Most Arab and Muslim organizations are genuinely concerned with improving the well-being of their community while advocating for justice and fairness in the Middle East.
Many are conflicted when it comes to Hamas, a terrorist organization that has hijacked the Palestinian cause, which is not a terrorist cause at all.
In the Middle East, it is easy for religious fanatics hijack great causes. They exploit the highly charged emotions of people by pointing to an American foreign policy driven by injustice and special interests.
Yet as unjust as American foreign policy may be, it does not excuse silence on Hamas or the need to speak out against those leaders in Arab and Muslim American organizations who acquiesce in Hamas policies.
In fact, it is immoral.
Hamas was founded by a religious fanatic who advocated an Islamic State in Palestine that by its nature would discriminate against Christians and Jews in much the same way that Israel, a Jewish State, discriminates against Christians and Muslims. Sheik Yassin was murdered in an immoral act typifying Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s terrorism.
Targeting victims of Israel’s brutality, Hamas easily encourages young Palestinians to strap themselves with bombs and become suicide bombers.
Hamas has also hijacked the true meaning of the term “martyr” which legitimately represents those who die in the defense of their nation, but not those who intentionally kill innocent civilians and children.
Suicide bombings are the most reprehensible form of violence in the Middle East. It has overshadowed Sharon’s terrorism. Sharon is accused of “war crimes” by Amnesty International and other organizations committed during a career stained with the blood of innocent people.
Hamas violence and suicide bombings violate the fundamental principles of Islam a religion of peace bastardized by terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban and some Arab governments.
In addition to the moral conflict with Hamas, there is also a legitimate political challenge to Hamas which has become one champion of the Islamic political movement.
Hamas has no legitimate right to represent Palestinians or Muslims. Its leaders were never elected by popular Democratic vote, and are self-appointed. Yet, they have managed with the help of Sharon’s fanaticism to undermine Yasir Arafat, who was legitimately elected by Palestinians during elections monitored by former President Jimmy Carter.
One problem is most Arab and Muslim American organizations say they oppose violence and terrorism and extremism, but stop short of specifically denouncing organizations like Hamas.
It’s not the organizations which champion noble goals. But many of these organizations have been hijacked by Hamas advocates who hold positions of leadership and are their spokesmen. They claim to embrace free speech at their conferences, but often conspire to restrict the participation of true moderates in the hopes of disguising their own fanaticism.
That makes it difficult for Arab or Muslim Americans to speak out against the terrorism in their communities, especially when mainstream Jewish American organizations attack any and all critics of Israel as “anti-Semitic.”
The true moderate and the real foe of extremism is defined on the basis of principle, not their politics, their ethnicity or their religion. If I condemn Sharon’s terrorism, I must just as forcefully condemn Palestinian terrorism. It must be the same for Jews.
Those who do otherwise are accomplices in the terrorist crimes.
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Ray Hanania is a nationally syndicated Palestinian American columnist. He is member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East spme.org