How many times have we heard it since Nine One One? I can’t count that high. “American Muslims aren’t saying anything about the World Trade Center towers. That must mean that they go along with what happened.”
This notion, absurd on its face, never was true, of course. Muslims in the U.S. and around the world spoke out against the tragedy from day one.
Those Muslims who did keep silent were simply being cautious and not drawing attention to themselves. Keeping a low profile is a prudent idea in a nation with our history of violence toward people outside the majority culture.
Some in this country still mistrust the 7 million American Muslims and believe that they, along with the billion and a half members of Islam worldwide, won’t rest until the religion has taken over the United States.
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An alarming number of the people who believe that canard are willfully and malignantly ignorant. I will leave them where they belong, cowering beneath the bed covers, drooling and quivering in fear.Happily, they are a minority.
There are, however, others who are skittish about Islam’s intentions whose minds are open, but who simply don’t have all the facts.
I would like to introduce them to Dr. Rushdi Abdul Cader.
Cader, an emergency room physician in San Luis Obispo, is a citizen, a Muslim, and the driving force behind a program called ALERTUS — an acronym that stands for the Alliance with Law Enforcement for the Reporting of Threats within the United States.
ALERTUS is an ambitious program with many goals. At base, its aim is deceptively simple: to prevent harm.
“It’s something everybody can agree on. The prevention of harm is a duty in every faith tradition,” Cader said.
Getting there will not be easy, Cader said. There is misunderstanding and mistrust on epic levels.
Many Americans don’t understand Islam, and there have been incidents across the country of people defecating in and otherwise desecrating mosques. Muslims in the U.S. face discrimination daily.
The suspicion and hostility that lead to that behavior, and the behavior itself, have grown far worse since 9/11, as a mountain of documentation reveals. Cader wants to put an end to it.
But he also wants to calm Muslim suspicion of the law. Many Muslims don’t trust law enforcement, he says, and that is all too often mutual.
Cader has a foot in all these worlds. He is a Muslim, active in the wider religious and civic community, and is the medical director of the regional SWAT team.
So it is no surprise that Cader, who is all about working together, wants to educate people in general, and bring two subcultures in particular — law enforcement and Islam, both of which he calls insular — to a greater mutual understanding. He is extending his reach beyond Islam and is trying to incorporate Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other religious communities.
A central thrust behind ALERTUS is to prevent hate crimes against mosques, synagogues, and churches, and to create a climate where people who are not in the religious mainstream have the same protections others have.
But, as mentioned, that’s a two-way street. Another part of his proposal is to help members of faith communities recognize incipient violence, and report it.
Cader is well aware of what a dicey proposition that is. What about civil liberties? Does he expect parishioners to become snitches?
Not at all, he said. Cader comes back to the great religious imperative shared by all faiths as well as the medical profession: Do no harm.
“ALERTUS cherishes our God-given right of freedom of expression and civil liberty,” he writes in his brochure. However, “the notification of law enforcement is critical when there exists a threat to the safety of anyone in the community.”
In that sense, ALERTUS is a sort of expanded neighborhood watch.
There’s more to ALERTUS, a lot more. Cader aims, for example, to use it as broad educational tool.
It all comes back to the basic precept that we are all in this together. The ALERTUS logo is “Unus Plures Defendere” — one can protect many.
“I believe ALERTUS has the potential to heal hearts and improve safety,” Cader writes.
Will it catch on? Cader is doing his best to promote it. He rolled out the plan Sept. 11 at the San Luis Obispo Mosque of Nasreen. He has been seeking to spread it to religious communities on the Central Coast and throughout the state and hopes ALERTUS will go national.
I’m with him. Now if only the national news media would pick up this positive, constructive proposal.
They made an international celebrity and power-broker out of a racist Florida preacher who burns Qurans.
Here’s a challenge to my fellow scribes and editors: Give this story a boost. It might actually do some good.