November 19, 2015

COMMON SENSE | Not All Muslims Are Terrorists

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Not all Muslims are terrorists. Why does this even have to be said?

On Friday November, 13th, my heart broke once again. Staring at the television screen and seeing yet another terrorist attack play out with the death toll rising in front of my eyes, I felt sick to my stomach. The most devastating thing is that this was not the first time and it’s unlikely to be the last. My generation is the first one that has been witness to such attacks since our youngest years. As Kindergarteners we saw 9/11 play out on our TV screens, as middle schoolers we saw the Mumbai attacks and now in our college years we’ve seen the Paris tragedy. Our generation keenly understands that the notion of safety is elusive.

But my generation is also the most open-minded. We make friends based on the character or personality of the individual rather than looking at race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or especially religion. I am privileged to belong to a cohort that sees past such differences and embraces all.

Watching the Paris attacks unfold, my heart broke not just for the people who were victims of this massacre and faced such incompressible cruelty but also for the Muslim community at large who would face severe Islamophobia and backlash the next morning. Sure enough, hugely insensitive things were said about the Muslim community after the Paris attacks even though Muslims from all over the world condemned the attacks. This was not a unique phenomenon. It happens after each and every terrorist attack. It was jihadist extremists who were the attackers, not ordinary Muslims. The attackers were people who have interpreted the Quran in a way that best appeals to their goals and desires and in such a skewed manner that such an interpretation cannot even qualify as resembling Islam.

Islam is a religion to which 1.6 billion people belong. I refuse to live in a world in which we generalize 1.6 billion people based on the acts of a small minority. ISIS has a fighting force of about 30,000 or 0.00001875 percent of the total people belonging to the religion. It is nonsensical and outrageous to blame Muslims all over the world for the acts of such extremists. It is important to remember that every religion throughout history has had extremists who skew the religion to unjustifiable ends to justify abhorrent acts.

It is rather important to see Islam as a source of faith and spirituality for billions of people in this world. In a recent interview with Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai, Malala explains that the word Islam means peace and that the very first word in the Quran is Iqra, which means “read.” Islam to her is about reading, learning and getting knowledge. Malala draws strength from her faith to do awe-inspiring work for educating girls and also to stand up to the extremists who skew her religion to justify not educating women.   

Every major religion in this world has the same basic tenets revolving around being good people and doing good things. Every religion will have those who misinterpret.  

There are several calls to action.

1) The Muslim community has the responsibility to condemn such acts as being against everything that Islam stands for. Which I was happy that so many did following the Paris attacks.

2) The rest have to be tolerant and open-minded. They have to take a page from my generation and look past stereotypes and generalizations.

3) Lastly, my generation has the responsibility of continuing our practice of being open-minded and tolerant individuals. We have the responsibility of fighting against ignorance and spreading acceptance.  

Gunjan is a junior economics major in the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to writing for The Daily Sun, she is the Director of Fundraising and Philanthropy for the Cornell Dems and is part of an economics research team. Many times she can be found staring off into space, with perhaps deep thoughts, who knows? She is also an avid Outer Space enthusiast and hopes to own her own space rocket one day. Common Sense appears on alternate Thursdays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected].