What has happened is catastrophic. It is even worse than Pearl Harbor. Words cannot describe the magnitude of the human tragedy that has taken place. The consequences of this event will be far reaching, and will have global as well as local impact on Muslims.

If the perpetrators of this extremely horrible, senseless, and inhuman act are Muslims, there will be serious consequences for Muslims inside and outside the United States. Decades of work by scholars, groups, and activists to improve relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world and to fight the negative image of Islam in the West will be sharply reversed.

The response to today’s terrible tragedies will have an impact on America’s role in world politics. It will affect U.S. immigration policy, and the chances of laws like the secret evidence act being repealed are now slim. In fact, one may expect more such legislation. Civil rights, individual, and group freedoms will be in jeopardy.

Muslims in America will be at the mercy of the wisdom of the American leadership. We have to encourage the U.S. government not to compromise American values of democracy. Doing so would mean that the terrorists have succeeded in destroying the American way of life, and that would be their greatest victory.

This event will eventually strengthen the U.S. both internally and externally. More and more countries traditionally aligned against the U.S., like India, Russia, and China will enhance their cooperation with the U.S. to fight international terrorism, global militancy from nonstate actors, and other forms of nonstate violence. Ironically, it may provide a rallying point around which the world may unite behind the U.S. to more aggressively deal with global terrorism and conflicts.

At the moment it is vital that Muslim governments–especially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Iran, and Iraq–cooperate with U.S. authorities to the fullest extent possible. It is even more crucial that American Muslim groups, organizations, and individuals come out and unconditionally condemn this dastardly act in the strongest of terms. In addition, they must put their contacts and resources, both in the U.S. and the Muslim world, at the disposal of U.S. authorities to identify and apprehend the perpetrators and their supporters.

This is not the time for politics. This is the moment for unity and all Americans, regardless of their faith, politics, and ethnicity must unite behind the singular principle that an attack against one American is an attack against all.

This attack against innocent Americans is not only a test of American resolve and power, but is also a test of the loyalties of American Muslims. Today American Muslims have to decide who they are and where their loyalties lie. Silly debates about whether they are American Muslims or Muslim Americans will have to be settled immediately. You cannot enjoy American hospitality and secretly applaud cowardly attacks against Americans.

Not all Muslims are terrorists, and Islam does not condone such inhuman acts. No one disputes that. This act threatens all things that are good about the U.S. and we must guard against it jealously. We must not allow the terrorists under any circumstances to alter our values and our sense of fairness and justice. It violates all that Islam stands for and must be condemned without reservation.

Individuals and groups who commit such acts are not only the enemies of Islam because they give it a bad name by calling it jihad, but are also the enemies of humanity. They have confessed their complete lack of compassion for and solidarity with the human society. There is no need to feel defensive about Islam. Sometimes Muslims in their zeal to protect the image of Islam act injudiciously. Today they will have to trust American people and American leadership to make the right decisions.

Unfortunately if this is an act by bin Laden or some other Muslim group, it will give most nations the freedom to act with impunity against Muslims; India in Kashmir, China in Xinjiang, Russia in Chechnia, Israel in Palestine, and Muslim governments against their oppositions. They will use the slogan “fight against terrorism” as a cover to brutally subdue legitimate Muslim struggles. In the past the fear of the U.S. forced these states to act with restraint. Now they may want to act with U.S. support.

The terrorists have won, even if they and their supporters are all brought to justice. There will be restructuring within the U.S. and internationally that will roll back globalization, immigration, and progress on civil rights.

I hope that the U.S. government will conduct itself in a manner that is in keeping with its long history of exercising power with due regard to humanitarian concerns. I hope that wisdom prevails even while recognizing the paramount need to maintain security. I hope the U.S. will not give up its moral struggles to promote democracy and freedom overseas.

If Muslims are responsible for the attack on America, then Muslims as never before will be in desperate need of American protection. Muslims in America will need the U.S. to defend them from the rise in xenophobia and hatred that may arise. Muslims overseas will need to the U.S. to protect them from their own authoritarian governments and from the nations that occupy them–from Kashmir to Palestine–who may wish to exploit this tragedy.

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