We read your front-page article titled "Chaplain: no ties to anti-Semitic books" with disbelief and a growing suspicion of The Eagle's true motives for reporting on our chaplain, Fadel Soliman.
Raised in the beautiful state of New Jersey and the rolling hills of Alabama respectively, we grew up as Muslim Americans celebrating unique American holidays such as the Fourth of July and the waist-stretching holiday of Thanksgiving. We also show pride in our rich Islamic culture and history by practicing Islam to our own accord, a dream still aspired for by many Muslim countries. That being said, we are writing this letter in defense of Soliman, a man who has worked to bring about greater understanding between Americans and Muslims.
Your past articles on Soliman have been denigrating to his own name and outright anti-Islamic. As regular attendees of his Quranic studies class, as well as the weekly Friday prayers at Kay Spiritual Center, we have never encountered the hateful undertones The Eagle implies Soliman holds. With the exception of Abdelilah Bouasria, the majority opinion shows that Soliman is an approachable clergyman who tenaciously seeks interfaith discussions as well as open dialogue between the various understandings of Islam. Perhaps if Bouasria actually interacted more with Soliman, he would find that he does not preach the "narrow thinking that is the hallmark of (Saudi) Wahhabism." It is also useful to mention that although all Arabs may look the same to Bouasria, Soliman was actually born and raised in Egypt, one of the only two Arab countries to make formal peace with Israel. We realize your articles were pointed at WAMY and books that it has published in the past. However, these articles blatantly try to make connections to statements of hatred published over 30 years ago, to Soliman's own ideologies concerning Islam. With the knowledge that Soliman has a great campus reputation as a religious unifier, this connection is unfair and unwarranted; however, The Eagle continues to go down this road. We ask the AU community to think logically: Why is The Eagle staff over-scrutinizing Soliman and scarring his reputation by associating him with anti-Semitic remarks and hateful undertones which he has never possessed? Why is The Eagle asking the Muslim community to distance itself from an innocent man so there will no longer be such a vocal voice for Islam on campus? Judging by the tone of the last two articles, these are pertinent questions to ask.
Another reason that makes us suspicious of The Eagle's motives is the troubling use of crippling propaganda in the article. The photo of Dr. al-Johani does not add any pertinent understanding to the article, and conforms to the same perceptions which Western media dictates about Muslims. The picture of a long-bearded, stern-looking face is employed in much Anti-Islamic literature and has been attributed to Muslims all over the world (it should be noted that Muslims do smile and often get photographs taken in this action!). Seeing as your paper is directed toward an educated audience, this cheap use of common propaganda cannot be looked upon as a sign of unbiased journalism.
As Americans with recent South Asian descent, we inherit the reality of terrorism affecting people all over the world. As seen in the recent bombing in Saudi Arabia, terrorists do not even make distinctions between Muslims and non-Muslims - they are careless and ruthless killers. Like all Americans, we want to dismiss ignorance and hatred, as well as find a solution to terrorism. But above all, we want fair reporting on a delicate problem from those whose job it is to report the truth. Though your reporting may be factually correct, a book published 30 years and never employed by Soliman should clearly not incriminate him in any way. The Eagle's reporting on this issue has been Anti-Islamic and destructive to the image of Islam which Soliman and other Muslims have worked so hard to repair after Sept. 11, 2001.
In closing, it is important to remember that America does not have the best reputation for dealing with minorities; Native Americans, Jews, African Americans, etc., have all felt the hatred this country can offer when people begin to blame each other for problems that are truly not understood. We believe that The Eagle is continuing in this ideology of pointing fingers and making indirect accusations with no real bearing; this can only bring more hatred and misunderstanding about the Muslim community at AU and all over the world.
Again, we fully support Soliman in all his ecumenical work, and may he continue on peaceful words of Islam with America. God help The Eagle and God bless America.
To make your own judgments about the AU Muslim chaplain, come to the Friday prayer held weekly in the basement of Kay at 1 p.m. Don't let the media dictate your perceptions, experience it for yourself.