Fri, 01/16/2015

As a young Muslim living through a time in which continuous terror attacks are carried out in the name of my faith, I feel helpless. Tired and lost, at times I want to pack my faith and take it far, far away; take it away from the questioning of those who believe Islam advocates violence and from the misuse of those who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam. How naive of me to think that a religion with 1.6 billion believers which has existed for centuries needs me to protect it from denigrating satire.

It is not the intentionally offensive cartoons that bother me as much; a mere piece of a cartoonist’s imagination will not shake my inner peace. Rather, It’s the reaction of those who, in their attempts to protect their religious beliefs, think they have the right to take someone’s life. Simple math: fighting wrong with a greater wrong, will only end up in an even greater wrong. In the aftermath of the shootings, social media channels were flooded with offensive cartoons posted to defend the right to free speech. Will this cycle ever end? Have we become hungry wolves just waiting for a chance to pounce on each other?

Social media identities like #iamcharlie and #iamnotcharlie, I believe, are creating a deeper divide amongst us. This unfortunate incident needs to be condemned in its entirety, not just certain aspects of it. I don’t condemn this incident because I am a Muslim or because I advocate free speech. I condemn it because I am a human.

Unfortunate incidents like these are a reminder of how vital interfaith work is. The vacuum between two sides needs to be replaced with dialogue and mutual understanding. On one side are the people who still believe this incident was the work of “Islamic terrorists.” On the other side are Muslims whose religious identities are often misunderstood. As an interfaith organizer, I realize there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

Let’s be brave enough to voice our values and ask questions of each other. Let’s be humble enough to engage with those who believe different than we. Lets be responsible enough to act together despite deep theological disagreements to improve our communities. By doing this, maybe we can learn to understand each others' religious and philosophical differences, building a more peaceful world in which to live.

As an interfaith leader, I create safe spaces where people from diverse backgrounds and identities can voice their values, engage with those who hold different ideologies than their own, and act together for the common good.

As a Muslim, I work to create awareness around my faith by answering questions about my beliefs. Why should I wait until an unfortunate event like the Charlie Hebdo shooting happens to talk to people about my faith and its teachings?

As a human, I strive to restore and maintain the integrity of all humanity. May we all do so.

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