For those of you who don’t know, on October 26, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria wrote a scathing op-ed blaming regular Muslims for failing to stop radical Islamists from committing acts of terrorism. Wait, hold up. I’m responsible for the terrorists in my religion?
Zakaria links several acts of terrorism in the recent months together by saying that all the extremists were recent converts into Islam and were not born into the religion. He says that these Muslims represent a small minority, but then goes on to argue that “if all Muslims were radicals, we would have more than three to worry about last week. And yet, there is a problem with Islam” in that Muslims who grew up with Islam need to prevent individuals from radicalizing.
By making the argument that Muslims need to stop people from converting to radical Islam, Zakaria is not making an argument at all: he’s simply alienating more of a population that already has a giant terrorist label on it. Muslims have to deal with enough racial profiling in the United States alone.
After the attack on Fort Hood in 2009 by Nidal Malik Hasan, my entire family got weird looks every place we used a credit card. At a pharmaceutical check-in, my dad signed his name, and the next guy in line casually commented, “There have been a lot of terrorist attacks recently, haven’t there?” How can Muslims be given the responsibility to take “more active measures” against radicals if they themselves are considered the radicals?
Scapegoating practicing Muslims doesn’t fix the issue of terrorism; instead, it draws attention away from the unidentifiable jihadists who attend the masjid (Islamic house of faith, like a church) for maybe three months and then decide to attack. It’s not as if imams (Muslim preachers) and masjid-frequenters condone the opinions of the lone wolves. It’s really quite the opposite. If imams notice an individual who isn’t as responsive to their sermons, they’ll speak with him personally to see what the problem is. But Muslims can’t be expected to hunt down rogues who join to become extremists and then leave without having seen Islam’s true, peaceful nature.
The problem is not that Muslims don’t take enough initiative to find terrorists—the problem is with the way the media reports on Muslim extremist attacks and with the way Muslims are treated. Almost every headline after a terrorist attack involves a Muslim- or jihadist-associated suspect, and if the suspect ends up not being Muslim, society shrugs the situation off and waits until the next Muslim strikes. We remember the Muslim terrorists but not the others. And throwing the non-terrorist Muslims (which, by the way, make up 99.9% of the global Muslim population, according to CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen, who, ironically enough, was featured on one of Zakaria’s shows) under the bus helps no one.
Zakaria, you’re pointing fingers at the wrong people; and by arguing that we’re the problem, you’re only setting Islam’s reputation back.