A Message of Hope in the Face of Terror

My prayers go out to the more than 130 innocent people who were killed, and the more than 350 innocent people who were wounded, as well as to their families and to the entire nation of France in the unprecedented terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. I join with Muslims and Muslim groups throughout our country in unequivocally condemning these satanic acts of violence.

My prayers also go out to the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world, including the hundreds of Muslims in our UCI community, who will have to face the toll and the blame of yet another terrorist attack conducted by a terrorist group claiming to act in the name of Islam.

There is worldwide rampant Islamophobia and many misunderstandings about the religion and teachings of Islam. The sentiment resonates even on our campus. Every time we work to bridge relationships and bring about a better understanding of our religion, another small minority instigates a terror attack, toppling our efforts and the reputation of our entire faith.

American Muslims are constantly questioned about our loyalty to our country. We have to apologize for the actions of a minority with whom we have no association and who do not even follow the basic tenets of Islam. We have to face anti-Muslim sentiment in our neighborhoods, in our universities, in our careers and, as we’ve recently seen, even in the campaigns of presidential candidates.

It’s easy to pinpoint an entire group of people for the actions conducted by a small minority. Yet, this seems contradictory when the majority of ISIS targets are Muslim civilians. The attack on France was preceded by an attack garnering less media attention in Lebanon with ISIS killing at least 43 people and leaving more than 200 wounded. ISIS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt killing over 200 people on board earlier this month. A series of bombings have taken place in Yemen over the last two months. Since July 2014, ISIS has executed more than 10,000 people, most of whom were Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Islam emphasizes the importance of human life. The Qur’an equates killing a single person to killing all of mankind. Muslim jurists throughout the world consider the violation of public safety to be a violation of God’s right (Haq Allah), which is a severe crime under Islamic principles of justice.

In September 2014, Muslim scholars from around the world gathered to publish a detailed open letter to ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi and his followers condemning the actions of the militant group and refuting the group’s entire ideology, with extensive citations from the Qur’an, the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and Islamic history. The letter did not receive mainstream media coverage, but can be downloaded in several languages online.

Calling ISIS or al-Qaeda Islamic, and their barbaric actions as representative of Islam, benefits no one, other than these terrorist groups themselves. It harms the peaceful majority of Muslims throughout our country and the world. It even (unwittingly) harms the U.S. public, as expanding this war against a small minority into a clash of civilizations is no doubt one reason why the war on terror has eclipsed all other wars in U.S. history in length. ISIS and other terrorist groups are the only beneficiaries of the misguided agenda of Islamophobia as these groups are being promoted as epitomizing Islam and representing all Muslims.

We should isolate, denigrate and thereby diminish the terrorists. We should seek to take away their only real weapon — their rhetoric and their false pretenses. Instead, so many in our society want to promote the misconception that terrorists represent Islam. Islamophobia — in the face of these terrorist groups being an existential threat to our society and security — is tantamount to aiding and abetting the enemy. The Nazis were defeated by being isolated and marginalized. They were not identified as Germans or held out as representing German culture, history and society and their actions against Jews and other minority groups during the Holocaust were not held out as representing Christianity.

Islamophobes and the extremists have something in common. Both of them misinterpret the fundamental teachings of Islam. Terrorists want to hear that the West is against Islam in order to mobilize their agenda. In this fight against terrorism, we must stand firm and united in declaring that the West is not against Islam, but we – all people of humanity – are against terrorism, and terrorism has no religion.

To all my brothers and sisters in France, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq and Syria, and all those who are suffering around the world, although you cannot recover the lives that were lost, I hope you can rebuild and become stronger nations.

To all the Western countries, I hope you do not equate terrorism to Islam and I hope you do not target suffering countries with more war, which will only lead to more Islamophobia and the loss of additional innocent lives.

To the media, I hope you do not merely focus on the agenda of ISIS, but also cover the condemnation of these atrocious by Muslims and Islamic organizations worldwide.

To all my Muslim brothers and sisters, I hope you can continue to be strong and firm in your faith. Although we shouldn’t be obligated to defend the actions of those who do not represent us, our own positive actions as a community can work to change perceptions about our religion.

To all the students at UCI, I hope we can foster peace and dialogue on our campus and I hope we can be an example for others.

Let us join together in hope and prayers for all the victims of terror in the world.

Iman Siddiqi is a second year political science major student at University of California, Irvine (UCI). This article was reprinted from New University - the official campus newspaper at UCI.

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