HBS Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Communities Respond to Terror Attacks

September 11th was an awful day for humanity. The enormity of the tragedy is such that for many of us the shock is yet to wear off.
It is in times like this that a community is tested to its limits and needs to come together and provide support for one another. It is imperative that we pass this test of acceptance of all races, beliefs, and cultures. In order to do this most effectively we need to try to understand each other better.

The strength of American society stems largely from its diversity, which we should all strive to protect and foster. The Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities here at HBS also reflect this diversity. Muslims at HBS hail from more than 10 countries including Argentina, Canada, Pakistan, and Lebanon. Many Arabic students in our classroom are not Muslim; they are Jewish and Christian, while many South Asians are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism.

We wish to educate the HBS community about Islam and address any misconceptions. We hope that all HBS students will be in a position to speak up and correct others who make ill-informed, prejudicial comments about Islam, Arabs, and South Asians-both within and without our own community. One cannot expect much from the broader population if an educated community like ours is unable to set an example. As an institution that prides itself in developing leaders in all fields and communities, we should hold ourselves to the highest standards of respect for ourselves and each other.

What is Islam?
Followers of Islam, or Muslims, believe in one God like the other monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Christianity. The word Islam itself means “submission” (meaning submission to God) and is a derivative of the word, salaam, meaning “peace.” Islam is a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Muslims believe that Mohammed was the last in a series of Prophets, starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, and Jesus.

In addition, Muslims believe in accountability for one’s own actions-words that can also be found in HBS’s Community Standards statement.

Who are Muslims and where can they be found?
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Only about 20% of Muslims live in the Arabic-speaking world. The largest Muslim population is actually Indonesia. There are more than 7 million Muslims in the United States, and an estimated 50 Muslim students currently at HBS.

What does Islam say about Judaism and Christianity?
The Qu’ran, the holy book of Islam, teaches Muslims to respect Jews and Christians, who are considered to be “people of the book.” All three religions are monotheistic, sharing the same basic belief in one God. (Allah is simply the Arabic word for God.)

“Those who believe in the Qur’an, Those who follow the Jewish scriptures and the Sabians and the Christians-any who believe in God and the Last Day, and who work righteousness-on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah 5:69, The Holy Qur’an)

What is Jihad?
Jihad does not mean “holy war.” Literally, the word jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. Islam teaches Muslims that the greatest struggle is against the evil of one’s own heart, thus the more common jihad is an internal struggle to become a better person. However, Muslims are enjoined to struggle as well against religious oppression. Armed resistance to oppression is an option, but only when all diplomatic, legal, economic, and political alternatives have been exhausted. Military action is therefore only one means to jihad and is very rare. Even when at war for self-defense (the only permissible war in Islam), the religion strictly forbids harming civilians, women, and children-and even animals.

Furthermore, in the case of military action, there are clear procedures that must be followed to prevent misuse of jihad. These include declaration by a proper authority advised by scholars who say that the religion and/or people are under threat and violence is imperative to defend them.

Thus, the attacks that took place on September 11th go against the fundamental tenets of Islam. Unfortunately, the use of religion as an excuse for violence has plagued all religions throughout the centuries. All religions denounce such violence. The few who attempt to use Islam in such a way should not be taken to represent the majority of the faith or to be considered as true Muslims.

What is Islam’s view on suicide?
Islam views all human life as sacred. Islam not only prohibits the murder of innocents, but also prohibits the harming of oneself in any way, including suicide. The “ban” on suicide, so to speak, is just a natural extension of the sanctity of human life in Islam. Here again, suicide bombings, such as the ones that took place on September 11th go against the fundamental tenets of Islam.

We hope that this article has helped clarify some common misconceptions. If you have more questions or would like more information on Islam, reach out to your fellow classmates. We applaud the HBS administration for its support at this difficult time.

Portions of this article have been paraphrased from the USA Today.com website and The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada. Other sources include The Holy Qu’ran.