My Turn: I am a Muslim; see me for who I am

  • Aly Kamel, an imam from the Bronx Muslim Center, holds a Quran before reading from it during a news conference in New York in November. Kamel joined other religious and community leaders to denounce the terror attacks in Paris. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 7/30/2016 12:10:00 AM

Thirteen-year-old Maham was walking home from school when a boy called out behind her. “Yo, terrorist!” he shouted. “Go back to ISIS, you terrorist!”

The young girl continued walking, trying to ignore him, but the boy kept yelling and following her.

Unfortunately, Maham is not the only kid bullied for her religion. In fact, last year (and this has gone up since then) 50 percent of all Muslim kids in California experienced bullying because of their religion.

With the current turmoil caused by Islamic extremist groups, people are confusing Islam with terrorism. They are claiming that all Muslims are radicals, Islam is a religion of violence, and that Muslims are responsible for many of the problems in America.

It’s not uncommon for Muslims to receive backlash after terrorist attacks, but after the France shootings, hate crimes against Muslims increased by 47 percent. Figures show that 845 offenses have been reported, up from 576 the previous year. After the Charlie Hebdo shooting, 26 mosques around France were subject to attack by firebombs, gunfire, pig heads, grenades and other forms of intimidation.

The scary thing is that even before the Paris attacks, 55 percent of Americans said they had unfavorable views of Islam, but only 13 percent said they knew the religion very well. So, these opinions aren’t made with knowledge of the faith.

The biggest argument Islamophobes give is, “Why aren’t Muslims protesting against terrorist attacks?” Actually they are. You just don’t see them on TV as much as you see terrorists. Muslims all over the world condemned the Paris attacks.

For example, the “Not in my Name Rally” in Italy and the Muslims against ISIS protest in front of the White House. The leaders of Iran, Qatar, Indonesia and Kuwait (all major Muslims countries) called the attacks “heinous crimes against humanity.”

Iram Khan, an American Muslim, said: “Muslims hate terrorism the most. It’s the main reason many of them have had to flee their countries, leave behind friends and family, and just go through a lot.”

She also said all her Muslim friends changed their profile pictures to the French flag after the attacks in France.

Iram Khan says, and the majority of Muslims agree: “Terrorists do not correctly translate Islam. If you read the Quran it clearly tells you not to do the things radicals do. The ironic thing is, just the word ‘Islam’ means ‘peace.’ ”

Verse 5:32 of the Quran states that “whoever kills an innocent human being (Muslim or not), it shall be as if he has killed all of humanity, and whoever saves an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has saved all of humanity. It also says in verse 49:10 that “humanity is but a single brotherhood, so make peace with your brethren.”

When asked if Islam was a religion of violence, religious scholar Reza Aslan said: “Islam like all other religions is neither peaceful nor violent. It’s what you bring to it. If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Christianity, your Judaism will be violent.”

There are around 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. That’s almost 1 quarter (23 percent) of the human race. Out of 1.6 billion, .00006625 percent of the Muslim population are extremist.

There are extremist groups in just about every religion. For example, just in Christianity you have the Army Of God, which promotes violence against gays, and targets abortion hospitals and doctors. There is also the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has committed thousand of killings and kidnappings, and the Concerned Christians, who were deported from Israel for plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. And let’s not forget the KKK. The list goes on.

But we can all agree that the majority of Christians don’t share those views, just as the majority of Muslims don’t share the views of ISIS.

So if all Muslims are ISIS, then every single theist – Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists – are terrorists as well. So much for the “all Muslims aren’t terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim” thing going around. Terrorism has no religion.

More hypocrisy and racism just means more hate and more violence. We can’t just blame a quarter of the world for the acts of a few.

There is a lot of hate going around on social media. People need to stop posting things if they don’t know whether they are true (or, if they’re running for president, stop saying all Muslims should be banned from America.)

Most people aren’t aware that there’s a mosque right here in Concord. It’s right there on Eastman Street, across from Quality Cash Market. I spoke to the community there and a board member of the mosque. I asked him how people can inform themselves and connect with the Muslim community.

He told me: “Anyone is welcome anytime, and can come and check out the mosque and talk to us. We’ve had multiple interfaith gatherings and have made visits to local churches. Feel free to come down.”

What you see on TV does not represent the whole Muslim community. So, instead of pushing Muslims away and accusing them, we should get to know them, treat them with kindness, and try to understand them and their religion from their point of view and not a criminal’s.

(Saeeda Khan is a Concord resident and a rising freshman at Concord High School.)

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