Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Must Arabs apologize for terrorism committed in their name? 9-14-04

By Ray Hanania
There is a healthy debate finally taking place in the Arab world, and it is based on a single question: should Arabs and Muslims apologize for the actions of terrorists who commit atrocities in the name of "Arabs" and "Muslims"?

Until now, most Arabs and Muslims have rejected this idea, arguing that they are not responsible for the terrorist acts, which are often committed by individuals or by groups sponsoring these individuals.

Therefore, why should they apologize for something they did not do? Yet, continued terrorist acts, the increase in the "shock factor" of the atrocities and growing anger in the world are forcing many Arabs and Muslims to reconsider their view.

I don't believe we should apologize for the atrocities themselves. These are the acts of individuals and organizations with whom most Arabs and Muslims and I do not agree.

Some Arabs and Muslims were among the dead on Sept. 11, and more than 14 people who were or looked Middle Eastern were murdered in post-Sept. 11 revenge killings.

But I do believe we should apologize for not having shown the courage to stand up to these terrorists among us sooner. In other words, we are not responsible for the terrorism, but we are responsible as Arabs and as Muslims to stand up and denounce those who commit atrocities in our name. And we have not done that.

Apologizing for not doing enough to stop the terrorists does not undermine what we hold as righteous causes, such as the liberation of Palestine and the movement to achieve a lasting peace based on land-for-peace compromise.

That is a just struggle that must continue, regardless of the terrorist acts committed in the name of Palestine.

As Arabs and Muslims, it is not our responsibility to apologize for the terrorism of a suicide bomber who strikes at Israeli military and civilians.

But we must speak out against acts that have hijacked the Palestinian cause against the will of the Palestinian people.

We do not need terrorism to win. We can win on the power of our justice. We do not need violence to justify what is already justified. Palestinians deserve to be free, and Israel cannot deny that inevitability. In the face of this terrorism, Israel has been able to prolong the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and resist what it considers unfavorable compromises, such as the true sharing of the city of Jerusalem.

By not speaking out against the rising incidence of Palestinian terrorism and suicide bombings, we are allowing these terrorists, who do not represent the majority of Palestinians, to hijack our cause, to marginalize the community and to assert themselves as the symbols of Palestinian liberation when they are not.

Arabs and Muslims were not responsible as a people for Sept. 11. Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan were responsible for this terrorist attack. But continued Palestinian terrorism and the failure of Palestinians to denounce these killers have created a new reality and a new perception that holds us all responsible for the actions of a few. It may not be right, but it is a reality.

We need not apologize for this act of terrorism. But we must apologize for not doing enough to prevent it. We must do more to counter the growing perception that Arabs and Muslims endorse bin Laden's acts by speaking out more forcefully in denouncing bin Laden's atrocities.

Although we do not need to apologize for those in our community who also blame Israel and "Jews" for Sept. 11 -- or the ridiculous claim that Jews were alerted before the attacks to save their lives -- we do need to forcefully speak out against that stupidity in thinking. It's anti-Semitic.

In the growing debate about whether we should apologize for the terrorism, we must accept that we have not done enough to prevent those among ourselves from committing atrocities in our name.

We should struggle to protect our good name and our just causes from being violated by those who would use injustice as a weapon of revenge, and act now to prevent those in our community from committing further acts of terrorism in our name.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

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