Isn't It Time to Change the Dialogue?

Isn’t it time to change the dialogue? ghazala_shalam.jpg

an op/ed by Ghazala Salam

As French police close in on the suspects that killed at least 12 people in a shooting attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris, the American Muslim Democratic Caucus joins the world in mourning the loss of lives taken by the masked murderers.

While we don’t know exactly who is responsible, many have assumed immediately that Islamic Extremist have once again wreaked havoc on humanity as we know it. While I agree that extremists of some sort have wreaked havoc in Paris, I don’t agree and condemn the use of the term “Islamic Extremist” because, the use of this term is incongruous and an oxymoron. A person cannot be Islamic and an extremist due to the simple fact that Islam prohibits extremism of any kind and promotes balance in all aspects of life.  It is as simple as that.

Yet a cacophony of voices around the world continue to blame Islam and create false narratives that spread the fear of Muslims instead of questioning other factors involved in creating the insanity that basically leads us to the same intolerant path as the terrorist. Most people lack the understanding of Islam when it comes to knowing the true teachings of the faith. Yet, how issues such as blaming Islam for the evil acts of a small group of extremists are perceived, have shaped and promoted misconceptions towards the 1.6 billion globally-diverse Muslims.

 The American Muslim Democratic Caucus is united against all those who terrorize innocent people in our nation and around the world, and those who permit the killing of other human beings.  We strongly believe that it is necessary to apprehend the perpetrators of these crimes, as well as those who aid and abet them through incitement, financing or other means of support, and they must all be brought to justice.

It is ironic that, as many around the world wonder what is wrong with Islam, Muslims unequivocally wonder what is wrong with those who turn to terrorism? Why do they choose the path of destruction and crime? Why do they go against the teachings of Islam, why do these murderers shout the name of God before committing these acts of crime?

Continuing to blame Islam does nothing more than create fear of Muslims giving way to yet another form of extremism and hate, as we currently see in Germany with the growing strain of Xenophobia and Anti-Islamic demonstrations. The misperceptions held by Islamaphobes as well as terrorists present a clear danger to our universal values of freedom, equity, and justice.  

It really is time to change the dialogue and defeat the intolerant mentality of terrorists and Islamaphobes with unity and humanity by looking deeper into the root causes and external motivators such as the social, economic, cultural and political environments that breed evil and cause others to act in ways that demean, dehumanize, harm, destroy and kill innocent people.

This will certainly give more insight as to why someone would detonate an explosive outside of the Colorado Springs NAACP office, or what motivated the Gunman to hold hostages in a café in Sydney Australia, or why some hear GOD telling them to kill their children? Why murders think they can be martyrs?  Why mass shooting have become so frighteningly common yet mundane in our nation. 

It is one thing for public opinion to be shaped by perceptions of factual matters that breed violence and extremism and another when people choose to make assumptions to feed and satisfy misconceptions. Changing the dialogue will certainly present clear issues for a more informed public debate and policy making.

Ghazala Salam is the President of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus