Together, Americans can pursue justice

Shabbir Bala

Recent events have seen an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. media. As an American Muslim of Pakistani origin, I feel the need to present the Muslim perspective so my fellow American citizens have a better understanding of issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Like other Muslims, I was horrified and shocked by the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and strongly condemned these actions as the work of a very few misguided and fanatical people. In fact, the daughter of a close friend of mine, Mr. Hamid Simjee, was killed in the Twin Towers explosion. The body of Naseema Simjee may never be found. Prominent Muslim religious and civic leaders, such as Dr. Muzammil Siddique of the Islamic Society of North America, also condemned this cowardly attack in a very strong manner.

The majority of the 1 billion Muslims do not hate Jews or Christians. The Holy Quran calls Jews and Christians people of the book, and urges Muslims to respect them. Islam is the fastest growing religion in this country. People are attracted to it because of its simple message.

I do not know of one single person who converted to Islam because of the distorted view that Osama bin Laden presents. The vast majority of Muslims do not agree with Osama bin Laden and his thinking. It seems that he has hijacked Muslim causes to satisfy his own agenda.

He has tried to gain sympathy in the Muslim world by talking about Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and other causes where Muslims are fighting for justice. He also talks about the children of Iraq that are dying due to the sanctions imposed on that nation for the past ten years. I seriously doubt that he really cares about these children.

These causes do have the full sympathy of the majority of the Muslims because they want justice to prevail. The U.S. was established on the principles of freedom and justice for all, and I know that includes Muslims too. Being the most powerful nation on this earth brings with it enormous responsibilities. We must treat the just aspirations of less fortunate nations with the same principles of freedom, justice and fairness that we have come to expect for ourselves. As American citizens, we must look out for the best interest of the USA and not the interest of any other foreign power. Patriotism sometimes requires us to speak the truth no matter how bitter it may seem.

The time has come for us to look at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a fair manner, not because we want to appease Muslims but because fairness demands it. The majority of Muslims see America’s policy towards Israel as very biased and one-sided. In the last few years over a million Jews have been brought from the former Soviet Union and other places and settled on land that belongs to the Palestinians. Israel occupied this land after the 1967 war. The Palestinians have risen against the atrocities of the Israeli occupation force. Israel has a right to exist, as Security Council resolutions say, at the pre-1967 borders. All other settlements, especially the ones in the last ten years will have to be dismantled, if peace is to be given a chance.

The Palestinians have the aspiration of having a homeland on the 28 percent of land that is the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. That still leaves the remaining 72 percent of land for the state of Israel. The pro-Zionist lobby in this country, along with the media and some politicians, takes every opportunity to jump on the Israeli government bandwagon. The Israeli position is presented as fact, while the Palestinian position is ignored or not given equal coverage. These politicians and media people are not displaying American patriotism when they behave in this manner.

Our leaders, Muslims, Jews, Christians and others, must take a patriotic stand for what is right and what is wrong. We must send a strong message to the rest of the world that America understands the suffering of the poor and downtrodden and will use its influence to make it a better world. To this end, we as Americans will support the freedom-seeking people of the world in places such as Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, Ireland, Myanmar, Tibet, etc. We must not be intimidated by our so-called allies or their surrogates who want us to turn the other way when they commit atrocities against innocent people.

It is indeed a shame when 89 of 100 U.S. senators recently sent a letter to President Bush urging him not to restrain Israel from retaliating against Palestinians and to express solidarity publicly with Israel soon. This letter stemmed from a meeting between the American Jewish community and key Israeli supporters in the senate, according to the news story from The New York Times. It is this kind of blind loyalty to Israel that makes Muslims wonder if we, the U.S., can be fair and impartial to this conflict. Hooray for the 11 senators, who did not agree with the contents of this divisive letter.

Uri Avnery is a renowned 78-year old Israeli who fought in the Irgun, a "terrorist" right-wing group, headed by the late prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin. The Irgun and Stern gangs were the Israeli terrorist equivalent of today’s Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Of course, to the Israelis they were freedom-fighters not terrorists. According to an article in The Guardian of London, titled "I used to be a terrorist," Mr. Avnery sees the need for both Israelis and Palestinians to understand what the other side thinks and feels. Drawing from his own experiences, he understands why Hamas and Islamic Jihad fascinate young Palestinians.

He notes that the extremist Jewish groups went away as soon the U.N promised a Jewish state in 1947. Mr. Avnery believes that if the U.S and Israel were to promise a Palestinian state on all of the West Bank and Gaza, groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad would go away, just like the Irgun and Stern gangs.

As I write this article, violence has again broken out in the Middle East. Hamas suicide bombers kill several Israelis and injure others. Israel retaliates with state-sponsored terrorism by bombing the West Bank and Gaza, killing several people and injuring others. Our politicians and media people once again turn a blind eye to the Israeli atrocities, while they condemn the Palestinians. The cycle of violence continues. When will it end?

The government of President Bush must be commended for reaching out to the Muslim and Arab citizens in this time of trial. The president’s push for peace in the Middle East is a good beginning for all the people of the region, Israelis and Arabs. Did you know that a significant number of Palestinians Arabs are of the Christian faith and they are against the Israeli oppression against Palestinians? Recently, Secretary of State Colin Power outlined our vision for the states of Palestine and Israel to live together side by side. The pro-Israel lobby managed to subdue the message, but as a Muslim, I think it was a good beginning for a new relationship with the Islamic world.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the whole world as we knew, changed. It is up to us now to see that it becomes a better world, as we progress into the 21st century. We have no choice, but to look at the conflicts that give rise to terrorism and find solutions that will forever silence the voices of terror. Together we will succeed in making this world a peaceful place. Let us pray that we meet our objectives soon. No more innocent blood needs to be spilled.

Shabbir Bala owns a business in Lake Stevens.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Arlington woman arrested in 2005 case of killed baby in Arizona airport

Annie Sue Anderson, 51, has been held in the Snohomish County Jail since December. She’s facing extradition.

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

The Nimbus Apartments are pictured on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County has the highest rent in the state. Could this bill help?

In one year, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County went up 20%. A bill seeks to cap any increases at 7%.

A Snohomish County no trespassing sign hangs on a fence surrounding the Days Inn on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Meth cleanup at Edmonds motel-shelter made matters worse, report says

Contamination has persisted at two motels Snohomish County bought to turn into shelters in 2022. In January, the county cut ties with two cleanup agencies.

A child gets some assistance dancing during Narrow Tarot’s set on the opening night of Fisherman’s Village on Thursday, May 18, 2023, at Lucky Dime in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Drive-By Truckers, Allen Stone headline 2024 Fisherman’s Village lineup

Big names and local legends alike are coming to downtown Everett for the music festival from May 16 to 18.

Sen. Patty Murray attends a meeting at the Everett Fire Department’s Station 1 on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Sen. Murray seeks aid for Snohomish County’s fentanyl, child care crises

The U.S. senator visited Everett to talk with local leaders on Thursday, making stops at the YMCA and a roundtable with the mayor.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Brenda Mann Harrison
Taking care of local news is best done together

The Herald’s journalism development director offers parting thoughts.

Lake Serene in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
How will climate change affect you? New tool gives an educated guess

The Climate Vulnerability Tool outlines climate hazards in Snohomish County — and it may help direct resources.

Ken Florczak, president of the five-member board at Sherwood Village Mobile Home community on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How Mill Creek mobile home residents bought the land under their feet

At Sherwood Village, residents are now homeowners. They pay a bit more each month to keep developers from buying their property.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.