05/16/2008 03:01 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Arab and Muslim Extremists Undermine a Just Cause

How many American Muslim, Arab and Palestinian organizations and leaders denounced the declaration this week by terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden that the attacks on the World Trade Center were intended to defend the rights of the Palestinian people?

How many rose up to denounce Bin Laden's attack against Israel, saying his al-Qaeda terrorist organization is driven by the justice of the Palestinian cause?

Not one. That is shameful. That is the problem facing the Arab, Palestinian and Muslim American community. That is the challenge that undermines the ability of the Palestinian community in the West to advocate for the justice of their cause. My community leaders claim to speak out against extremism, but they do so in "unprincipled convenience."

They denounce extremism and terrorism in broad strokes and avoid the challenge of speaking out against the extremists and terrorist enablers who are in their midst, who are invited to speak at their national conferences and who hold prominent positions on their boards of directors.

It is not enough to denounce extremism and terrorism, as many Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims have insisted they have and continue to do without also pointing a finger of accountability at themselves for failing to silence the extremist activists who freely roam through out their community.

The reality, though, is that it is a ruse. The Arab American leadership is trying to play it both ways. It wants to satisfy the growing American public demand that they act with principle, while tolerating the intolerable hate speech and extremist rhetoric that is dominating the community's lexicon.

Instead of denouncing the extremists, the Arab and Muslim American leadership are denouncing those who speak out against the terrorists, who go beyond the limits of presenting a façade.

In Arab and Muslim "culture," it is "haram" or a sin to compromise or to air the dirty laundry. That is why so many respond to the demand that they denounce terrorism by saying that they do, when they in fact do not.

The Arab, Palestinian and Muslim American moderates are being held hostage by these extremists who exploit the political realities of an American public that is naïve and uneducated about the Middle East.

These extremists use the fact that Israel's government also engages in extremism and violence as a justification to speak out in one-sided fashion. They denounce the Israeli violence, but not their own.

The principled stand is to speak out against the extremists and the violence not on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity but on the face of the extremist rhetoric and the reality of the violence.

Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims cannot simply denounce Israel's government when it kills innocent civilians. They must also denounce Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad when they, too, murder innocent Israeli civilians.

The real war on terrorism should be based not on the political whims of partisan politics, as we witnessed this week from President Bush who pandered to his Israeli audience by attacking Senator Barack Obama, but on genuine and honest assault against the extremism that make terrorism possible.

Bin Laden is speaking to real issues when he declares so ridiculously that his violence is based upon the generations of suffering of the Palestinian people.

But Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims must not allow Bin Laden to hijack their just cause. We must not allow Bin Laden and the enablers in our community to undermine our ability to define the real battle.

The real war on terrorism is I fact within our own midst. It is right here in our community. Until Arabs, Palestinians and Israelis can honestly and fully speak out against extremism and include those among their own community who coddle, encourage and enable the extremists, we will never see a truly independent Palestinian State.

Ray Hanania is the author of "The Catastrophe: How extremists hijack the just Palestinian Cause and prevent statehood." He can be reached at