Why Muslims Hate America?

The Jakarta Post, January 4 2006

I was surprised recently when I was going to downtown Seattle. A friend of mine working there told me, "Here is the place we observe Friday prayers". The fact that he was a pious White American Muslim was pretty surprising; but what made me more surprised was the place he showed me: It was not a mosque, but a church!

The church, attended by its congregation mainly on the weekends, provides one of its rooms for Muslims in downtown Seattle to observe Friday prayers. While the Muslim community does rent this room, the fact they can share the church would be unimaginable in the Indonesian context.

There are many cases we can learn from. At Boston University, according to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, Muslims observed tarawih last month in a hall called Sacred Place where believers of any faith can observe their prayers and services.

During Ramadhan, in the program called Fast-Thon, hundreds non-Muslim Americans joined the Muslim Student Association in my university to fast for one day. Like Muslims, they did not eat or drink from dawn to dusk.

The U.S. is very tolerant of any religious life. Its constitution, particularly the First Amendment, guarantees all citizens the right to have and express their faith.
While some Muslims in other parts of the world want an Islamic state to guarantee the right to practice their religion, some American Muslims I have met said they do not need an Islamic state.

Why? America gives them most of what they need to be a pious Muslim without it being an Islamic state. For sure, it is not a perfect country. However, has an Islamic state existed and given anything better than what America has?

In the U.S., Muslims of Somalia, Cambodia, and Palestine have found asylum and help. They live a better life and are more secure in this non-Islamic country. Thus, why do Muslims hate America? Why is America and its interests the target of Muslim hatred?

The answer is that, in fact, Muslims do not hate America, but rather the interventionist policy of the U.S. government. The presence of U.S. troops in Muslim heartland, Saudi Arabia, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, was the supposed reason behind the Sept. 11 attacks. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq are the main reason for the many suicide bombings in the last three years.

It seems that both Muslims and the U.S. government do not pay attention to where their relations intersect.

In relation to the Muslim world and the U.S., actually there are four entities involved: The American Government and the American people on the one hand; and the Muslim world and American Muslims on the other.

In the country named the United States of America, there is a government that does not necessarily represent Americans as a nation. In the Muslim world, there are American Muslims, the citizens of the hated America.

Unfortunately, these four entities have been lazily simplified into two polarized entities: Muslims and the U.S., my side or your side, my interests or your interests.
The neglected interconnectivity is complicated and costly to both sides.

The beautiful picture of Muslim and U.S. relations mentioned above has been overshadowed by the negative aspects of those two worlds: the bad foreign policy of the American government toward Islamic countries; and the bad reaction of radical Muslims.

The victims of neglected interconnectivity, we may expect, are always the good parts of both entities: non-radical Muslims and anti-Bush Americans.

The victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack were innocent Americans, non-Muslims as well as American Muslims. They might not agree with their government and they did not deserve to die in the attacks.

On the other hand, the victims of the war on terrorism are innocent Muslims. In the U.S., many innocent American Muslims are arrested without due process. In Europe and Australia, a number of mosques were closed by the government.

In Indonesia, many pesantren (Islamic boarding schools), orphanages, and Islamic foundations, have lost financial aid from wealthy Middle Eastern countries as the U.S. government has forced its allies to cut the suspected relationship between the flow of riyal and the terrorist network.
We should not wait any longer to realize these complexities. The hatred in the Muslim world proliferated by the interventionist policy of the U.S. government in Islamic countries and the overreaction of U.S. government policy triggered by terrorist actions should be stopped right now.

The radical Muslims have to realize that their project has brought more disadvantages than benefits to the Muslim world. If they really want to fight for the Muslim world, they need to recalculate what Muslims have experienced after Sept. 11.

The U.S. government needs to understand, as many American political experts have recommended, that their interventionist policy has triggered more hatred and induced more young Muslims to become suicide bombers.

Muslims may hate Bush for his interventionist and arbitrary policies, but they are not alone in arguing against Bush's policy; many Americans do too.

Muslims should not hate America because Americans are not Bush; and because American Muslims do love their country. What should American Muslims do if Muslims in the rest of the world hate their beloved country?

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