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America's New War: Being Muslim Doesn't Mean a Terrorist

Aired September 17, 2001 - 06:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We have been asking some questions through the USA Today -- CNN-USA Today Gallup Poll to gauge the public's opinion in the light of these terrorist attacks. We have been asking questions about what people think in this country about Arabs and about Muslims. And we've got these results here from a couple of questions we want to share with you here.

And one question was: Have you heard anyone make negative comments about Arabs? And you see there the results were, yes, came in at 31 percent; 68 percent, though, said they have yet to hear someone make a negative comment about Arabs or Muslims here.

And in the next question we have, we went a bit further here. We asked whether or not people trust or have less trust in Arabs living in this country. And you see there, 35 percent said yes, they have less trust, and 63 percent said they have no.

Now, we have been watching and gauging what we've been calling the spirit of America in the last few days. We've been watching patriotism build across the country. But there has also been in this country, and elsewhere around the world as well, a less complimentary side of people making itself seen. We have seen attacks and outright assaults, intimidations of people who are perceived to be of Arab or Muslim descent.

And we are joined this morning by Ziauddin Sardar, who is a journalist with the "New Statesman." And, Ziauddin, wrote an article that appeared in the "Evening Standard" in which Ziauddin said, don't look at your Muslin neighbors with suspicion. We, too, find these twisted, evil minds of suicide bombers impugnable (ph).

And, Mr. Sardar, I want to ask you first of all, are you surprised at all to see these incidents that we have seen of intimidation or outright assaults of people who may be seen as being Muslim?

ZIAUDDIN SARDER, "NEW STATESMAN": No, not really. I think many use the word "Islamic terrorists" in the minds of an ordinary individual that we associate terrorism with Islam. And it is natural for these individuals then to actually react against Muslims. I think what we need to distinguish is that this particular act is so outside the boundaries of Islam that it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam or indeed any other religion. For just as the holocaust had nothing to do with Christianity, or the bombing in Armagh had nothing to do with Catholicism, so this particular act has actually nothing to do with Islam.

Islam's teaching can be summarized, in fact, with a saying of the prophet, who said, that if one individual -- one innocent individual is killed, it is as if the whole of humanity has died. So the life -- individual life -- innocents are sacred things in Islam. We value life.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: But despite those words from the prophet Mohamed, we see and we are seeing that these terrorists are actually advertising that they are linking their actions with their faith.

How then, with that in mind, then how is it that you can actually blame either the media or the public for actually making that link themselves?

SARDAR: Yes, I think we need to remember that evil always try to be plausible, and it seeks this plausibility either in religion or in science or in mysticism -- anything that can give it credibility, so terrorists always try to justify their actions. I mean, their actions may be senseless, but the terrorists themselves are not mindless. They know what they are doing, and they know they need to justify it at least in the community from which they receive their support.

And I think what we need to do is to appreciate that terrorism comes out of the great injustice that we find in this world. That terrorist goes to a society like Ariston (ph) or Palestine, and he says, look, nobody is listening to you. Nobody is paying attention to your suffering. Your suffering does not count. I am the only one who is going to stand up to your suffering and seek revenge on your behalf.

HARRIS: Well, it...

SARDAR: But what we need to do is...

HARRIS: I'm sorry to interrupt...

SARDAR: Yes, sorry -- what did you say?

HARRIS: ... I'm sorry to interrupt you, but at this point, I want to ask you one question, because this one is one that's posed to me as an African-American quite often: Doesn't the Muslim community -- as the African-American community has been accused from time to time -- doesn't the Muslim community have some sort of responsibility to do a better PR job for itself, so that you don't have to talk about this only when bombings happen or when terrorist activities happen?

SARDAR: Well, I agree. I think the Muslim community has not done a very good job of projecting the true teachings of Islam. It has not very -- it has not done a very good job actually, you know, of promoting Muslims as -- Muslims as decent law-abiding citizens. I mean, what we see in Bigum (ph), for example, is that every time something bad happens, immediately the Muslims throughout Bigum (ph) start suffering. They start receiving hate mail. They, you know, they are attacked. And again and again, we have tried to fight, but these are injustices as well. We are trying to fight these injustices, but not...

HARRIS: Mr...

SARDAR: ... not in my opinion, not quite thoroughly.

HARRIS: Mr. Sardar -- Ziauddin Sardar, we thank you very much for your thoughts this morning and your words. And here's hoping that many of us have learned something from this experience along those lines. Good luck to you, sir.

SARDAR: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: All right.

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