We often hear that 'moderate' Moslems are the majority and that terrorist supporters are a minority extremist fringe. However, when genuine Islamic moderate leaders stand firm against terrorism, we do not see majority Moslem support of their views. To the contrary, such moderates are shouted down and even condemned by Islamists, who seem to be the only vocal Moslem group on our college campuses.
Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community and a vocal critic of militant Islam, was a guest speaker on March 4th at the University of California in Santa Barbara. His speech, which focused on his opposition to terrorism, made clear that Palazzi considers suicide and murder of civilians to be an aberration to Islam. The remarkable Italian-Moslem cleric, whose support for Israel has been the subject of many articles, voices a minority opinion; yet he does not stand alone. A number of non-Arab Moslem leaders share his support for Israel. He often mentions verses in the Quran on God's Covenant with Israel; "Children of Israel, remember the favor I [Allah] have bestowed upon you, and that I exalted you above the nations". [Qur'an, The Cow, Sura 2:47]
I had the pleasure of speaking at the UCSB event in support of Sheikh Palazzi. I told the audience of the indoctrination of hate I experienced in Gaza as a child. One would think that UCSB's Muslims, who proclaim Islam as a religion of peace, would be appreciative of Palazzi's message. However, the Muslim Students Association at UCSB disrupted the event during the question and answer period, criticizing Sheikh Palazzi for not starting his speech by saying "In the name of Allah and his Prophet Mohamed." In doing so, they ignored the fact that the Sheikh was not addressing Muslims in a mosque.
Some of the students were holding Islamic prayer beads and clothing that is usually worn when attending a mosque. They were loud, rude, "in your face" and obviously did not want to ask questions, but came only to be disrespectful to Professor Palazzi.
Two men who claimed to attend an Afghani mosque used their time at the microphone to give their own speech against the Sheikh. When they were politely asked to state their question, they refused, claiming freedom of speech.
A female Muslim student expressed her support of terrorism by asking, "If not terrorism, what would Palestinians then do against the oppression?"
In addition, the Muslim students yelled "we cannot live with Zionism" and even told the professor "You are finished, man!" The Muslim students' leader then called on his group to leave the hall and as they did they were hurling insults at the Sheikh.
On the other hand, the other students in attendance, many of whom were Jewish, were extremely respectful and were going out of their way to be polite to the Muslim students.
Having witnessed this disturbing event, I could not help but ask myself a question: Why did these Muslim students choose the U.S. for their education? As evidenced by their attempts to silence Sheikh Palzazzi, they obviously have no respect for our system and the way Americans channel dissent. Whether these students are naturalized citizens or here on student visas, they should be sensitive to the U.S., which suffered greatly from the unprecedented terrorism of 9/11 (which, after all, was the product of the Arab culture of indoctrination against non-Muslims).
Having grown up in the Arab world myself, I believe that expectations in the Muslim world are often hypocritical. Arab Muslims especially do not reciprocate much of their demands from the West. They demand tolerance for Muslims in the West while their religious leaders call on the murder of infidels. They demand freedom to build mosques in the West, but prohibit the building churches and synagogues in Muslim countries. They jail and kill missionaries in the Muslim world, while they freely preach Islam and extremism to our citizens, even to our vulnerable and angry prison population.
Moreover, Muslims demonstrated all over the Arab world against France's decision to prohibit wearing any religious symbols, including Hijab, in French public schools. France is trying to keep their public schools free of religious bias; Muslim demonstrators want just the opposite. There is something very wrong with this picture and many Arabs and freedom-loving Americans don't see it. It is time for Americans to wake up.
Those who demonstrated against Sheikh Palazzi's presentation could have learned from his message against terrorism. Many U.S. politicians say that Islam is a religion of peace, but I sadly felt that the Muslim students at UCSB rejected the courageous message of peace offered by Professor Sheikh Palazzi. The world is waiting and hoping to see the humane and tolerant side of Islam, yet Muslims never miss an opportunity to prove otherwise. It is essential now that Moslems work to elevate their religion from being associated with terror and hate.
Nonie Darwish is an Arab-American freelance writer and speaker of Muslim background. Her website is WWW.noniedarwish.com and her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org