Stop breaking America, please

By Sonia Schmidt

Since Islamaphobic rhetoric has returned to popular political discussion in the wake of the Orlando attack, I have found the need to say something. 

Islam ≠ terror. A religion represented by 1.6 billion people in the world (22% of the world population) is not the harbinger of terrorists in America. It will not amount to our downfall. Nor is it so definitively un-American that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States.

The world Islam comes from the Arabic root salaam which translates to peace.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terrorism as: the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal

These people who have killed thousands of innocent human beings are terrorists by this definition. We should call them domestic terrorists (in the case of Omar Mateen from the Orlando shooting) or terrorists (in the cases of militants from groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram) all over the world. I am not going to walk up to a priest and call him rabbi. Just as I will not falsely call terrorists who use Arabic words Muslim. Not for respect of the terrorist, but out of respect for the religion they have mutilated, warped, and caused thousands of Americans to misjudge.

“Radical Islam” implies that the doctrines that these terrorists follow are simply extreme versions of Islam. But they do not, in fact, follow the central themes of the Qu’ran (the Holy Book for Muslims, akin to the Torah for Jews or the Bible for Christians). How can you be a radical version of something whose basic teachings you do not follow? Here is a list of verses from the Qu’ran that plainly demonstrate how groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram are not following the teachings of Islam (for one, murder, terrorism and generally harming innocent people are all outlawed).

You’re not being brave or forthright by calling terrorism “radical islamic terrorism,” you’re just being ignorant and contributing to a problem that further divides our nation in a time when we need desperately to come together. Our 8 justice Supreme Court and perpetually divided Congress are obvious enough examples of the deep political divide running through our country right now.

Similarly, I would not label a member of the KKK a “radical Christian” because they do not follow the main themes of the Bible (for one, thou shalt not murder, kind of a big one, comes to mind given that the KKK is famous for its lynchings), even though many of the chapters identify as “Christian organizations.” Also, very few other people would call the group “radical Christians” mainly because in the United States, Christianity is clearly the dominant religion, making its teachings and values a near intrinsic part to American culture. Plainly put, people in America understand Christianity, so they would rarely mislabel it.

I don’t think that saying that you follow a faith means you are truly a follower of that faith. I think you have to practice it. These people do not follow the teachings of Islam, so they are clearly not representative of Muslims. They have some warped teachings, simply using the same words that true followers of Islam do. Few would argue that if someone shouted, “This is for Jesus Christ” right before they shot tens of people that they were simply an extremely devout Christian. But because we as Americans generally don’t understand Islam as a faith, when terrorists shout, “Allahu Akbar” all we hear are words in a language we don’t understand. All we feel fear and anger over our fallen comrades, family members, friends and neighbors. I could see how people without any knowledge about Islam could assume that terrorists are truly representative of Islam. But, those of us who do understand must speak up.

What troubles me is that celebrities, politicians, reporters and more are still calling these acts of terror “Radical Islamic terrorism.” These people who have such an incredible influence on the American public, some whose job it is to inform the populace, have continued to use phrasing that is not only ignorant and offensive, but also just plain inaccurate.

Therefore, I urge you to not use this phrase, and encourage others to not use it either. These terrorists do not represent a radical version of Islam, they represent hatred, fear, despair and all the darkness that can come from instability. These terrorists are horror, panic, and distress personified. This small phrase is having a profound effect. Anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. are five times more common than they were before 9/11. We are effectively aiding terrorists’ goals by allowing acts like this to occur in our country.

 Al Drago/News and Observer/AP

Al Drago/News and Observer/AP

They want a divided, broken America, and we are giving them one.

And yet since then, we have still been unable to separate a peaceful religion from crazed, fear-mongering terrorists. Islamophobia is becoming a pervasive issue. We still find ways to be incredibly partisan in politics, to vilify each other instead of the true enemy. Fear-mongering, despair-inducing, innocent-murdering terrorists.

If you saw that this article was too long and you couldn’t be bothered, at least watch this clip from the tv show The West Wing