MuslimTheologian Seeks to Set the Record Straight

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Asst. Prof. Qamar-ul Huda (Theology) felt the impact of Sept. 11 on several fronts - as a native New Yorker, as a Pakistani-American and as a Muslim advocate of non-violence.

Asst. Prof. Qamar-ul Huda (Theology): "There is nothing Islamic about these people who committed these heinous crimes against Americans."
(Photo By Lee Pelligrini)
The son of a Pakistani diplomat, he grew up with United Nations families from around the world in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Queens.
"From my house, the only skyline one could see from Manhattan were the Twin Towers," he recalled. "I can't digest the fact that they no longer exist.

"This is an assault on my home, on my city. It's where I grew up."
As a Muslim, however, he finds himself in a group viewed with widespread suspicion in America following the Sept. 11 attacks by Middle Eastern hijackers. He keeps a wary watch on developments in his parents' native Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

As a scholar of Islamic religious thought and on the Islamic mystical tradition, he has appeared in the media to clearly distinguish between the ethical teachings of Islam and the terrorism of radicals believed responsible for the attack. His recent appearances include CNN, where along with part-time faculty member Raymond Helmick, SJ (Theology) he discussed the links between Islam and Christianity [A transcript is available online]. He also has offered remarks to National Public Radio, WBZ-TV, WCVB-TV, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

"These fringe groups are based upon a political agenda and violence is their primary means for social and political change," he said. "Every single major scholar in the Islamic world said this is a violation of basic loving principles of Islam. There is nothing Islamic about these people who committed these heinous crimes against Americans.

"Everything in Islam is about remembrance of God and focusing on the presence of God in our world; through prayers, charity, social justice, kind acts toward strangers and friends and family," said Huda, who teaches courses on Islam and its sacred texts, and uses a rug in his office to pray.

"The terrorists do not have any connection to the peaceful message of Islam," he said. "They were serving their own inner desires for fame, for human power, for becoming a legend in human history. All of this contradicts essential teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam's holy book, the Qur'an."

As a New Yorker, Huda said, he was staggered by the attacks of Sept. 11. He noted family members who escaped the bombing, along with an old college friend who missed the disaster by mere minutes. "I have a few friends who are still missing," he added. He expressed pride in the way his city has responded, with "sincere volunteerism, with openness to others, with sincere self-sacrifice, with endless lines of giving blood.

"You really see New York's true colors with this tragedy," he said.

He said he has been dismayed over reports from across the country of violence and vandalism directed at Muslims and Sikhs, who in many cases have retreated to their homes or considered abandoning traditional dress out of fears for their safety.

But acts of personal kindness and tolerance have also been noted: He told of a friend, a veiled Muslim girl, who emerged from a week of hiding in her home to make a nervous visit to a restaurant. When the bill came, scrawled on the top were the words, "On the house."

"I see these terrorist attacks as a trap," Huda said. "They wanted to attack our American core, to force us to react in a way that will polarize the world and bring senseless pain to others. But it's clear that this administration is taking the time to make a comprehensive policy against global terrorism.

"The overwhelming majority of people have been very pleasant, very supportive, encouraging of the Arab-American community. A lot of good has come out of this evil. People have broken out of their compartmental lives and are embracing people of different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups.

"After the initial anger, all Americans realize we can't be divisive. We can't be the animals they wanted us to be."


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