Islamophobia is Playing into Terrorist Hands

BY KEVIN BRISKIN

The world is in turmoil.  Recent terrorist attacks have struck the West killing dozens and the British Parliament just approved airstrikes in Syria.  It's important that, in these times of crisis, people remember that the enemy of the West are violent extremists, not Islam.

Islam is a global religion encompassing more than one in five of the world's population.  It should go without saying that the overwhelming majority of Muslims practice their religion peacefully.  Muslims must be welcomed by the West, not only to fulfill Western democratic values of tolerance, but also because opening our hearts to our Muslim brothers and sisters is the best way to defeat extremism.

Organizations such as ISIS rely on Islamophobia for recruiting purposes. "ISIS as one of their stated goals has been to destroy this gray zone between Muslim-Western coexistence,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer. “They want these governments to crack down on their Muslim diaspora communities so that they can have a new pool of recruits."

The best type of response towards violent extremism was seen over the weekend when a man allegedly stabbed three individuals at Leytonstone Tube station in London and shouting "This is for Syria!"  "You ain't no Muslim bruv!" a bystander can be heard shouting at the alleged assailant in a video posted to Twitter.  The video erupted on social media and the hashtag #YouAintNoMuslimBruv was trending on both Twitter and Facebook.  The story was picked up by media outlets all around the world, hailed as "the voice of defiant unity," and a "wonderfully British" response to the attack.

Everyone is someone’s son or daughter, and every religion is welcome in our diverse society.

Terrorist attacks show the worst in humanity, but they also bring out the best in us.  The bystander's simple message, that a violent extremist was not a true representative of Islam, was compared to the humane and compassionate reaction in Paris to open doors for anyone seeking refuge during the November 13 attacks by the BBC and The Guardian.

On Sunday, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding Dalia Mogahed was asked if ISIS represented a true strain of Islam. "I would say that ISIS wants us to think so," she answered.  "And I think that's the real danger here. It's that what ISIS wants the narrative to be is that they are the true Muslims." Mogahed concluded, " if we give into their narrative, we're actually doing their propaganda for them."

The West needs to recognize that Muslims are our neighbors, they're our doctors and lawyers and clerks and friends.  Everyone is someone's son or daughter, and every religion is welcome in our diverse society.  Rejecting or mistreating people based on their religion is discrimination, and it plays into the hands of those who wish to do us harm.

True Islam is represented by the words of the bystander in the London Tube station.  When he said "You ain't no Muslim bruv," it resonated with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  We all need to realize that the extremists in ISIS ain't no Muslims either.