Sofia Answers: Why Don't Muslims Condemn Extremism/Terrorism/Violence?

1) We do! Look at the websites of every major American Muslim organization. The Council on American Islamic Relations, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Islamic Society of North America and Islamic Circle of North America are several of the big ones. Every one of them has several items, usually on the front page, condemning specific violent acts committed by folks who purport to be Muslim, and violence in general. And that’s a tiny fraction of possible examples of us going around condemning violence. Think about it, we make up 1% of the adult population in this country. Would you even hear it if each of us were shouting from our rooftops? No, you wouldn't; you would have no idea. Which leads me to my next point.

2) Even though we’ve been condemning our hearts out, the fact is, _our condemnation won’t do a darn thing to stop violent extremists._ Violent extremists, whatever their religious affiliation, are not actual people of faith. They clearly don’t display any concern that a just God will judge their actions, and they have no interest in what actual people of faith think of them. They are not interested in faith, they are interested in power. Which is why we need to stand united and not give them more power by repeatedly insisting that they represent all of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims!

If we insist on diverting the resources of well-intentioned Muslim organizations to condemning every single violent act perpetrated by a 'Muslim', those organizations can't do the important work of building strong social and political Muslim networks that could help identify and prevent future threats.

3) Let's talk about empathy and practicality. Say you’re Christian and some guy who purports to be Christian shoots up a Planned Parenthood killing 3 people. Or wait, say a guy who purports to be a devout Lutheran goes into a black church and kills 9 people after reading the Bible with them. Or wait, say a guy who is a member of a “Christian identity hate group” starts shooting up downtown Austin and ends up terrorizing lots of folks and killing himself. How about if you’re Christian and people who say they're Christians in the Central African Republic are killing thousands of Muslims causing “a Muslim exodus of historic proportions.” (as reported by Amnesty International) Or a purportedly Christian army in Uganda, which reads Bible passages before battle, is using child soldiers, committing massacres, abductions, mutilations, torture, and forcing children into sexual and other forms of slavery?

If any of these things happens, and of course, they all have in your lifetime, what do you as a Christian do? You might say to yourself one of three things:

-Those are not Christians at all. They have nothing to do with me.

-I have no idea what’s going on in the heads of those Christians. They think they are like me, but they are not like me at all. I should pray for their victims.

-I need to stop this Christian extremism. Thousands of people are dying at the hands of my Christian brothers and sisters! I should stop working and taking care of my kids and lead efforts to root out this kind of extremism around the world and throughout the country!

Not so much that last one, right? [Unless you decide to become a cop or join the military, which Christians and Muslims alike do.] As civilians, that’s how the vast, vast, majority of the world’s 1.6 BILLION Muslims feel about members of IS/Daesh which number approximately 100,000. And those two shooters in San Bernadino, too. They have nothing to do with us. We don't know why they insist on using our faith to justify their violence. And it would be absurd for us to think that we, as civilians could identify them before they committed acts of violence and could somehow stop them from committing violence. Any more than you could have identified the threat posed by Dylan Roof or the Lord's Resistance Army and stepped in to prevent it. We do however, grieve for and pray for all of their victims, a great many of whom are Muslim.

And just by the way, in the wake of such violence, you probably do not say to yourself: Let me issue a press release, or get to my church and issue a press release with my congregation expressing our condemnation of the attack, lest everyone think that we are on board with extremism and violence. Am I right?

4) Let's not forget that Muslims are the front line, on the ground fighters against IS. Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds--they have been bombed into oblivion by our government and by their own governments, suffering such a loss of once sophisticated infrastructures that IS/Daesh was able to step into a power vacuum. It would serve us well to remember that the refugees we're seeing from this region are fleeing after actual fighting with or resistance to IS/DAESH because they do not agree with their ideologies or ambitions. They don't have any interest in living under the perverse rule of IS/DAESH any more than you would want to go live among the Lord's Resistance Army. Imagine how much it pisses IS/DAESH off when the Muslims it claims to represent are risking their own lives and the lives of their children to to get away from them--and are running towards the relatively pluralistic, democratic countries of the West. We should be celebrating the refugees as a victory over IS/DAESH.

Stay tuned next time for Sofia Answers: Aren't the Qur'an and Islam Inherently Violent? and Sofia Answers: Don't American Muslims Want Sharia Law? Sofia Answers: You're Okay, It's Really Those Middle Eastern Muslims that are the Problem...and

The REALLY REALLY REALLY MOST VERY IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO that wasn't in the letter to non-Muslim allies. Please share freely.

Love to you all, and peace, Sofia Ali-Khan