Tom Tancredo is facing an enormous storm following statements in which he said the US could "take out" Islamic holy sites, and bomb Mecca, if (Muslim) fundamentalist terrorists attacked the US with nuclear weapons. Later he added quickly, "I don't know, I'm just throwing out some ideas, because it seems that at that point in time you would be talking about taking the most draconian measures you could imagine. Because other than that, all you could do is tighten up internally." Tancredo's office clarified the comments, saying Tancredo was not advocating an attack on Muslim holy sites.
Ever since the remarks were made, the attack against Tancredo has been nothing short of fierce. In fact it only served to belittle the hideous murder of civilian women and children in Iraq, and the killing of Egyptian workers and others in Sharm el-Sheikh.
However, an objective assessment of Tancredo's statement must claim that any US official, concerned with the lives of his civilian countrymen, is likely to make such a remark as a way of deterring terrorists from carrying out their threats with a primitive dirty bomb that could annihilate a whole innocent US city that has nothing to do with the Middle East or Middle-East terrorists or tyrants.
It may be curious that extremists want the US congressman to sanctify Mecca the same way Muslims do and say nothing about it, even in the event of a nuclear attack they may launch against US civilians.
I must admit I felt hurt when I read Tancredo's remark. But, in situations like these, in which one has to respect objectivity and be objective oneself, I usually imagine myself the other person, and wonder what I should do if I were in his shoes and in his very situation. When I imagined myself a US Christian official who had experienced the slaughter of thousands of my innocent countrymen on 9/11, I thought I would probably say the same thing if my countrymen were threatened with nuclear bombs.
But objectivity has no place in the Salafi (ancestral) and fundamentalist thinking. Fundamentalist Salafis think they have the right to kill anybody who disagrees with them or is just different from them, yet they deny others the right to object or protest. The minute you protest, it's your doomsday. Fundamentalist Salafis in the Muslim community in the US are no different than Bin Laden's followers in the Middle East. They led a fierce campaign against Tom Tan I usually imagine myself the other person, and wonder what I should do if I were in his shoes and in his very situation. When I imagined myself a US Christian official who had experienced the slaughter of thousands of my innocent countrymen on 9/11, I thought I would probably say the same thing if my countrymen were threatened with nuclear bombs.
But objectivity has no place in the Salafi (ancestral) and fundamentalist thinking. Fundamentalist Salafis think they have the right to kill anybody who disagrees with them or is just different from them, yet they deny others the right to object or protest. The minute you protest, it's your doomsday. Fundamentalist Salafis in the Muslim community in the US are no different than Bin Laden's followers in the Middle East. They led a fierce campaign against Tom Tancredo, and then asked to meet him. This is perceived as odd in the US culture which does not understand how you can attack an official and then ask to meet him? What is understood, though, is that they were acting in accordance with their fundamentalist notion of "pre-penalization repentance chance giving", and were thus giving the Christian congressman the chance to repent. Tancredo refused to meet them.
Only one Islamic organization did the US congressman agreed to receive. This was an organization that refused to get involved in attacking him, but asked to see him in his office and have an honest discussion about his views. This organization is the Free Muslim Coalition (FMC) Against Terrorism, an organization founded and led by Kamal Nawash, a Palestinian American lawyer, who asked me to be FMC's Islamic Advisor.
FMC is now playing an increasing role in defending Islam in the US and pointing out the stark contrariety between Islam and Salafi Wahabism with its sanguinary culture. Thanks to FMC, many angry Americans came to understand that not all Muslims are Bin Ladins.
On Wednesday July 27 afternoon, Tom Tancredo met with an FMC delegation made up of FMC president Kamal Nawash, Board of Trustees member Belal Abderahman, and the Islamic advisor (the author of this article). The meeting took place in Tancredo's office in a Congress building and continued for an hour or so, while some reporters were waiting in the lounge.
Mr. Tancredo looked very sad when we told him how his remarks hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims, especially us, who stand firm against terrorism. Nawash said he did not want him to apologize, but he wanted a clarification. I told him that his remarks gave an opportunity to extremist fundamentalists, who carried out a campaign that overshadowed gross crimes committed by terrorists. I also asked him to forget about that episode and to talk instead about his statement concerning the intellectual confrontation of this culture of terrorism, from within Islam, in order to save thousands of victims and billions of dollars, spare the war machinery, and settle peace and the culture of democracy.
We talked and talked and talked. Tancredo reiterated his respect for Muslims inside and outside the US. He said he never meant to attack Islam or hurt the feelings of Muslims. He said he wanted Muslims to enjoy their religious freedom inside and outside the US. The victims of terrorism, he said, were mostly Muslims, citing as evidence the incidents in Iraq. He wished Muslims a sound democratic life. The point I wish to stress here is that he repeatedly apologized for having hurt the feelings of Muslims with his remarks.
When the meeting was over we answered the reporters who asked us about the meeting, and we expressed our admiration for Mr. Tancredo, who, unlike the small senior officials in the Middle East, was not too proud to apologize without even being asked, which shows his high manners and broadmindedness.
One word remains to be said about our Arabic concept of Mecca and the holiness of Al-Ka'ba Sanctuary:
1. There's a difference between the holiness of Ka'ba and the sanctification of Ka'ba stones.
Al-Ka'ba, as a structure, is not sanctified in Islam, but the Great Mosque Sanctuary (known in Islam as Al-Bayt Al-Haram) has an inviolability that has to be observed by Muslims. Part of this inviolability relates to "Ihram" rites in which pilgrims enter upon the sacred state (Ihram). This inviolability also means the banning of fighting in the Sanctuary and the preservation of the lives of visitors and animals and birds in this holy refuge.
In Islam, no stone or person is sacred. The stones of Ka'ba are not sacred. They are just stones, like the stones we walk on or use in construction. Ka'ba is a man-made structure that has been rebuilt and demolished several times in history. Ka'ba has been built to be a focal point towards which Muslims turn in their prayers, and to which they make the pilgrimage. It was on that spot that God designated the first House of worship for people. After it was destroyed, God guided Abraham to its site, so that he and his son Ishmael would rebuild it. God has also commanded Abraham to call for people to make a pilgrimage there.
The holiness and inviolability of the Ka'ba Sanctuary does not mean the sanctification of the Ka'ba stones: the holiness consists in a set of religious duties to be performed by pilgrims the minute they start Ihram until this sacred state of Ihram is over. This sanctity has to be observed by anyone who enters the Sanctuary. As a result, whoever enters the Sanctuary must be safe. Furthermore, animals or birds in the Sanctuary cannot be hunted. And in doing their circumambulation round Ka'ba (Tawaf), circumambulators may not touch the structure of Ka'ba, so that it does not become a sacred idol. Circumambulation must be around Ka'ba without touching the structure itself. The Black Stone does not bear any sanctity, either; its only purpose is mark the beginning of circumambulation. This is the real religion of Islam.
2. Most Muslims are drifted away from Islam, since they both sanctify the stones of Ka'ba which must not be idolized, and violate the holiness of the Sanctuary by failing to observe the human rights of visitors or the rights of animals and birds in and around it.
Most Muslims idolize Ka'ba as a structure; they touch it in the same way they do their holy shrines and local idols. The most idolized thing in their pilgrimage is the Black Stone. Other idolized things include Zamzam Well, other places in the Holy Mosque, and even the place, where, according to a myth, Satan is stoned.
Not only have they idolized Ka'ba as a structure, but further they have violated the sanctity of this Sanctuary numerous times. God's command that whoever enters this mosque shall be safe has not been fully observed throughout all the epochs of Muslim history. Aggression on pilgrim convoys was a usual practice in the Middle Ages.
Ka'ba was attacked with fireballs only half a century after the death of Prophet Mohamed during the reign of Caliph Yazeed Ibn-Mu'awia, and then by Marawan Ibn Alhakam. When Abdallah Ibn Alzubair revolted against the Umayyads following the murder of Al-Hussein, he declared himself Caliph, and sought refuge in Ka'ba, naming himself "the Ka'ba Refugee." Then the Umayyad army blockaded Mecca and attacked it with fireballs, setting Ka'ba on fire. Ibn Alzubair waited till Ka'ba was totally burnt to the ground just to disgrace the Umayyads, then had it reconstructed.
In the Second Abbasid era, Shiite Karametas seized Mecca and killed all pilgrims with the help of some Mecca residents. Then they threw the bodies of the dead in Zamzam Well, and took the Black Stone to their capital Hajar in Najad, where they kept it for a long time. Before and after this event, the violation of the Ka'ba Sanctuary and the murder of pilgrims was a normal annual practice, as we are told in history books, such as "Al - Montazem" written by the famous historian Ibn Al Jouzy. Nothing matched the frequency of these annual attacks except the attacks on pilgrims on their way between Iraq and Hijaz, or between the Levant and Hijaz.
Furthermore, there were many battles in Mecca among the Hijaz rulers who belong to the Prophet Mohammed’s family. Some of those "noble" rulers were the meanest of all people. Many innocent people were killed in the Holy Mosque in these battles in a bold defiance to the religion of Islam.
This violation of the Holy Mosque and the human rights of its visitors continued into modern times. When the Saudis emerged with their Wahabi call, they have repeated the sanguinary story of Karametas, horrible massacres and raids were staged in Iraq, the Levant, Arabia, Hijaz and Mecca, which resulted in the fall of Hijaz twice in the hands of Saudis: the first time during the First Saudi State, the second during the third and current Saudi State in 1925.
Finally, in they year 1979, at the beginning of the current Hijri century, another Wahabi fundamentalist, called Juheyman Al-Otaybi, occupied the Holy Mosque and took all worshippers hostages. Saudi Arabia relentlessly broke into the Sanctuary with foreign troops, and the holy place was turned into a battlefield.
Wars and battles aside, strong pilgrims hand in hand, and shoulder in shoulder in circumambulation and in the stoning myth, cooperate in trampling hundreds of weak and old pilgrims who die under their feet every year. Others go the Holy Mosque during the pilgrimage season to steal and swindle. Some Mecca residents go there to touch and seduce women.
3. The issue of Ka'ba sanctity does reveal details of this incongruity between Muslims and Islam. While most Muslims sanctify the Ka'ba as a structure, they violate its sanctity. If you talk about this contrast and call for reforming Muslims with Islam, all you get is accusations from every side. The reason is no secret: terrorists dislike those who advise them. That is why they are hopelessly irreformable.
What is funny, though, is that they forget all their misdeeds, a sample of which was mentioned above. In this oblivion, they carry out a tempestuous campaign against Tom Tancredo for a word that he said and later interpreted. Theirs is the "culture of the slaves", who are too proud to admit their mistakes, and who feel no pricking of conscience, simply because their conscience has long been on open leave.
Congressman Tancredo said a word in a justifying context, yet he was courageous enough to apologize for it, and he does not see a problem in admitting a mistake if he made one.
Now tell me which Arab leader has ever made a mistake and admitted it, let alone apologized for it. If it ever happens, I shall give up writing about the bad and the ugly, and start a new career writing in praise of them.
This article was written and published in Arabic to face the fanatic campaign against Congressman Tom Tancredo. You can find it in many Arabic web sites. For example: