What Is To Be Done? 

By Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

October 9, 2001

Muslims have soundly and unambiguously condemned the attacks of September 11.  The valiant fire and rescue teams (including Muslims) have done all they can to find any remaining survivors, at great cost of life to themselves.  The Bush administration has declared its resolve to find and act against the perpetrators and initiated the implementation of their commitment with an attack on Afghanistan that reportedly has killed twenty people as of this writing, with promises of more to come.  These twenty included neither Usama bin Ladin, who again welcomed the attacks on the United States in a videotape he sent to al-Jazeera television, based in Qatar, shortly before the American attack nor Mullah Omar whom the Bush administration holds culpable for sheltering bin Ladin.

Clearly the largest questions looming remain: How shall we conduct a successful investigation to find the perpetrators? How, specifically, can we act effectively against them and with minimal loss of innocent life? What shall we do to prevent such terrorism from ever happening again?

The FBI has already begun an unprecedented investigation.  In this investigation they need and deserve the full cooperation of the Muslim community.  To get this cooperation, they require not Draconian new legislation introduced by Congress, but the faith and goodwill of the Muslim community in America.  This will require the forging of an active partnership between the Muslim leadership and law enforcement authorities.  The FBI’s dual objectives of preventing more terrorism directed at American civilians in general and of preventing hate crimes against American Muslims (and those who may be mistaken for Muslims or Arabs) in particular provide a sterling opportunity to build such a relationship.  Making this partnership a reality will require hard work on both sides however.

Muslims must be respectful of American sensibilities in their expectations.  While we are quite right to demand an end to racial profiling, we have to be patient with the fact that similarities in names and the difficulties other Americans may have of telling us dark-skinned people apart from one another will often subject us to inconveniences.  Rather than harp on those inconveniences, we should reserve our indignity for the truly unjustified discrimination that we shall no doubt face with greater frequency now that the shooting has started.   

Muslims in America and around the world must take the leadership position in discovering who were involved in the criminal act of September 11 and deal with them as Islamic law demands.  All Muslims must unite in their efforts to do this.  They must find the wrongdoers and confront them with the wrongness of their acts and give them the choice of repenting and reforming or facing the combined forces of the Muslim world with or without assistance from America and the rest of the world.  

If they repent, then they should be given the opportunity to plead for mercy from the families of the victims, who then should decide whether they shall be executed or whether they shall be pardoned and blood money paid in lieu of capital punishment.  If they do not repent, but remain obstinent in their perverse and horrific interpretation of Islamic law, then they should receive capital punishment as it is the right of the families of the victims to demand.

As President Bush has emphasized, the most important thing is to put an end to terrorism.  This will only be accomplished if we if take in our sights all forms of terrorism, including acts perpetrated by Jews, Christians, Hindus, atheists, and radical secularists, etc., and not just those perpetrated by those who profess Islam, and if we recognize what provokes terrorism.  We will not be able to quash terrorism if we insist on misrepresenting the grievances of its advocates.  In his appearance on al-Jazeera, bin Ladin did not say a word against democracy or freedom.  As in his 1998 declaration of war on the United States he denounced the American sanctions on Iraq, the American sponsorship of Israeli occupation, and the presence of American troops on the soil of Saudi Arabia.  These grievances are the grievances of the Muslim world (see Ahmad and Yousef 1998).  You cannot permit colonialist terrorism to continue without breeding more terrorism in response. 

This crisis is an unparalleled opportunity.  It is an opportunity for the Muslim world to put our fine words about how Islam stands for justice into a practice.  It is an exceptional opportunity for the United States, beacon of Freedom to show that it wants freedom for everyone and not only for itself.


Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad and Ahmed Yousef, eds. 2001.  Islam and the West: A Dialog (Springfield, VA: UASR).

Sayed Salahuddin, “Afghanistan Counts Dead After U.S.-Led Attack” Reuters (10/8)  http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011008/wl/attack_afghan_dc_98.html (accessed 10/8/01)