Islam is Peace
On June 30th, 2013, I made the best decision of my life: I became a Muslim. Since that day, my life has been a whirlwind of blessings, happiness, confusion, sadness, self awareness, immense patience, and healing. It’s not surprising, though, that any negativity I have experienced has been a direct result of ignorance combined with hate. On a personal level, Alhamdulillah, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve experienced hate directed toward me, even with the small population of Muslims that live in New Mexico, about 200 Muslim adherents per 100,000 people, compared to other areas of the United States.
Islam is the way we eat, the way we speak, and they way we carry out each of our actions. With that in mind, along with the fact that about 1.6 billion people around the world practice Islam, it is foolish to say that Islam is a “violent religion.” If it was, it’s pretty safe to say that Muslim induced tragedy would be visible on a daily basis, all around the world, including in the United States.
“Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” – Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him) | (Al-Tirmidhi)
Recently, I briefly read about an incident that occurred on Fox News’ “Cashin’ In” in which a discussion was held about the importance of profiling Muslims. Below is a comment that created unrest and discomfort within the Muslim community:
We should have been profiling on September 12, 2001. Let’s take a trip down memory lane here: The last war this country won, we put Japanese-Americans in internment camps, we dropped nuclear bombs on residential city centers. So, yes, profiling would be at least a good start. It’s not on skin color, however, it’s on ideology: Muslim, Islamists, jihadist. That’s a good start but it’s only a start. We need to stop giving Korans to Gitmo prisoners, we need to stop having Ramadan and Iftar celebrations in the White House. We need to stop saying the enemy is not Islamic. They are. – Jonathan Hoenig
These instances occur so often that it has become an expectation for viewers and listeners. People from various cultures, religions, races, and backgrounds are often overgeneralized and misrepresented within the media. What’s worse is there is still a huge portion of consumers who believe that mainstream, corporate funded media are completely reliable sources of information.
I can confidently say that the media easily influences thoughts, actions, and behaviors of people, as I have seen it occur within my own family. Before some of my family members truly understood Islam, I was approached numerous times with fear and skepticism. Within all of these conversations, references were made to assumptions that had been accumulated from the news.
If corporate funded media can influence thoughts, than it most certainly can influence actions. If people are under the impression that Muslims are a threat, hate crimes become inevitable.
Hate Crimes & Community
On Friday, October 24, 2014, I received notification via Facebook that our Mosque in Albuquerque, the Islamic Center of New Mexico, had been hit with an explosive device. Nobody was hurt, and our community at ICNM is much stronger than the material damage that the explosive caused. (I would also like to note that most media outlets referred to the explosive as a “Molotov cocktail” which, in my opinion, significantly diminished the severity of the situation. It was an explosive).
Thankfully, the explosive did not enter the building. As said by Imam Shafi, the director and Imam of ICNM, “I’m sure the intention was to burn down the Mosque… Thanks to God that we called the Police and they responded within a short period of time, and he was arrested… any act of terrorism is wrong, because if it’s not you, I’m the target. It doesn’t spare a Muslim or a Non-Muslim. We are in America and we have to be responsible.”
These acts bring the community together in ways that may not have otherwise occurred. The Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice hosted a peace walk and invited everyone, including children, to join a peaceful march from their location to the Mosque. Attendees were encouraged to bring flowers, candles, and loving messages to express their solidarity with the Muslim community. People lit candles and held signs that said, “stop the hate” and “we stand with the Islamic Center”.
The key to acceptance is knowledge, and the more we learn about one another, the more understanding and accepting we will be. Hate crimes are driven by ignorance, misinterpretation, the accumulation of assumptions, and the acceptance of false information. However, when these acts occur, the outcome is bittersweet. As we have seen, the community rises and fights back with love.
Unity should be a goal that we strive to achieve every single day. True solidarity is the ability to see well beyond religious affiliation, skin color, and culture, to a place where we differ only within our good deeds.
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!