Muslims Defend Islam From Being Hijacked by ISIS – Jonah Bromwich/The New York Times
Muslims around the world who have condemned the deadly attacks in Paris carried out by militants of the Islamic State are speaking out to defend their religion.
The attacks that killed 129 people were not the work of Muslims, many say, adding that they see it as their responsibility to protect Islam from being hijacked by extremists.
Saba Ahmed, the president and founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, who has been one of the more visible advocates for Muslims in the United States recently, appeared on Fox News on Tuesday wearing an American-flag scarf as a hijab.
“There are people who misuse the religion for their perverted ideology,” Ms. Ahmed, 30, said of the radicals who support the Islamic State and other extremists. “But that has nothing to do with my faith.”
In an interview later, Ms. Ahmed said that Muslims “have a responsibility to defend our faith,” asserting that the Islamic State, despite its name, has nothing to do with her religion.
“Islam strongly condemns violence and terrorism and we feel that they do not represent us,” she said.
On Twitter, Muslims and their supporters have used hashtags such as #TerrorismHasNoReligion, #NotAllMuslims and #NotInMyName to disavow the terrorists and their sympathizers. Many, like Awais Satti, an engineer from Pakistan, use quotes from the Quran to call out radicals whose actions they say contravene the teachings of Islam.
If anyone kills an innocent person,it would be as if he has killed the whole of mankind." (Qur'an 5:32) #NotInMyName
— Awais Satti (@awasssatti) November 15, 2015
“Being human beings and followers of Islam, it’s our duty to condemn innocent killings across the globe,” Mr. Satti said in an interview.
Other Muslims have tried to demonstrate compassion on the same streets where the terrorists tried to sow fear. A man wearing a blindfold stood in the Place de la République in Paris doling out hugs. He asked Parisians to embrace him, signifying their trust in him. Many passers-by did, and millions more watched this public display of solidarity on Facebook and YouTube
Other public statements by Muslims have been more aggressive. One message posted on Facebook by a French Muslim asked that others join him in directly confronting the militants of the Islamic State. The blogger, who goes by the online handle Chronic 2 Bass, said in his video missive that “Muslims should hunt down those who claim to defend our great Muslim religion.”
His personal counterterrorism appeal, in French, was viewed more than 5 million times on Facebook as of Thursday afternoon.
Ibrahim Hooper, the national director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that Muslims have been speaking out against the Islamic State online, at mosques and in public, but that personal appeals can be the most powerful.
“Our research has always shown that if people of other faiths know individual Muslims and interact with them in their daily lives, prejudice goes down,” he said.
But hate crimes against Muslims have risen in the United States and abroad in the last year. A report released by the F.B.I. this week showed that Muslims were the second most targeted religious group in hate crimes last year, after Jews. Responding to that report, Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote that the targeting of Muslims was “probably a reaction” to news reports concerning the Islamic State.
“Given the barbaric Islamic State attacks in Paris last week and elsewhere recently” the trend of anti-Muslim crimes is likely to grow, he wrote.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has reported incidents of anti-Muslim acts in Florida, Nebraska and Michigan since the attacks in Paris, and earlier this week a copy of the Quran was torn up, smeared with feces and left outside an Islamic center in Pflugerville, Tex., north of Austin.
Ms. Ahmed, who was born in Pakistan, moved to the United States when she was 12 and has been an American citizen for more than a decade, lamented that “terrorism has defined Islam for so long that it is taking some time for people to accept the majority of Muslims are not terrorists.”
“This is an opportunity for us to share our faith and hopefully change some hearts and minds,” she said.