Tag Archives: terrorism

Why the Question of Islamophobia Deserves a Real Answer

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved ones honorable and faithful service.”

These were the words spoken to us just over a week ago as our family sat, tears falling, amid the backdrop of endless white headstones at Long Island National Cemetery. In that moment of sadness, our thoughts turned to our children. In the midst of the loss of their great-grandfather who served in WWII, we’ve been compelled to think about their place in the future of this nation. Our nation.

As an American Muslim couple, both of us born and raised in New York, we’ve been watching this presidential election process unfold with rising concern. Although questions have been asked at the debates about the surge in hatred and violence towards innocent, law abiding American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, we find ourselves holding our breath in anticipation, eager for a moment in which the many victims of this anti-Islam hate will be recognized with more than just an off-hand, superficial condemnation.

The discussion of this topic – often labeled “Islamophobia” – the “othering” of Muslim citizens and the dangers posed to these American families – is often shifted – almost unnoticeably, to the topic of fighting terrorism.

All Americans are subject to the same terrorism threat – including Muslims. In addition to the terror threat, American Muslims are made to endure misplaced hatred, violence and suspicion ranging from micro aggressions and discrimination – to cold blooded murder.

The evil of terrorism is not a justification for the violence toward innocent Muslims – both are unacceptable. So why do the responses to this issue in the debates repeatedly shift attention away from recognizing the victims of anti-Islam hate?

By shifting the topic from Islamophobia to terrorism, the virulent anti-Islam hate directed at innocent Americans is implicitly justified – as if the existence of terrorism is the natural, obvious explanation for it. This allows for the conflation of Islam with terrorism. But terrorism is not actually the cause of Islamophobia.

We’ve heard that anti-Islam hate towards American Muslims is wrong because “we need them” to be part of our “eyes and ears” as if American Muslims are merely tools in defeating an enemy. But we are citizens with the same inalienable rights as anyone else – and conflating Islam with terrorism isn’t just a matter of insult.

In fact, the term “Islamic terrorism” isn’t wrong because it’s insulting. It’s not wrong because American Muslims are needed to be “on our front lines.” It’s wrong because the overwhelming majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims believe that terrorism can in no way, shape, or form be “Islamic” – terrorism is un-Islamic. This is evidenced by the open letter signed by 120 Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world, or the fatwa against terrorism which 70,000 Muslim scholars came together to pass in 2008. Or the Orlando statement that we signed along with hundreds of other American Muslim leaders in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. It’s wrong to use the term “Islamic terrorism” because it does not conform with reality.

American Muslims are an integral part of the fabric of this country and have been a part of the US since the time of George Washington, as Hillary Clinton rightly pointed out.

American Muslims are entrepreneurs, doctors and nurses, police officers, firefighters, members of our military, neighbors and friends. Muslims are one of the most diverse faith groups in this country. Muslims are black, white and everything in between. Thousands of Americans choose to become Muslim every year.

Our children will grow up knowing their great-grandfather was a naval sergeant in WWII. They know their grandfather worked for the NY Fire Patrol and continued to drive into downtown Manhattan during the stressful aftermath of 9/11, he died in the following weeks, before they were born. Will they know that they have a future in this country, the only home any of us have ever known?

Their history is rooted in the United States – but we can’t help but wonder if their future here is safe. Will they be free to practice their faith in an environment devoid of anti-Islam hate? They deserve to know.

In these last weeks before the presidential election, our family, and the millions of American Muslims around the country will be waiting for a real answer.

Co-authored with Shakiel Humayun

Originally Published by AboutIslam.net

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No Matter What They Say

 

Was the murderer – who brutally killed 84 people, injuring hundreds more in Nice, France, a practicing Muslim? Or, was he, as reports indicate, a depressed, lonely man with mental health problems, a propensity for using drugs and alcohol, and a criminal history – the very antithesis of a practicing Muslim? The answers to these questions don’t seem to matter to everyone. Several politicians, TV personalities and pundits, set out to form public sentiment surrounding the attack within the very first hours after it occurred. Before any details were available, the branding of this attack as a radical “Islamic” terror attack had already begun.

I heard the terms “Islamic terrorism” and “radical Islamic terrorism” repeated over and over again. I heard people insist that these attacks won’t stop until we “call it what it really is” and dutifully attach the word “Islam” to every single terror instigating crime we witness. High profile people such as Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich– and a slew of far right-wing politicians and networks framed this attack as a sign of a clash of civilizations – clear as day – a war between Islam and the west. Gingrich went so far as to say, “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of Muslim background and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

I believe in Shariah, which is the same thing as believing in Islam.

Do they know that being kind to your family is part of the Shariah, along with prayer, charity, being honest, oh – and don’t forget – obeying the laws of the land in which we live? Do they care? For American Muslims, being good citizens is literally mandated by the Shariah. I don’t know where Mr Gingrich would like to send me. My great grandparents were born here in the USA. There are American Muslims whose ancestry dates way further back in America than mine – some can trace back centuries, some all the way to the Mayflower, and some American Muslims trace their heritage straight back to the Native Americans. If the Native Americans who are now Muslims could be deported back in time… that would be interesting, because there’d be no sign of Gingrich’s ancestors or Trump’s on American soil.

Imagine, all this vitriol, all this certainty, all this “educating” went on before any information whatsoever, aside from the rising death toll, had been uncovered. Clearly, this notion of testing and deporting Muslims isn’t tenable – but what all these hateful statements did, was perpetuate the notion that Muslims are foreign – period. This divisive view of our world – us vs. them; paints a black and white, and very frightening picture for vulnerable Americans. The more people see a polarized world, the more they feel obliged and compelled to take a side.

They are training us to instinctively see all horrific incidents as being tied to Islam. Whether they really are or not is beside the point. This helps to advance the positions and agendas of powerful politicians and corporations – but tears our society apart, and that does matter.

SMH and Complain?

I can get upset and shake my finger at this irresponsible use of fame and ability to reach millions of people’s brains. I can fight every troll on the Internet and argue about just how anti-Islam these crimes really are. Yes, the facts prove the islamophobes and everyone else trying to force a war down our throats, utterly wrong – but the truth alone cannot alter the toxic atmosphere being systematically created. So what’s a Muslim to do?

The Heat is On

One of the effects of being constantly suspect is that the one under suspicion begins to feel guilty – even if he or she is totally innocent. Dalia Mogahed explained how she felt after 9/11 saying,  “Not only had my country been attacked, but in a flash, somebody else’s actions had turned me from a citizen to a suspect… for the first time in my life, [I was] afraid for anyone to know I was a Muslim.”

This is reinforced by a few, very loud voices claiming that we are all suspect. After the Nice attacks, Kelvin Mackenzie, a columnist from the UK’s Sun newspaper wrote a controversial column questioning why a “young woman wearing a hijab” had been allowed to report on the attack in Nice. He was appalled that the reporter, Fatima Manji was visibly Muslim. He asked. “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”

Avoiding the Herd Mentality

More than 1/3 of the dead, killed by the attacker in Nice, were Muslims. If it’s offensive for a Muslim to report the attack on television, is it also offensive for us to mourn our dead? We have to reject this idea and think critically: Is it wrong for white Christians to report news about attacks committed by white Christians? To suggest so is clearly, easily and immediately recognized as preposterous.

In the face of this monumental and growing problem, I refuse to allow others to determine how I feel about myself. We have to be the leaders of our own thoughts – to employ reasoning, and thoughtfully listen and consider the facts and points of view before settling on our position. The Quran differentiates between those who think rationally and those who are unthinking and sheep-like, following the rest without intelligent thought: “Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except like livestock. Rather, they are more astray in [their] way.” (Quran 25:44)

Fighting Doubts

The Prophet Muhammad said, “The people will see a time of patience in which someone adhering to his religion will be as if he were grasping a hot coal.” (Tirmidhi)

Yeah, Islam is kind of like a hot coal right now. This is certainly one of those times. In light of this terrorism epidemic and the mounting negative public opinion towards Islam and Muslims, some of us may feel like giving up. It’s exhausting constantly being under scrutiny, guilt-tripped, cursed at, ridiculed, and hated. Maybe this would all be easier if we just took our headscarves off, shaved our beards and changed our names to Moe.

The thing is, the solution is in the same statement – the crux of the issue, is that we Muslims adhere to our faith. By doing so, we will become better people, who manifest the best of character and manners, we will increase in patience and follow this guidance: “Repel [evil] by that which is better; and thereupon the one who between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” (Quran 41:34)

Why should I?

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? … Yes! Certainly, the Help of God is near!” (Quran 2:214)

The truth is – according to Islam, all of this life is intended to be a test. If it weren’t this, it would be something else. So, as a Muslim, I remember the advice of Prophet Jacob to his sons, “Despair not of relief from God. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from God except the disbelieving people.” (Quran 12:87)

This is how we avoid despair and strive to become even better people. These difficulties can be good for us. They remind us to get back to the basics, to assess our lives, and reorient our priorities. We remember that we can’t achieve any success without the aid of the Owner of the heavens and the Earth. The answers lie in the Quran and in our prayers – in our Islam

So, I encourage my fellow Muslims to spend less time obsessing over the latest news and step away from the bickering and argumentation – To look into the eyes of our loved ones – To take a moment to step outdoors and observe the beauty of God’s signs in His creation – To help one another more, give back to our communities. And most of all, to spend more time with the Quran. Turn off the TV. Sign out of Facebook and Twitter. Open the Quran, read it and understand it.

“So be patient.  Indeed, the promise of God is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.

Indeed, those who dispute concerning God’s signs without authority having come to them – there is not within their hearts except pride, [the extent of] which they cannot reach. So seek refuge in God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Quran 40:55-56)

 

In this book, I find solace, I find hope, I find peace. No matter what they say.

Eleven Past Nine: 9/11 and Islam

The clock reads 9:11 and you remember that painful day. The day our innocent people were attacked and murdered within our own borders by a foreign entity. The terrible day that brought vulnerability most of us had previously never imagined, into the realm of stark reality.

I lived in Brooklyn at that time. When it happened, I was on the fifth floor, looking out over the water at the World Trade Center. I was wondering what had caused the huge fire in the first tower, then I watched in horror as the second plane slammed into the other.

Every time I stepped outside after that, I was forced to smell the stench of burning and death. It remained like that for months.

9/11 invoked the same anger, fear and emotions in me, that it did in most Americans. It also provoked me to learn more about American foreign policy and other things that impact our safety at home. I learned quite a bit I had not known before that day.

One of the things I went on to learn about in the following years, was Islam. I found that Islam does not encourage, in any terms, the killing or harm of non-combatants – even during legitimate war, in fact the killing of non-combatants, as well as women, children and the elderly is forbidden.

I learned that some people – both those who call themselves Muslims, as well as those diametrically opposed to Islam – use verses from the Quran and other sources of Islam out of context. They twist them to fit their own causes, in the most manipulative of ways.

Islam itself – the word “Islam” – connotes peace. Historically, Islam brought stability and peace to lands that implemented it correctly. Peace and security for both the Muslims as well as those who were not, living under the protection of Muslim rule.

To find out about war, fighting, manners and behaviors sanctioned and encouraged in Islam, we look to the life and example of the final Messenger, Muhammad. The Quran was not revealed in a vacuum and the actions of Muhammad give us further explanation and context:

After the prophet Muhammad announced his prophethood which was bestowed on him at the age of forty, he and his followers were tortured for years and many were killed. They were persecuted, because they believed there is nothing worthy of worship except the One God who created everything. They suffered injustice and oppression to the extent that they had to flee their homes in Mecca and became refugees.

Years later, when the prophet Muhammad and his followers had gained the upper hand and had garnered power and momentum, they were able to return to the city of Mecca – this time as conquerors.

Did Muhammad slaughter and lay waste to the very people who had tortured him and who had driven the Muslims from their own homes?

Not at all.

The prophet Muhammad entered Mecca bowing his head down in humility before God. The Meccans, who had tortured and harmed him and the Muslims for so long, waited expectantly, knowing their now weak position.

His statement to them, was a verse from the Quran, a statement the prophet Joseph made to his brothers who had wronged him. He said:

“There shall be no blame upon you this day. God forgive you; He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (Quran Joseph 12:92)

He then said to them, “Go, you are free.”

This account is recorded in: Sunan Al-Kubra Al-Bayhaqi 17714, graded Sahih/Authentic.

let that sink in:

“Go, you are free.”

If Islam is meant to breed bloodthirsty, angry people, or people who are willing to blow up thousands of innocent people to make a statement, don’t you think this behavior would be evident in the example of the last prophet of Islam, Muhammad?

Don’t you think he would have been most savage or violent at the time when he entered Mecca as conqueror? Mecca – his homeland from which he had fled, due to the persecution of him and the Muslims? He had witnessed torture and the most vile of oppression at the hands of those people for over a decade, yet his victorious entrance was made in humility, with his head bowed.

He proclaimed forgiveness and freedom for his oppressors, not vengeance.

I urge you to read for yourself. Read the Quran (the whole thing) and read about the life of the prophet Muhammad from authentic sources. When you have completed the big picture, you will find that Islam is in fact, peace and that it’s final messenger, Muhammad was only extreme in two ways:

extremely merciful and extremely devoted to God.

There seem to be a lot of people out there committing evil in the name of Islam and there are still more people who like to propagate those incidents and spread them and exaggerate them. This is true to the extent that the public consciousness has begun to associate those abhorrent acts and behaviors with Islam, as if the two are one and the same.

The only way to combat this is with seeking knowledge and by suspending judgement about things we have no knowledge about.

Islam and acts of terror such as that on 9/11 do not go hand in hand as some would have you believe. The proof is in the facts, the texts and in that Islam continues to bring peace to the hearts of millions of people across the globe. One of those hearts, is mine.

Islam brings utmost beauty, peace, purpose, surety and contentment, previously never imagined, into the realm of reality.

The Real Reason to Hate Islam

Islam has pretty much always had haters. Every prophet we know of had adversaries.

Some well known examples are Noah and Jesus. Both had plenty of detractors in their times.

The thing is, the haters hated the message for the right reason; because of its core belief:

There’s nothing worthy of worship except the One and Only God.

In previous times, some didn’t like the idea of change, of leaving the “traditional” religions of their forefathers.

Some were profiting grandly from idolatry, as was the case in Makkah at the time of the prophet Muhammad.

Others did not like that they should shift their attention from profiting at others’ expense to instead humbly devote themselves to One more worthy.

Still others didn’t accept the concept that they would be accountable for their actions being in accordance with a purpose for their existence.

Whatever the complaint, it went back ultimately to the belief in and service of One Eternal Creator and Sustainer who has absolutely no partners.

Prophets were killed and threatened.

Ridiculed.

The prophets weren’t hated for the reasons people claim to hate Islam today.

The contemporary complaints are divorced from Islam itself. They all have solid rebuttals and evidence that proves the complaint baseless and inappropriate.

Islam does not condone or promote:

Terrorism
Murder
Violence
Domestic abuse
Pedophilia
Racism
Oppression
Lying/cheating
Smelling bad
Being dirty
Worshipping anything in creation such as the sun, the moon, people, black boxes etc.

And whatever other false accusations are flying around. In fact quite the opposite.

So if you want to hate Islam, hate it because it calls to the recognition, appreciation and service of the One God, who created all that exists. Because that’s what it’s all about.

Otherwise it’s simply not Islam you hate.

And if you don’t have a problem with calling to serve and acknowledge the One Creator of all creation, then you don’t have a problem with Islam.

Period.

Hating Islam

I often browse the Internet for information and I am amazed (well, sort of amazed) at the amount of anti-Islam websites.

More than that though- I am stunned by the sheer amount of time and effort people put into them!

Some of them seem as if they are genuinely promoting Islam, but the “facts” and descriptions are subversive, quoted out of context, misinterpreted, or just plain incorrect.

Very deceptive!

Have you ever wondered why so many people literally devote countless hours and days of their lives to turning people away from Islam?

Is it because they are so noble and compassionate that they must sacrifice their lives to save the world from a dangerous 1400 year old religion and the 1.6 billion people who adhere to it???

Probably not.

I can tell you for sure, that choosing Islam as my way of life has made me a better person.

Even the people in my life who are not exactly thrilled with my choice, will say they have mixed feelings; because they know I am a better daughter, sister and friend now that I’m a Muslim.

I’ve read the Quran many times over. Not only has it helped me to be a kinder, more responsible and compassionate human, but I have also attained a serene peace within myself I had previously thought impossible.

The positive change in me is Islam.

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