Author mug On Faith

Mona Darwich-Gatto

It’s time for Muslims
to admit problem

One more 9/11 anniversary has passed. I took the day off and just reflected on how my life has been affected by this tragedy. As I watched the news, I cried over and over every time I saw the scenes of planes hitting the towers and the people running down below, of the firemen, police and ambulance crews trying to organize the unspeakable.

On Sept. 11, 2004, I reflected: How could Muslims let things get so out of hand? Terrorism has not slowed down since. The majority of the Muslim community seems to feel that there is no need to apologize for terrorist acts perpetrated by other Muslims.

But I do. I feel sorry for all the victims of every terrorist act done in the name of Islam. After these three years, when a Muslim emphasizes that Islam is a religion of peace, even I feel these are empty words. Action speaks volumes, and so far, I have not seen a considerable and consistent outcry from the Muslim community against suicide bombers and other crimes committed with the face of Islam stamped on it.

Islamic organizations can do only so much. It is time to admit that we Muslims have a serious problem. And we do.

When I was a little girl, my father indoctrinated me and my siblings to not like or associate with people of other faiths. When I was 5, my father drew on a piece of paper three symbols: the cross, the star of David and the crescent moon. He put an X on top of the cross and over the star of David and said: "This is the Christian symbol, this is the Jewish symbol and they are not like us. They are bad. They are wrong. This is us. We are different."

Years went by, and I became more aware of the hate between Arabs and Jews. The fact is that the more a Muslim becomes an extremist, the more voice and respect fellow Muslims will give to that person.

And that happened in my home. My father became more extremist against non-Muslims. He was a mechanical engineer, never formally educated in Islam. Yet Arab Muslims called on him to break up disagreements between husband and wife or to give sermons at our local mosque. My father traveled to Pakistan various times and educated himself at the madrasas there during the late 1980s. Every time he returned, he would come with more restrictions. My mother and I had to cover our face, and we were not allowed to talk to men. Our place was in the kitchen, and women must obey men, as he often said.

The word "Jew" was, for my father, synonymous with an insult, so he called me that all the time, especially if I forget to pray. He even told me many times I was not a Muslim when I did not meet his expectations of a good daughter. The problem was that nobody ever stood against him. This seems to be common in the Muslim community today.

Currently, religious leaders are allowed to make a Muslim congregation feel good by attacking or degrading another faith or its followers. We need to stop this feeling good at the expense of others.

Muslims give excuses for why there are so many Muslim terrorists, while we allow our children to listen to extremist leaders teaching, just like our parents did, that it is permissible to kill non-Muslims.

We are the only ones to blame. When will Muslims walk out of our mosques when a religious leader asks in his supplications that the enemies of Islam be killed? When will Muslims demonstrate outrage whenever the Jews are blamed for our problems?

It is so much easier for Muslims to believe in conspiracy theories because the blame will fall on someone else's shoulders. It is harder but braver to admit that we do have a serious problem and that we need to do something about it.

Education for tolerance starts at home. It is time to ensure that teachers who teach Islam to young children go through a more rigorous hiring process and that they do not teach arrogance and intolerance. It is time to ensure that our religious leaders do not put down women and non-Muslims and elevate suicide bombers and terrorists.

I am sorry for that, and I promise that my son will be taught to respect others as we want to be respected. In my family the chain of hate, arrogance and intolerance stops here.

Mona Darwich-Gatto is president of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism, Hawaii chapter (www.freemuslims.org), wife of a Marine deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and mother of a 1-year-old boy.

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