(CNSNews.com) - A survivor of Islamic Jihad in the 1970s is challenging Muslim Americans who reject radical teachings to "raise their voices" and to hold demonstrations in public venues across the country denouncing violent behavior.
Brigitte Gabriel is a journalist and news producer who said she had first-hand experience with militant Muslims as a teenager living in Lebanon. The Jihad launched against Christians in Lebanon in 1975 and its relevance to contemporary politics was the focus of Gabriel's talk at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday.
She took the opportunity to call on moderate Muslims in the U.S. to take better advantage of the constitutional freedoms that are not available to like-minded moderates in the Middle East.
"This is the only country in the world where they (moderate Muslims) can march in the streets, where they can demonstrate and speak out without being intimidated by radicals. I can understand why they cannot do it in places like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Syria and Lebanon," Gabriel said. "But there is no excuse why Muslims in the U.S. cannot take to the streets and rally and send a message to the radicals in the Middle East."
That message from American-Muslims, Garbriel continued, should include an unambiguous proclamation of patriotism. "Where are their voices?" Gabriel asked audience members. "They should say we are Americans first, if you kill one of us, you kill all of us."
Gabriel said she could identify only one American-Muslim who has tried to organize the demonstrations she believes are necessary. Gabriel said Kamal Nawash, president of the Free Muslims Coalition, was opposed by other Muslim organizations when he sought support for organizing anti-terrorism rallies in Washington D.C., last year.
Those Muslims who reject extremism, but choose to remain silent are repeating some of the worst mistakes in history, Gabriel told listeners. She also said Americans must "wake up" and come to terms with the "barbaric" nature of the enemy they face before "Islamo-fascism" can be defeated.
She accused the news media of doing the American public a disservice when it failed to show footage of the beheading of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, victims of Muslim terrorists.
While she acknowledged that the majority of Muslim Americans are peaceful, Gabriel said she feels that they do not express themselves with as much energy and vigor as their more radical counterparts. She is particularly concerned about the pro-Hizballah demonstrations held in Dearborn, Mich.
"They were free to demonstrate in our country in support of Hizballah and against the United States of America," she said. "Yet, we haven't seen this same passion come out of moderates to defend America."
Gabriel also pointed to the controversy involving Roman Catholic Pope Benedict as more evidence of the spread of Islamic extremism. As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the pope sparked intense reaction among some Muslims when he delivered a speech in Germany and referred to a 14th century discussion on Islam and Christianity between a "learned Persian" and the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus.
The pope quoted the emperor as saying to the Persian, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Washington, D.C., based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) told Cybercast News Service that only a "tiny minority" of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims was responsible for the violent reaction to the pope's speech.
The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and are open to constructive dialogue with the Christian world, Masmoudi said. Unfortunately, extremists on both sides are complicating interfaith efforts, in his view.
"There are Christian extremists in this country who want to see a religious war against Islam, not just the terrorists," Masmoudi said. "No one will win such a war. We will all be losers."
Masmoudi also called Pope Benedict's comments "insensitive and untimely." He said the pope should apologize and acknowledge that it was a mistake to quote material that reaches back to the "mentality of the Crusades."
But, at the same time, Masmoudi said that the "misinterpretation" of certain parts of the Koran can be used by extremists. A process known as "ijithad" was once used to furnish Muslims with interpretations that were tailored to fit the times they were living in.
"Unfortunately it (ijithad) stopped three centuries ago," Masmoudi said. "That's why the interpretations we have today are not suitable for the 21st century."
For her part, Gabriel is concerned about the educational material that is being presented to young Muslims in mosques throughout America. She claimed that books from Saudi Arabia teach Muslims "living in infidel land" that they have a religious duty to impose an Islamic government on every country in the world.
Furthermore, Gabriel said the same material teaches American-Muslims that it is their "sacred obligation" to "invade the western heartlands and struggle to overcome until all the world shouts by the name of the prophet Mohammed and the teachings of Islam spread throughout the world."
Gabriel also said that America must become more attuned to the dangers associated with terrorist cells. She claimed that Hamas has cells in over 40 American cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington D.C., Raleigh, N.C., Charlotte, N.C., Boca Raton, Fla., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Seattle Wash., and San Francisco, Calif.
"We need to take political correctness and throw it in the garbage, and start educating our people," she said. "We have a problem not only with Hamas but with radical Islam being spread through the mosques in the U.S. - financed by our so-called allies like Saudi Arabia."
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