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An American Muslim Guide In The Aftermath Of National Tragedy

By Kaya Gravitter, For HUFF POST , On 08 November 2017, Read Original
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As soon as there is a tragedy in this country, Muslims are often the ones who get the brunt of the blame, even if they have nothing to do with it. It is not your job to apologize, because it is not your fault. And further, any real Muslim would know that nowhere in the Quran or Islam does it say to kill innocent people. However, it is okay to show your remorse and sadness. This is because ― like all Americans ― American Muslims mourn after any tragedy occurs, as we did after the recent shooting in Las Vegas and the Texas church massacre. We all mourn because the loss of innocent lives is something any sane person would mourn. American Muslims, this article will offer you some talking points that you can use in the aftermath of all national tragedies.

I had the pleasure to reach out to Hiba Rahim, the North-West Regional Coordinator for the Council On American and Islamic Relations in Florida (CAIR FL). CAIR FL is the state’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. They offer victims of discrimination free legal representation, regardless of their faith or ethnicity. Their focus and mission is to create mutual understanding and respect through dialogue, for all of society. Though Rahim is located in Panama City, FL, she oversees the Florida panhandle, which ranges from the Florida capital of Tallahassee all the way to Pensacola. She does outreach and presentations for/with the media, law enforcement, schools, universities and interfaith and civil rights groups, etc.

Last week, I sat in on a conference call led by Rahim. On the call, we reviewed talking points one that offered insightful information on what Muslims should say after a tragedy, if brought up in conversation. The conference call took place the day after the incident in Manhattan, on Halloween 2017.

After these types of tragedies, the majority of Muslims are the ones who are bearing much of the burden. These talking points will help you talk to people when the topic of national tragedy is broached.

Some talking points you could use are as follows:

  • We are devastated and infuriated by this latest act of mass violence, this time in downtown Manhattan. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and we will not stand for violence against innocents, no matter what ideology feeds the attacker.
  • While those who carry out attacks of mass violence are few, we are many ― when we as a community of rational, thoughtful humans condemn violence in all its forms in the strongest way possible, when we see the patterns that undercut all acts of mass violence from Las Vegas to Manhattan, we can create common sense solutions with lasting impact.
  • There are leaders who will weaken all of us by seeking to divide us. We know better. The events of Las Vegas and Charlottesville illustrate too well that violence isn’t owned by any one faith or political ideology ― that it is a tool that the weak use to make themselves appear strong, and to assert power over a world in which they feel powerless.
  • We the people ― and the leaders who guide us ― have important choices to make: we can draw on our values and our strengths, or give in to our fears. America has always been strongest when we stand up for our ideals and rally together. It is true that we haven’t always lived up to our ideals, but when we do, we succeed. Those who would have Americans turn against one another or abandon our principles of free speech, free assembly, and freedom of religion are throwing away our greatest strength. That approach will not succeed, and we look back on the moments in our history when we abandoned our principles in shame, not pride.
  • We must ask ourselves: do we want leadership that is responsible and believes in its convictions? Or will we settle for leadership that is irresponsible and gives in to cowardice? In moments of crisis, there is a right way and a wrong way to demonstrate responsible leadership. The right way is to withhold judgment until all of the acts are in, to follow the rule of law, and bring Americans together no matter their race, religion, or ethnicity. The wrong way is to make reckless claims, jump to conclusions, ride roughshod over legal principles and look for scapegoats. Fear separates people; it takes bravery to bring people together.
  • We need to start pushing past our fear and be smart about how we tackle an epidemic of mass violence. Any national security investigations must be based on evidence, and when we look at mass violence as a whole instead of parsed out by perpetrator’s religion or ideology, we can see the patterns that will help us find common sense solutions. We will not single out an entire group of people because of their faith, the color of their skin, or their nation of origin.

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