The American Muslim condition in the 21st century can be deemed as paradoxical. On one hand, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States, but it is also one of the least known about and judged religions in America.
With the recent negative onslaught of Muslims in the media, it is safe to say that we have been examined and dissected under the microscope for years, especially after 9/11.
On May 3, a Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest was held in Garland, Texas by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Muslim organization that is blatantly listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A grand prize of $10,000 was offered to the cartoonist who could best depict Islam’s holy Prophet Muhammad (which is in fact, discouraged in Islam as a way to prevent any prophet or living thing from being deified).
Amidst the hate spewed by extreme right-winged AFDI members at the conference, two Muslim gunmen, supposedly linked to ISIS, opened fire at police officers outside the perimeter of the event, but they were quickly shot dead by police.
The cartoon contest was intended as an insubordinate response supporting free speech to the Jan. 7 attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Two Muslim gunmen opened fire, killing 12 members of the staff and wounding 11 others.
As a moderate American Muslim, I am outraged by ignorance of both the gunmen and the “free speech” advocates and condemn both their actions. Now don’t get me wrong, as a journalist, I am very supportive of free speech.
However, with free speech comes responsibility. Using “free speech” as a euphemism for hate is just a bad excuse. Targeting one race or religion is a sign of insecurity, envy and idiocy.
The Garland contest did nothing but perpetuate Islamophobia. They amped up their security at the conference for a reason; they knew, and almost expected, backlash to happen.
The contest was a shameless attempt to receive a reaction from the Muslim community and bring AFDI into the public eye. Maybe that is why the police were so quick to kill the Muslim shooters.
AFDI is a group of racist bigots that couldn’t be any more ignorant than their transparent claim to advocate “individual rights.”
The one thing that the gunmen and AFDI members have in common is that they are both extremists. It disgusts me that there are people who think we should eradicate a particular group of people because of their race or beliefs. Genocide and bigotry are very similar — bigotry is just genocide of the mind and ideologies.
The public’s perception of Muslims has slowly declined over the years. Many Muslims have been ridiculed and blamed for the actions of “jihadi terrorists.” Violence is not the answer to solving opposing ideas or disputes. These “terrorists” are in no way representing Islam or its ideologies.
As a representative for the Muslim diaspora, I believe we can combat Islamophobia by informing the public about the true message of Islam — peace.
We should not have to take the harassment and blame the media propagates on us. We are in the 21st century, which is quite frankly, a progressive era.
Muslims have been made to feel marginalized, and instead of alienating Muslims, the public should be able to ask questions and have meaningful conversations with practicing Muslims.
The shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Feb. 10 was clear example of modern day anti-Muslim bigotry.
However, the amount of support for the slain students’ families by non-Muslims surpassed the hate, as vigils were held on college campuses all America, including the University of La Verne. Small instances like these are what make me proud to be a Muslim.
Perhaps one of the most simple, yet profound ways to depict our cry for acceptance was the “Muslim in America” series published by Huffington Post on April 6.
It illustrated video anecdotes of Muslim Americans who demonstrated the hardships and blessings of Muslim American life. “Muslim in America” is a step forward in educating the ignorant, providing a platform for all Muslims, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity to voice their opinions and share their stories.
Positive media exposure of Islam serves as a vehicle for interfaith acceptance and cooperation and will ultimately save us from being ostracized for our beliefs.
Erum Jaffrey, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, is arts editor for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.