In an Age of Terror, What is the Responsibility of Islam?

I remember September 11, 2001. Terrorists hijacked civilian airlines and flew them into the two World Trade towers and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field after the hijacked passengers heroically overcame their captors.

Late in the day, our phone rang. It was a friend informing us that four of the passengers on the plane flown into the Pentagon were a couple with whom we were friends and their two young daughters.

At that point, I sat on the stairs, buried my head in my hands, and wept – for my friends and for the other 2,992 dead.

So much has happened since.  Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Boston Marathon massacre. Videos showing men beheaded and women burned alive in cages. Terror in Paris, again and again. It’s horrific savagery committed in the name of Islam.

So are all Muslims terrorists?

No. There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims in the world – about a quarter of the world population. Even if a million are terrorists (and I’m certain the real number is far fewer) that’s less than one-tenth of one percent.

So is it fair to blame 9/11 on all Muslims?

No. The vast majority of Muslims had nothing whatever to do with 9/11, and were as appalled by it as I was.  In fact, a large percentage of today’s Muslims had not even been born on 9/11. Blaming today’s Muslims for 9/11 is like blaming today’s Germans for the Holocaust.


I posted my sentiments about this on Facebook a few weeks ago, and received over 800 comments.  Many people disagreed with me. A few expressed raw bigotry, and I was forced to unfriend them. But many others were worth considering.

One point they made is that a disproportionate number of modern terror attacks are by Muslims acting in the name of Islam. That’s true. But it doesn’t take a logician to recognize that this point alone doesn’t go far toward indicting Islam. It’s like saying that because nearly all acts of terror are committed by men, nearly all men are terrorists.

Another point made by some is that Islam as a religion advocates violence against non-believers whom it calls “infidels.” That’s also true. The Quran does urge violence against infidels.  But so does the Old Testament, which urges violence by Hebrews against non-Hebrews.

Implicitly acknowledging that there’s been violence in Judaism and Christianity, some of those commenters observed that they have largely put their violence behind them while Islam seems not to have.

Well, yes and no. The fact that well over 99.9% of Muslims are peaceful people suggests that Islam, too, has largely put its violence behind it.

Furthermore, violence and even terrorism are not exactly extinct in Christianity – witness the violent terrorism against civilians in Northern Ireland within my lifetime between two sects of Christianity.

And in India, it’s Muslims who are typically the victims of religious violence, perpetrated mainly by the majority Hindus.

All that said, the data does suggest that today’s backward Muslim countries tend to be more violent. But I submit that the reason is that they are backward, not that they are Muslim. When Christian Europe was a backward society in the Middle Ages conducting pogroms against the Jews, the Muslims in the Middle East were leaders in mathematics.

Here’s the strongest point offered in response to my Facebook post. Peaceful Muslims are often reticent in condemning violence and extremists who engage in it. Many Muslim organizations did condemn 9/11 and other terrorism, and for that they deserve credit.  But too often, they fall silent or issue an equivocal criticism.

For example, a newly elected Muslim congresswoman whom America rescued from violence and starvation in Somalia, and who seems to think that the problem in Washington is that too many legislators owe “allegiance” to the Jews, recently referenced 9/11.  The words she chose were “some people did something.”

That offends me. What happened on 9/11 was not just that “some people did something.”

What happened was that psychopathic Muslims in a perversion of their religion murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children in the bloodiest attack on American soil since the Civil War.

Still, I won’t blame all Muslims for that attack or for one congresswoman’s stupid remark about it. I firmly believe that to do so would dishonor my decent friends who died that day.

That leaves me with the question posed at the outset. What is the responsibility of that congresswoman and other Muslims in today’s world of terror?

It’s this: They need to step up. They need to man up. They need to Allah up. The many decent and devout ones need to distance themselves from – nay, they need to condemn, ostracize and, if necessary, destroy – the few psychopaths.

In short, the responsibility of Muslims is the same as the responsibility of Jews, Christians and all other people of faith and civilized secularists. In the battle against violent bigotry, there’s no middle ground.  You’re either with us or against us.

Be with us. Be our brothers and sisters in our battle for humanity. We want you.

If that’s not reason enough to be with us, then be with us just to be on the winning side.  Because we will indeed win, I promise you.

(Published Apr. 21, 2019 in the Aspen Times at

2 thoughts on “In an Age of Terror, What is the Responsibility of Islam?

  1. As usual, I essentially agree with you, but with these qualifications…

    1. While the vast majority of Muslims are certainly not “terrorists,” there are tens or hundreds of millions who hate everyone who does not subscribe to their particular variant of Islam. Your assertion that people who are opposed to violent bigotry will eventually “win” is not all that certain, particularly under the scenario of Islamic extremists (whether Sunni or Shia) obtaining and using nuclear or biological weapons. (In relative terms, chemical weapons aren’t as lethal.) That is why I supported the war to remove the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, because they had the apparent ability to develop these WMD’s and the apparent intent to eventually do so. At least that particular threat has been contained, although the ones from Pakistan and Iran remain. People who are retroactively asserting that the Iraq War was a stupid mistake or even a deliberate atrocity should at least acknowledge that benefit.

    2. Trump’s claim that Muslims in the U.S. celebrated the 9/11 attacks is false, but many in Middle Eastern countries did. This may have been largely the result of their contact with “ugly American” businessmen (like Trump) and government operatives colluding with factions in their own countries to advance American interests in much more heavy-handed ways than we are now so upset about Russians doing here.

    3. Another reason why so many Muslims hate Americans is our long-standing bias towards the Zionist faction of the Israeli population, and our financial and military support thereof — essentially a policy of “our ally, right or wrong”. Those of us non-Jews who are accused of being “anti-Semitic” in pointing this out ought to listen to Jewish Americans like Tom Friedman, who recognize that Israeli expansionist policies, justified by an underlying belief in being “God’s chosen people,” are counterproductive to the legitimate economic and security interests of Israeli Jews. I suspect that Mr. Friedman’s balanced views are related to his having grown up in the Midwest rather than in New York City, such as, say Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders did.

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