All Muslims forced to bear brunt of hate toward ISIS


Opinion Column: Sonam Says


On Nov. 13, Paris was rocked by the worst terrorist attack in Europe in over a decade. Six nearly simultaneous attacks throughout the city left over 120 people dead and upwards of 300 wounded. The attacks, attributed to ISIL by President Francois Hollande, were carried out at popular tourist venues such as a concert hall, bars, restaurants and France's national stadium, where a soccer game between France and Germany was taking place.

In the minutes and hours following the attacks, people all over the world came together to stand with France and to offer support to victims and their families. Landmarks and monuments lit up with the colors of the French flag and leaders of all prominent nations gathered to condemn the attacks and pledge retaliation. It was a stunning global display of human resilience and unity, and its inclusion of people from all walks of life ensured that no one was left out.

That is, unless you were one of the 1.57 billion Muslims in the world or one of the 4.2 million Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland. If you fell into either one of those categories, the story was a little bit different. In what has become a disturbingly common theme, particularly in the United States, far-right leaders (the Fox News of government, if you will) are doing what they do best: taking the crimes of a few and generalizing them to vilify an entire group. So it doesn't come as much of a surprise that in the wake of this horrific tragedy, some conservative leaders are politicizing it — as well as the Syrian refugee crisis — to propagate a fresh wave of Islamophobia.

They are, as they've done so often before, using the actions of a fraction of radicalized terrorists to tar and feather an entire religion with the terrorism brand. In fact, Republican presidential candidates like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are going so far as to push for the United States to officially discriminate based on religion, by proposing that Syrian refugees — people seeking shelter from war and terror in their own country — only be let in if they are Christian. Republican governors are attempting to bar refugees from entering their states (a proposal which goes against the Constitution they claim to be staunch defenders of), and some radical conservatives like Ann Coulter have advocated stopping Muslim immigration into the country all together.

I know hypocrisy is the name of the game when it comes to these particular conservatives, but can we, for a moment, imagine what it would be like if we applied that methodology to other crimes of terror? For instance, what if we looked at the Ku Klux Klan, notorious for murdering thousands and a self-proclaimed “Christian organization” (in much the same way that ISIS claims to be a follower of Islam), and concluded that all Christian immigration into the U.S. must be stopped? Or upon examining that, most people who opened fire in schools, churches, malls and theaters happened to be white, what if we stopped white people from entering the country because they were all a perceived "threat" to American freedom? What if we treated all men like criminals and second-class citizens, because it just so happens that the majority of murderers are men?

Rightfully so, any of these suggestions would immediately be shot down as offensive and discriminatory. So what makes it okay to alienate and treat Muslims that way? What makes it permissible for the same people who are so quick to note that the KKK isn't representative of Christianity, to take the crimes of radical groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda and use them to slander all Muslims? Terrorism is its own religion. Groups like ISIS and the KKK go against the very nature of the religions they claim to represent, because no religion preaches hate and senseless murder. At its core, every religious belief system advocates tolerance, humility and peaceful coexistence, even with those we disagree with. Conservative leaders and media personalities seem to be well aware of this when talking about terrorists claiming to be Christian, yet they seem to conveniently forget it when dealing with "radical Islam," a name that's ipso facto offensive, because of how little it actually has to do with Islam.

Terror attacks like the one in Paris are, for this reason, doubly dangerous: not only do they take hundreds of innocent lives and strike fear into people who have done nothing to deserve it, but they also divert the conversation away from what really needs to be addressed. At times of crisis, people look to their political leaders for a sober sense of clarity and direction. Yet, instead of talking about legitimate and sensible solutions to stopping terrorism, we're instead embroiled in a conflict where those who see red Starbucks cups and the phrase “Happy Holidays” as religious persecution are the same people calling to destroy Islam.

Sonam Sheth is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and statistics. Her column, "Sonam Says," runs on alternate Tuesdays.


Sonam Sheth

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