world’s poor.’ This theme was repeated by other speakers at the meeting, and four points were stressed regarding the SI response to terrorism:

  • The SI condemns terrorism in all its forms
  • The SI supports the legitimate use of force to fight terrorism, but will also continue to fight for transparency in the global economic system
  • The SI remains committed to a lasting peace in the Middle East
  • The SI can be counted on to support the war on terrorism, to help resolve international conflicts, and to adopt harsh measures to crack down on the financing of terrorist groups

Most significant in my view, was the recognition that being poor and oppressed does not lead to a murderous underclass. In fact, to expand on what Gutierres points out, an examination of the history of terrorist movements makes clear that most leaders of terrorist groups have not come from the proletariat.

Some in our movement have stated that terrorism is a direct result of poverty, which in a way, insults the integrity of the poor. We cannot accept the notion that the grievances of the poorer nations inevitably lead to acts of terror or the support of terror against others. In Haiti, Burkina Faso, and the slums of Brazil, the world's poorest people did not celebrate the attacks on 11 September. To be poor does not mean that one is prone to violence.

Poverty does however, create ignorance and despair which can be easily manipulated into hate. Therefore we socialists believe that the alleviation of the economic injustice which creates poverty is the best weapon against extremist ideas. People who are freed from extreme conditions do not choose extreme solutions. Along with identifying the shared human values between religious faiths, we believe that the best way to fight religious and political extremism is by working to build a decent life for all. And it must be said that cannot be done by military actions alone, if at all. Aside from the terrorist threat, this current crisis poses the threat once again of rampant unilateralism by the United States, whose policies both domestic and abroad show no concern for the plight of the world’s poor.

But the threat of armed fundamentalism must be confronted. We must not forget that there are certain universal ideas in which we believe as religious democratic socialists, that are simply not negotiable anywhere in the world. No legitimate religion, and no degree of oppression suffered, can justify a denial of basic human rights as a proposed solution to social problems.

There is no acceptable explanation, cultural or religious, for the subjugation or separation of women to a lower status in society, where they are denied equal rights under the law. There is no acceptable explanation for the persecution of religious or ethnic minorities. This includes the destruction of temples and holy sites throughout the world, which must be made freely accessible to those whose faiths they represent.

If we concede these points to any group claiming to represent any religious or political idea, we have taken a step back to the dark ages. For this reason, at this moment, our religious socialist movement has no clearer purpose. At the Budapest Congress of the ILRS in October 2000, we began work on a Campaign Against Religious and Political Extremism, in recognition of the danger posed to the world by extremist currents in both politics as well as religion. This struggle has now been joined by the world. It is a struggle not only against extremist ideas themselves, but also the underlying causes of human misery and want which are so easily exploited by those who choose terror.

It is dangerously naïve to consider that the best way to deal with terrorists is to accept their justifications for their actions. If neither their actions nor their justifications are acceptable under our own democratic values, then by our acceptance of them we have placed ourselves under hostage, and willingly become the serfs of violence. Such a position of total capitulation can never be taken by socialists.

Therefore, while we reject the talk of a material war between nations, we do need to recognise that we are in a 'war' of ideas with those who choose terror as a means of expressing their ideas.

Winning the war of ideas has always been part of the socialist goal, whether we are waging it against neo-liberal capitalists or against mullahs who have hijacked the entire Islamic faith for their own purposes. In this very dangerous time, we must work doubly hard to win against both US unilateralism and feudal fundamentalism.

A Memo to American Muslims
Dr Muqtedar Khan

In the name of Allah, the most Benevolent and the Most Merciful. May this memo find you in the shade of Islam enjoying the mercy, the protection and the grace of Allah.

I am writing this memo to you all with the explicit purpose of inviting you to lead the American Muslim community in soul searching, reflection and reassessment.

What happened on September 11th in New York and Washington DC will forever remain a horrible scar on the history of Islam and humanity. No matter how much we condemn it, and point to the Quran and the Sunnah to argue that Islam forbids the killing of innocent people, the fact remains that the perpetrators of this crime against humanity have indicated that their actions are sanctioned by Islamic values.

The fact that even now several Muslim scholars and thousands of Muslims defend the accused is indicative that not all Muslims believe that the attacks are un-Islamic. This is truly sad.

Even if it were true that Israel and the US are enemies of the Muslim World, (wonder what is preventing them from unleashing their nuclear arsenal against Muslims) a response that mercilessly murders thousands of innocent people, including hundreds of Muslims is absolutely indefensible. If anywhere in your hearts there is any sympathy or understanding with those who committed this act, I invite you to ask yourself this question, would Muhammad (pbuh) sanction such an act?

While encouraging Muslims to struggle against injustice (Al Quran 4:135), Allah also imposes strict rules of engagement. He says in unequivocal terms that to kill an innocent being is like killing entire humanity (Al Quran 5:32). He also encourages Muslims to forgive Jews and Christians if they have committed injustices against us (Al Quran 2:109, 3:159, 5:85).

Muslims, including American Muslims have been practicing hypocrisy on a grand scale. They protest against the discriminatory practices of Israel but are silent against the discriminatory practices in Muslim states. In the Gulf one can see how laws and even salaries are based on ethnic origin. This is racism, but we never hear of Muslims protesting against them at International fora.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is perhaps central to Muslim grievance against the West. While acknowledging that, I must remind you that Israel treats its one million Arab citizens with greater respect and dignity than most Arab nations treat their citizens. Today Palestinian refugees can settle and become citizens of the United States but in spite of all the tall rhetoric of the Arab world and Quranic injunctions (24:22) no Muslim country except Jordan extends this support to them.

While we loudly and consistently condemn Israel for its ill treatment of Palestinians we are silent when Muslim regimes abuse the rights of Muslims and slaughter thousands of them. Remember Saddam and his use of chemical weapons against Muslims (Kurds)? Remember Pakistani army’s excesses against Muslims (Bengalis)? Remember the Mujahideen of Afghanistan and their mutual slaughter? Have we ever condemned them for their excesses? Have we demanded international intervention or retribution against them? Do you know how the Saudis treat their minority Shiis? Have we protested the violation of their rights? But we all are eager to condemn Israel; not because we care for rights and lives of the Palestinians, we don’t. We condemn Israel because we hate “them".

Muslims love to live in the US but also love to hate it. Many openly claim that the US is a terrorist state but they continue to live in it. Their decision to live here is testimony that they would rather live here than anywhere else. As an Indian Muslim, I know for sure that nowhere on earth, including India, will I get the same sense of dignity and respect that I have received in the US. No Muslim country will treat me as well as the US has. If what happened on September 11th had happened in India, the biggest democracy, thousands of Muslims would have been slaughtered in riots on mere suspicion and there would be another slaughter after confirmation. But in the US, bigotry and xenophobia has been kept in check by media and leaders. In many places hundreds of Americans have gathered around Islamic centers in symbolic gestures of protection and embrace of American Muslims. In many cities Christian congregations have started wearing hijab to identify with fellow Muslim women. In patience and in tolerance ordinary Americans have demonstrated their extraordinary virtues.

It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in the US are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim World. If you disagree than prove it by packing your bags and going to whichever Muslim country you identify with. If you do not leave and do not acknowledge that you would rather live here than anywhere else, know that you are being hypocritical.

It is time that we faced these hypocritical practices and struggled to transcend them. It is time that American Muslim leaders fought to purify their own lot.

For over a decade we have watched as Muslims in the name of Islam have committed violence against other Muslims and other peoples. We have always found a way to reconcile the vast distance between Islamic values and Muslim practices by pointing out to the injustices committed upon Muslims by others. The point however is this – our belief in Islam and commitment to Islamic values is not contingent on the moral conduct of the US or Israel. And as Muslims can we condone such inhuman and senseless waste of life in the name of Islam?

The biggest victims of hate filled politics as embodied in the actions of several Muslim militias all over the world are Muslims themselves. Hate is the form of intolerance and when individuals and groups succumb to it they can do nothing constructive. Militias like the Taliban have allowed their hate for the West to override their obligation to pursue the welfare of their people and as a result of their actions not only have thousands of innocent people died in America, but thousands of people will die in the Muslim World.

Already, half a million Afghans have had to leave their homes and their country. The war has not yet begun. It will only get worst. Hamas and Islamic Jihad may kill a few Jews, women and children included, with their suicide bombs and temporarily satisfy their lust for Jewish blood, but thousands of Palestinians then pay the price for their actions.

The culture of hate and killing is tearing away at the moral fabric of the Muslim society. We are more focused on “the other” and have completely forgotten our duty to Allah. In pursuit of the inferior jihad we have sacrificed the superior jihad.

Islamic resurgence, the cherished ideals of which pursued the ultimate goal of a universally just and moral society has been hijacked by hate and call for murder and mayhem. If Bin Laden were an individual then we would have no problem. But unfortunately Bin Laden has become a phenomenon – a cancer eating away at the morality of our youth, and undermining the spiritual health of our future.

Today the century old Islamic revival is in jeopardy because we have allowed insanity to prevail over our better judgment. Yes, the US has played a hand in the creation of Bin Laden and the Taliban, but it is we who have allowed them to grow and gain such a foothold. It is our duty to police our world. It is our responsibility to prevent people from abusing Islam. It is our job to ensure that Islam is not misrepresented. We should have made sure that what happened on Sept. 11th should never have happened.

It is time the leaders of the American Muslim community woke up and realized that there is more to life than competing with the American Jewish lobby for power over US foreign policy. Islam is not about defeating Jews or conquering Jerusalem. It is about mercy, about virtue, about sacrifice and about duty. Above all it is the pursuit of moral perfection. Nothing can be further away from moral perfection than the wanton slaughter of thousands of unsuspecting innocent people.

I hope that we will now rededicate our lives and our institutions to the search for harmony, peace and tolerance. Let us be prepared to suffer injustice rather than commit injustices. After all it is we who carry the divine burden of Islam and not others. We have to be morally better, more forgiving, more sacrificing than others, if we wish to convince the world about the truth of our message. We cannot even be equal to others in virtue, we must excel.

It is time for soul searching. How can the message of Muhammad (pbuh) who was sent as mercy to mankind become a source of horror and fear? How can Islam inspire thousands of youth to dedicate their lives to killing others? We are supposed to invite people to Islam not murder them.

The worst exhibition of Islam happened on our turf. We must take first responsibility to undo the evil it has manifest. This is our mandate, our burden and also our opportunity.


In ILRS news, we are happy to announce the addition of Marianne Uri Overland to our Executive Committee as a Substitute member. The extra seat was vacant since the Budapest Congress, and the appointment of Marianne fulfils our mandate to have a full committee with gender parity. Marianne is Vice-President of the Norges Kristne Arbeideres Forbund, our member organisation in Norway. We welcome her and look forward to her participation with the committee.

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