Do Muslims Speak Out?

One of the questions I most often get is this: Why don’t Muslims speak out
against the terrorists? It’s a fair question, because we don’t often hear

I haven’t had guest bloggers in the past, but I thought this was worth
posting. Eboo wrote this for our website, but I
wanted to post it here as well.

Muslims Speak Out
by: Eboo Patel

I recently wrote a piece for USA Today where I expressed my strong opposition to Muslim extremists, my belief in American pluralism, and my desire to partner with Americans to defeat extremists and achieve pluralism. I got some interesting responses to this article.

One man commented: “The #1 argument we have against your people, referring to the non-violent amongst you, and that is as a whole, there is virtually nothing uttered which would condemn those in your ranks creating violence via killings and attempted ones. You all, again as a group, DON’T speak out against others of your ethnicity, possibly because of fear of retribution…but frankly, it does sicken us.”

It sickens me too.

As an American, as a father, violence like this sickens me – that’s why I wrote the op-ed.

But I know that I’m not the only Muslim who reacted this way. Outside that courthouse in Detroit when Umar Farouk Abdullmutallab was arraigned, were Muslims holding signs – signs like “Not in the Name of Islam,” “We are Americans,” and “Islam is Against Terrorism.”

And there are, in fact, a chorus of insightful, diverse Muslim voices speaking out against violence in the hijacked name of our religion. They don’t get as much attention in the media – so I’d like to point out a few.

Shahed Amanullah is an award-winning journalist, and editor-in-chief of, an interactive news and discussion forum promoting a critical (and self-critical) analysis of issues regarding the Muslim community. There is much on AltMuslim that not only decries the violence addressed above, but also analyzes what we can do about it. Read this piece from Shahed on Confronting Radicalization Online.

Reza Aslan, author of the widely read How to Win a Cosmic War is another Muslim who makes a point of speaking out on this issue. In a recent NPR interview, he pointed out the dissociation of radical Jihadists from Islam.

“In fact, in many ways, you have to understand jihadism as an anti-clerical or anti-institutional movement. In fact, the jihadists define themselves in direct opposition to the traditional religious authorities –the imams of Islam. They find the traditional imams to be painfully out of touch. They believe the religious and political leaders of Islam have been adulterated or co-opted in some way.”

Finally, one of the best Muslim-authored pieces analyzing the Christmas Day violence, and offering further suggestions for the American Muslim community was Haroon Moghul for Religion Dispatches.

“In both the case of the five young men who went from America to Pakistan and Umar Abdulmutallab, their own families warned the relevant authorities. Their actions argue that for all those who feel that acting violently redresses an injustice against the Muslim world, those near to them disagree enough to resist. Such a fracture within households suggests the intimacy and depth of the struggle, a battle that travels the Muslim world and unites it anew.”

It is my deepest hope that nothing like this ever happens again – but if it does, I know that my fellow Muslims will continue to speak out against those who commit violence in the name of Islam.


  1. Thanks for posting this.

    Certainly, many Muslims do speak out against terrorism — the media rarely focuses on it, and so, year after year, despite every major Muslim organization issuing condemnations, I keep getting the same question: Why don’t Muslims speak out?

    More problematically, why should Muslims be held to a standard that other minority (and majority) groups are not held to? Thomas Friedman pens ridiculous essays calling for Muslims to “prove” their opposition to terrorism by flooding the streets in protest against al-Qaeda, but we would rightly be aghast if we asked Christians to flood the streets against, say, the plastering of Bible verses on gun scopes.

    Because, ultimately, terrorism, like racisms, is rooted in the belief that individuals can be blamed collectively, that guilt, inferiority and character traits are shared by groups, and as such the group can be indiscriminately targeted, through words or weapons. Individuals have moral choices; groups are made of individuals, but when we ask a group to answer for individual actions, do we not thereby lend legitimacy to the same kind of rhetoric? Each person is responsible for himself or herself – that is the foundation of democracy, and of a proper morality.

    Most Muslims do indeed condemn terrorism, and practice an Islam that fights radicalism (and work hard to undermine radicalism). It certainly does not help when it is assumed — and I’m not saying you’re doing this here, but rather that I’ve experienced it too often — when I, a New Yorker born and raised in New England, am expected to answer for actions of people in countries I have never been to.

  2. al ballard says:

    As a follower of Jesus (thank you Carl, for defining where we should be,) there are times within my community of believers that I wished they did not speak out as their words and actions are an embarrasment.
    Also in the community of conservative christianity there has been developed an attitude of speaking out to be right and claim others to be wrong.
    All of us have the challenge to seek wisdom in the words of our faith and to desire communications which are spirit led. Which in a number of cases requires us to be an example through our actions in loving others, being different than the world.
    Being an activist may appear to clear debate as to what others think, however, in most cases it just leads us to defend vs be Jesus followers.
    A major key is to turn off all media, spend more time in getting to know your savior as a personal friend, he/his spirit will provide right answers and I believe you will be surprised that in most case they are words of compassion, empathy, unity, truth in love.

  3. Yosef says:

    But as Haroon, knows, according to Islam the umma is by definition and nature a collective. The tawhid or oneness of Allah is expressed in his Law and the community of believers, and the individual is subordinate to the demands and status of the whole. The entirely normative status of the apostasy law in Islam confirms this. Muslim orgs advocate as one body (OIC, Al-Bayt Institute, ISNA, CAIR). One cannot have it both ways, its either collective or not.

  4. Leslie says:

    A Canadian Muslim woman named Sheema Khan has collected her essays (which started as newspaper columns) in a book called “Of Hockey and Hijab:Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman”. In an interview for the “Ottawa Citizen” she was asked the question, “How do you think Canadian Muslims view the threat of terrorism?” She answered, “The community is in denial – we have to recognize that. I was reading court documents. People have lied through their teeth. It’s not always ‘poor innocent, truthful Muslim’ against ‘big bad state’…. But we are projecting an image we are too concerned about the rights of Muslims, and it seems that we don’t care enough about the safety of the wider society. It’s not a balanced approach.” She says that in order to change things, “we [Muslims] in Canada must be more forceful with the message that terrorism is wrong.”
    About two dozen Muslim clerics, mostly Canadian, have just issued a fatwa against terrorism directed against Canada and the US. This fatwa both condemns terrorism and acknowledges the benefits of religious freedom Muslims have in Canada and the US. While some have discounted the sincerity of at least one of the leaders, Syed Soharwardy, nevertheless it seems like just the kind of response Dr. Khan is calling for.
    I, for one, appreciate their honesty. I also respect their courage to declare to their community that religious freedom is desirable and available here, and needs their vigilance in protecting.