Repel Evil With What Is Better

09/25/2012 12:20 pm ET | Updated Nov 25, 2012

This column was originally published in the Duke Chronicle. It has been reprinted with permission.

One of the consistent messages of the holy Quran to her followers is addressed in the following verses: "The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one, which is better, then lo! He, between whom and you there was enmity [will become] as though he were a bosom friend." And: "The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth humbly, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they respond with [words of] peace."

In last few weeks, we witnessed so many Muslims fail miserably to uphold these central ideals in response to a worthless video produced by a bunch of insignificant provocateurs and charlatans. A small number of Muslims did not choose to repel with something better, respond with words of peace or walk away with dignity, as the holy Quran teaches us. Instead, they protested in front of Western embassies. A smaller number of them went even further and acted violently, attacking and killing innocent diplomats. So they responded to evil with something even worse.

Needless to say, these idiotic and senseless violent reactions deserve condemnation with the strongest words possible. The primitive and barbaric actions of these violent protesters are not defensible or justifiable by any part of Islam. They are clear violations of the core teachings of the Quran and of the very teachings of the Prophet they claim to be defending. No insult of any religious figure, including the Prophet Muhammad, warrants violence. I think these angry and violent Muslims gave the makers of this worthless movie more than what they wanted. Through their reprehensible reactions, the protestors proved all the main points of that disgusting movie -- not to mention the fact that their senseless rage, and its coverage in the global media, was another blow to the already battered image and reputation of Muslims all around the world.

However, there were many more Muslims and non-Muslims who, rather than resorting to violence, responded in a better manner. I hope all have seen the tens of thousands of Libyans who came out and condemned the outrageous violence in Benghazi, which cost the life of our ambassador and three other American officials.

To me, one of the most powerful and telling examples of repelling evil with something better took place at the State Department on Sept. 13. Only days after we lost our ambassador, Secretary Clinton hosted a belated reception in celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, which is one of the most important Islamic celebrations and marks the end of Ramadan.

I was one of a hundred or so American Muslim leaders invited to the reception. The event began and ended with prayers for our fallen diplomats, especially for Ambassador Stevens who was known by many in the audience. The reception also highlighted the many uplifting achievements and contributions of the American Muslim community through various State Department programs here in the U.S. and all over the world. The speakers, including Secretary Clinton, articulated hope, wisdom and common sense.

This reception was one of the most profound events I have ever attended in my life because of when and how it happened. There is a very powerful and meaningful story here. The wisdom and civility of this story needs to be told everywhere but especially in the Muslim world. This reception is one of the many instances where America has become what she claims to be. Though her embassies were attacked, diplomats brutally killed and anti-American sentiments increased in many Muslim-majority societies, the U.S. Secretary of State honored an important Muslim day of observance and highlighted the good work of the American Muslim community.

I honestly ask those fellow Muslims who carry all sorts of grievances, with all due respect to some of them, about America: If this is not repelling evil with something better, then what is? Can you in all honesty imagine any existing Muslim-majority society doing the same? Imagine that violent Christians attack the Egyptian, Turkish, Saudi or Malaysian embassies. Imagine that violence gets out of control and several diplomats die. And imagine, as this chaos and terror rage on, that the foreign affairs ministers of those governments hold a Christmas party for the minority-Christian communities in their country. In their statements they clearly say: "Those radical and violent Christians do not represent all Christianity and Christians. You are our citizens and we are proud of your good work." Is this possible or even conceivable in any Muslim-majority society? Let me answer for you: Absolutely not! The civility and dignity of this reception and similar events should humble you and invite you to be measured in your legitimate grievances. When Muslim-majority societies reach this level of maturity and health, most of the ugliness we face today will be left behind. Until then, as Americans let's continue to repel evil with something better.