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Most Certainly Not My War
An Essay by Askia Muhammad

audio Listen to Muhammad's essay.

Oct. 22, 2001 -- I am not by any means a self-hating Muslim. Nor am I an unpatriotic fifth columnist working secretly to aid America's enemies just because I will not bear arms against them.

To Osama bin Laden, who called President George W. Bush the head of the world's infidels in a recent videotaped message and said that every Muslim should rush to defend his religion, I say, “Your fight is not in my name, sir.”

To my president, who said in his address to Congress last month, every nation in every region now has a decision to makem – “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”: With all due respect, I say, “This may very well be my country, but this is most certainly not my war.”

"I come from the Islamic tradition which for 70 years has recruited young men and women to step forward and take faith and belief in the higher power and in the inevitability of freedom and justice for all -- as reasons to live and to build better communities, not as a cause for which to die."

Askia Muhammad

No, as a Muslim American I find myself conflicted in the same way Dr. W.E.B. DuBois described African-Americans nearly a century ago. “One ever feels his two-ness,” he wrote in 1903 in "The Souls of Black Folk." “An American, a Negro -- two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body.”

I come from the Islamic tradition which for 70 years has recruited young men and women to step forward and take faith and belief in the higher power and in the inevitability of freedom and justice for all -- as reasons to live and to build better communities, not as a cause for which to die. America is a better place because of Muslims like that.

I learned during my orientation into the faith that the most-often used word in the Koran, the Muslim scriptures, is not jihad, which is mistakenly construed to mean holy war, but rather raheem, which means mercy. I for one am quite content to worship a God who is more merciful than warlike.

I learned that that which is right does not go to the aid of that which is wrong. Recently, a group of Muslim scholars replied to a request from Muhammad Abdul-Rasheed, the senior-most Islamic chaplain in the US armed forces, about the permissibility of Muslim military personnel participating in America's fight against Islamic countries.

Well, I don't care what the scholars say. I say again what I said in a letter proclaiming my status as a conscientious objector to the chief of naval personnel on May 20th, 1969. “I believe as one who has declared himself to be a righteous Muslim that I should not participate in any wars which take the lives of humans. I do not believe that this nation should force me to participate in such wars.'”

I say, “Sholem aleichem.” I say, “Shalom.” I say, “Peace be unto you.”

Askia Muhammad covers the White House for the newspaper The Final Call.