Muslim Terrorism Essay, Research Paper
Being a Muslim in today s fearful society is not all that easy. However, through a unique experience, I was able to overcome the horrors of the communities. The most common misconception about Muslims is that they are terrorists. In fact, it seems that one cannot seem to speak about Islam without giving thought to this point. However, this is not a true statement. It is nevertheless, a meeting point for hate crimes and propaganda against Islam. Each global disaster is blamed on the Muslims; consequently we are not given a chance to prove ourselves as a good community.
Terrorism took a record-high toll around the world in 1998, with 741 people killed and 5,952 injured (Chicago Tribune, 4-21-95). The World Trade Center, Oklahoma City bombing and even the airplane crashes were all being blamed on Muslims as terrorist attacks. As a Muslim during the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, I was usually the center of conversations. People were constantly ridiculing and whispering about me. I was tired of being pointed at while walking through the grocery stores, or department stores. I did not want to be the one that everyone was making fun of. I just wanted to be my old self again. The one thing I never understood was why just the Muslims? The Catholics were also bombing abortion clinics. Yet I was mocked; they were not.
One evening, after coming home from a long and exhausting day, I saw the newspaper sitting on the coffee table. Blasted all over the front page in big, black, bold letters was written, HAVE THE MUSLIMS STRUCK AGAIN? Reading that one headline made me feel as though someone had just ripped the spirit out of my body and left it to rot. I remember thinking
Muslim Terrorists? I don t know any Muslims that are terrorists. What was going on? Islam was a religion of peace. Muslims believe in brotherhood, so why would they make any terrorist attacks? There could not be any room for terrorism! But my questions were left un-answered and my thoughts un-finished.
Seeing my blazing and raging face, my grandmother took the newspaper, opened it up and asked me to read the whole article. “It is likely that this attack came from the direction of the Mid-East”, the counter-terrorist analyst said. Other overwhelming lies and exaggerations were printed throughout the whole article. My grandmother amorously explained to me that most people are uninformed and stereotype people easily, which I should not take personally.
The look in her eyes just made me feel so much better. She was so calm and cool about the whole situation. I could not believe that she could be so calm. Her loving gray eyes made me feel so secure and warm.
My grandmother tried explaining to me that if I had a problem with the article, I could write to the editor and ask them to print a retraction. I decided not to write to the editor, but it did make me curious as to see what other newspapers were printing. As I did my research, the anger that had built up inside me was unbelievable. I felt as though I was placed in front of the whole world, and everyone was pointing and laughing at me. Here are some examples of what the newspapers said:
+ “The betting here is on Middle East terrorists,” declared CBS News’Jim Stewart just hours after the blast (Naureckas, par. 1).
+ “The fact that it was such a powerful bomb in Oklahoma City immediately drew investigators to consider deadly parallels that all have roots in the Middle East,” ABC’s John McWethy stated publicly (Naureckas, par 1).
+ “It has every single earmark of the Islamic car-bombers of the Middle East, wrote syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer (Chicago Tribune, 4-21-95).
+ Whatever we are doing to destroy Mid-east terrorism, the chief terrorist threat against Americans, has not been working,” stated the New York Times’ A.M. Rosenthal (New York Times, 4-21-95).
Once again, I felt as though someone had taken my heart and broken it into a million pieces, shattering it all over the floor. I could not even think that anyone could blame someone without having hard evidence to prove it. How could anyone say that Muslims out of all people would be the first to blame? The Muslim greeting of salaam, means peace. This peace, which in heaven is called Dar Al Salaam, is the home of peace. In this sense, the meaning of the religion as well as the call to it is meant to be peace and to achieve peace” (Khouj 295). The question now becomes obvious: How is it that a religion whose very name means peace, is so troubled by violence? I was so confused and upset, I could hardly get to bed that night.
In the morning, I turned the television on and every station said the same thing over and over. A bomb had exploded at the Oklahoma City federal building. The explosion destroyed the building, taking out a children’s day care located inside. Preliminary reports linked the incident to Muslim terrorists. Once again I remembered thinking
How could this ONLY be blamed on the Muslims? Why out of all people the Muslims? I just could not understand this. Everything was just so mind-boggling. Islam is the one main religion, which prohibits the killing of women and children. For what reason would a Muslim terrorist blow up a whole children s day care?
While riding the bus to school, my bus driver had the radio on. I went to school with my ears glued to the radio. What used to seem as an elongated trip to school, seemed so short that day. I was so into the radio, I did not even realize that we had reached school. As I was walking through the halls, just about to open my locker I heard That s the Muslim terrorist girl! Maybe she will blow up the school tomorrow. I turned around and pretended not to hear anything.
I spent my day wondering what everyone was thinking and if they thought I was a terrorist. I was paranoid throughout the day, thinking that people probably thought I was going to blow up the whole school tomorrow. I felt uneasy as I sneaked in and out of each class, hiding behind my desk. I was acting as if I was a robber trying to sneak around in an alarmed house. I received all kinds of looks from people in my classes; empty and hateful looks. I felt like the walls around me were closing in and I just wanted to get out of there!
At the end of the day I just could not take it anymore. I just about ran home terrified that someone would follow me home and beat me up. Before I stepped into my house, I noticed that the neighbors were also staring at me and making strange faces. I was no longer safe anywhere! I felt so angry that everyone was pointing fingers at the Muslims. I experienced a feeling of betrayal. No one was going to trust us anymore. They would all hate us!
As I raged through the door, my grandmother graciously greeted me. She immediately knew that there was something wrong and asked me to sit down. As she prepared tea, I told her the whole story and again she explained to me that people easily stereotype one another, without looking at the consequences. She told me that I must be proud of where I come from and who I am. She made me realize that one cannot forget whom they are just because some people are not willing to accept it. No matter how the society reacts to certain situations, I absolutely cannot forget where I have come from and who I am.
I felt safe after talking to my grandmother and I realized that what she was telling me was true. If I really did believe in myself, then others would also believe in me. It was all up to me to figure out a solution to this mess and to figure out how I could put an end to this misconception.
The next day I went to school early and asked my first period teacher if she would allow me to speak to the class about some issues that I needed to clear up. At first she was reluctant and did not understand what was going on. I explained the whole situation to her and politely she allowed me to talk to the class.
As I was going up in front of the class, I saw all those faces that I once used to know. It seemed as if I did not know those faces anymore. Everyone seemed to be a stranger that day. At first I was having difficulty speaking properly because I was so nervous. Then I saw one of my friends smile at me and give me a thumbs-up sign. That one simple gesture gave me the courage I needed. After that I felt so confident that I gave the best speech that I had ever given. I told the students that even though some Muslims were terrorists, not all of them were. I gave them the example that teachers had given me for years and years; how, friends stick by friends, in good times and in bad times. I had always been taught that a friend is a friend for life, and therefore, they are the ones who will be with you all the time. I showed them that I was the same person that they had all grown up with. I assured them that I was not going to bomb the school one day, or anything like that. Hearing me say all of this made them very happy. I saw the smiles and the expressions on their faces saying that they were comforted. They all seemed to be very relieved that I had taken my time to explain to them that they were thinking of me in the wrong way. I would never terrorize anything or anyone. That day I felt that I had actually accomplished a lot, and I had accomplished a lot. I felt so proud of myself because I was no longer afraid of anything anyone had to say about me. I had finally made myself clear in saying that I was not a terrorist, and neither was my family.
My grandmother really helped me to understand everything. Muslims as a whole have nothing against anyone, so why would we hurt our loved ones? Realizing that they had made a mistake, the students apologized to me and told me that they had just misunderstood the whole situation. If it were not for my grandmother, I would have never had the courage to say anything in front of my fellow classmates.
Living in a stereotypical society is tough for young ethnic children. Society today tends to make people feel as though they should be outcasted from the rest of the community if they do not fit the description of a classic AMERICAN. Classic American meaning, blond hair, blue eyes, white. The media also creates an image that Islam is a religion of terrorists. That image is reinforced by Hollywood, with movies like Not Without My Daughter and Delta Force, leading American people down the narrow street of the stereotypical thinking. Islam is a religion of peace, not terror, leaving Muslims around the world sickened by this distorted picture. Islam at its very essence detests all injustices and strives to right wrongs.
So how is it, that the image of Islam is so faint from the truth? Well, one of the reasons is because some Muslims do terrorize, just like some Christians, and some Jews. Just like in any other religion, there are some people who do bad things. This does not mean that we should be labeled. Islam does not condone the killing of innocent people. It completely outlaws murdering of innocent people, especially women and children. It is puzzling why then so many terrorist groups are prefixed with the term Islamic or Muslim.
Thirty-seven terrorist groups are listed in the State Department report; 17 of them are from the Middle East; 9 of them are identified by the prefix Islamic or Muslim; 7 of them do not include Islam as their main ideology; and 1 of them is totally anti-Islam (Abdullah, par. 10). But what does all this mean to the average American? It means that there are a lot of terrorist group operations associated with the name of Islam. This is a problem for many American Muslims who have no connection to the Middle East based terrorism.
When people start terrorizing others, they do not realize what kind of effect it will cause to the rest of the people around the world. As for the Oklahoma City bombing, the Muslims were proven innocent. They were not the ones to blame for this bombing. The people who were later found to be the ones who bombed were two white males. One of these males, Timothy McVeigh, actually confessed to this bombing. If he would not have come forward, then the Muslim men would have been condemned for something that they had not done. This proves that many people blindly attack the minorities. People start saying things, which they have no conception about, and this leads to false accusations. Innocent people are held liable for things they have not done.
I am Muslim. It is ironic and absurd that a typical American such as myself, should find herself labeled as a terrorist. Of course it is unfair, but it is the reality of the situation. The question on my mind was, How come I was accused? What profile did I fit? The reason is simply, I fit the number one criterion for a terrorist. I am a Muslim.
Through this predicament I have learned that I must not forget my heritage because that is who I am and always will be. I cannot and will not give up. No matter how society reacts, I will always remember that stereotypical people will never get anywhere in this lifetime. They will always prove themselves incorrect. I have always wondered why our culture does not allow us the capacity to allow different religions into their own surroundings. Incriminating Islam in such things, such as bombing is an irresponsible act, which does not help in tracking down the real perpetrators. The international community should begin a fierce effort and cooperate among themselves to put an end to these senseless acts. If people do not start acting soon, a lot of lives could be at stake. Sooner or later, minorities will start speaking up, and when they do, many things will change. Until then, people must realize that stereotypes are just words. Mere words, which should not and will not hurt anyone!
The question arises, how do we reverse anti-Muslim attitudes? To begin with, we must rid ourselves of the notion that all Muslims are Arab. In fact, one third of Muslims in the world reside as minorities in non-Muslim countries. India’s Muslim minority consists of over 120 million people, whereas 60 million Muslims are in China. Large Muslim minorities also exist in the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Only 18% of Muslims are from the Arab World. In a report from the American Muslim Council in December 1992, estimates showed that 42% of Muslims in the United States are African-American, 24.4% are South Asians, 12.4% are Arabs, 5.2% are Africans, 3.6% are Iranians, 2.4% are Turks, 2.0% are South East Asians, 1.6% are American Whites, 0.8% are East Europeans, and 5.6% are all other groups (Chicago Tribune, 4-21-95).
Another thing, which might help us to get rid of, the Muslim stereotype is to step away from a phobia of standing up for your principles. Do not let anyone influence you in your decisions. Believe in what you want to believe, not what others want you to believe.
A wise Muslim man once said, There are always two sides to a coin, and if you look deep enough, you may find that coin in your own pocket. Before we act, we must think and understand what we are hearing and saying about others. The world is a small place. We all share common beliefs and values and we are more alike than different. Perhaps one day, I will be just another ordinary American again. Until then, I must remember what my grandmother has taught me. She taught me that I am who I am, and I must not forsake that. Even though people stereotype Muslims, I must believe that all Muslims are not terrorists, because they are not.