NEW YORK CITY (BP)–Extremists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are not typical of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims, most of whom are as outraged over the attacks as anyone, missionaries say. Christians must be sure they don’t succumb to any anti-Muslim hysteria inspired by the attacks.
Several television news programs have replayed footage of Palestinians rejoicing at America’s plight. Scattered attacks on mosques and harassment of Arabs and Muslims in the United States have raised fears of vigilante actions against innocent people simply because of their race or religion.
“You have to realize the Muslim world is huge, and there is diversity within the Muslim world,” said Robert Douglas, professor of intercultural studies at Lincoln (Ill.) Christian Seminary. “My sense is that, yes, Islam does have a few extremists, and so does Christianity. We ought not to stereotype.”
On Sept. 11, three hijacked commercial airliners wreaked destruction as they slammed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Another hijacked jet crashed outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. Initial reports estimate almost 5,000 people are missing and feared dead in New York City alone.
Investigators reportedly believe the attacks may have been orchestrated by Muslim terrorists.
Douglas said one student, an Arab Christian, expressed worry about how people would react to her now.
“There is a little bit of fear in not knowing what is going to happen as she meets the average American,” Douglas said. “And that is tragic.”
A Palestinian Muslim, on hearing of the attacks, quickly sent a message to a missionary serving in the Middle East.
“Really, we are very sorry for New York and D.C.,” he wrote. “We pray for all families who lost their members in this incredible and cowardly work. Please tell all of your friends that we are with them and we pray for all of USA people.”
Another missionary in Palestine said Muslims there have been offering sympathy and condolences since the attacks.
“I’m writing to share with you the non-stop ringing of our telephone from Palestinians grieving over the New York and D.C. tragedies,” the missionary wrote. “I have heard that there are rumors of ‘rejoicing’ and believe that, if this is true, it will be from a vocal minority of those opposed to U.S. policy in the area, and not the true representation of the Palestinian people.”
As for the actual attacks, a missionary familiar with Egyptian Muslims said most are not sympathetic with fundamentalist terrorists.
“It is typical of the Muslim’s worldview that they believe they should be in domination,” the missionary said. “But the majority of Muslims are peaceful.”
Extremist factions within the Muslim community focus on the teachings of an Egyptian writer, Sayyid Qutb, and the translation of particular words.
Qutb wrote that non-Islamic forces had compromised the Koran. According to Allah, Muslims were to rule over non-Islamic people and the Koran makes provisions for jihads, or holy wars, for the cause of Allah and the defense of Islam, he said.
Qutb’s views freed “true” Muslims to attack others — even societal Muslims — who in their view had corrupted the Koran. Such teachings have led to attacks on Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria — all Muslim nations.
“So it isn’t that America is being singled out or that Western culture is being singled out,” the missionary said. “Anything that the fundamentalist Muslim interprets as not being true to their ideal of Islam is subject to attack by this very small minority.”
Given the fear Muslims in the United States are feeling toward possible reprisals, Douglas said Christians need to make concerted efforts to show love.
“Christians need to be loving toward their neighbors,” he said. “After all, our Teacher has said to us to love one another and to love our enemy. We have to recognize that our neighbors and the colleagues that we work with are not our enemies.”
A former Muslim who now is a follower of Jesus also encouraged church leaders to meet with local Muslims.
“Christian leaders and communities need to meet with Muslim communities and assure them that as Christians we do not hate them and are not planning to attack them,” he said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: IN PRAYER and JUST FOLKS.