In its seemingly relentless pursuit of demonizing the Muslim community in Boston, the so-called Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) has this time shifted its target from its usual focus on the landmark cultural institution, The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, to a prominent and respected Imam.
Dr. Suheil Laher has been a long time chaplain for Muslim students at MIT and has recently obtained a PhD at Harvard University. He has been a voice of reason and an advocate of moderation in all his interactions with the Muslim community. He has also been a voice of support for the ease of suffering of Muslims globally, subjected to war and oppression. That he has been an advocate of legitimate ’Jihad’ in the attainment of peace is no secret. At least not to those who understand that ‘Jihad’ with all of its shades of meanings has nothing to do with terrorism. From the one end of the spectrum ‘Jihad’ means an arduous and unending struggle for personal spiritual self-improvement, at the other end it permits a defensive armed resistance to those subjected to intolerable oppression. It is never an act of unprovoked aggression i.e. terrorism against innocent civilians. That extremists may seek justification for their terrorism in ‘Jihad’ does not make it so. Dr. Laher has never equated ‘Jihad’ with terrorism. In its ‘expose’ on Dr. Laher APT was unable to document one verse or one speech in which he called for violent aggression against innocent people.
What APT has done is what it always does with such excruciating brilliance! That is to juxtapose ideas and imagery that have no direct context, i.e. Aafia Siddiqui, the Breslan school atrocity, and the Boston Marathon Bombing, to concoct a bizarre picture of ‘guilt by association’. It has used this ploy throughout its vendetta against the establishment of the ISBCC when it masqueraded under the name of the ‘David Project’. Having lost its credibility and clout in that failed effort, it re-invented itself with the oxymoronic title of ‘Americans for Peace and Tolerance’
In showing our unqualified support for Dr. Laher for his dedicated services in promoting the universal values of peace and tolerance, we repudiate APT’s misdirected attempt at character assassination. There is no better testament to his integrity than that posted by the MIT Hillel, ‘Here is what it looks like to be an up-stander when you encounter lashon ha’ra (slanderous talk): please read this talk of former MIT Muslim Chaplain Suheil Laher, as a more accurate indication of our understanding of his true character and intentions. “http://web.mit.edu/~msa_imam/www/ReligiousLeadership.html.” This scholarly dissertation speaks volumes about the depth of Dr Laher’s grasp of religious diversity, and the integrity with which he appeals to rational dialogue as the basis of promoting mutual respect.
In light of this, we invite all peoples of goodwill, including APT, to develop the kind of respect for each other that Pope Francis I enunciated, “Respect means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation.”
As Muslims we unconditionally endorse these profound sentiments and call upon all peoples of goodwill to find the common ground that allows us to share our planet with mutual respect.
Humayun Kabeer, President
Abdul Cader Asmal, Co-Chair of Communication Committee