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Volume 71, Issue 132, Friday, April 21, 2006


Horror, silence go hand in hand

Denise Hewitt
Opinion columnist 

The first picture seen on is the face of a little boy, his head swathed in bandages and caked in blood. It is unclear if he is alive or dead. Graphic photos of recent terrorist attacks litter the page. A weekly "Jihad Report" neatly summarizes the number of attacks, the dead and the critically injured.

A few weeks before Christmas, my grandmother in California forwarded me an e-mail calling for a boycott of the Post Office. It was over a stamp commemorating the Islamic holy day of Eid because "to use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS (sic) who died at the hands of those who this stamp honors." 

In early March, the Washington Post reported that 47 percent of Americans have "unfavorable view" of Islam and that Muslims are "prone to violence." This is 18 percent higher than a similar poll taken in the weeks after 9/11.

Since 2003, more than 200,000 non-Arab Muslims have been slaughtered in the Darfur region of Sudan by Arab Muslims. Entire villages are wiped out one after another by the Sudanese government-sponsored Janjaweed militia men, women, children and livestock. The helpless villagers know their killers are coming days in advance, but they have nowhere to flee. The "crime" for which they are dying is that they are black and not Arab.

This genocidal horror is growing. The Janjaweed are crossing the border and attacking the villages and refugee camps in Chad, threatening to dissolve the entire area into utter chaos. 

In Pakistan lives a woman named Aisha Parveen. Escaping forced sex slavery in a brothel after six years, the Pakistani judicial system was prepared to send her back to the brothel's owner, who claims he is her husband. Because she affected her escape with the help of a man who then married her, the police were prosecuting her for adultery. The brothel owner told a New York Times reporter that he planned to bail her out once arrested and then torture and kill her. 

In Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman was arrested for having converted from Islam to Christianity, a crime that calls for a death sentence under Sharia law. The charges were brought when he tried to gain custody of his children during a divorce. Senior clerics agitated for his death and implied in sermons that Rahman's conversion was the result of a conspiracy of Western nations or possibly Jews.

These are not the actions of a religion of peace. These atrocities are not being committed by mainstream Muslims but by those who are using Islam to maintain power. Yet it is only the voices of these extremists that are heard. There are more than 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. Where are their voices? Or are these their voices?

President Bush has been the most outspoken Western leader on the genocide in Darfur. The Western press helped create the pressure that freed Abdul Rahman and Aisha Parveen. 

Yet, their stories are just a few among many. Abu Ghraib, America's war in Iraq and the growing religious intolerance in Europe compromise Western voices.

Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for evil to exist is for good people to do nothing." The world needs Muslim voices to drown out those who mock Islam as a religion of peace. Muslim voices are needed to decry humanitarian abuses in Muslim nations and call for change.Muslim voices are needed because today, the only thing necessary for evil to exist in the name of Islam is for its true adherents to remain silent.

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