“This is an ideological war, and you can’t kill an idea with a bullet. The only way you can kill an idea is to propose a better one.” –Queen Rania Al-Abdullah
FOX News recently probed Queen Rania of Jordan about today’s political buzzwords, namely “ISIS,” “terrorism,” and “Islam.” Eloquently, the Queen reiterated what Muslims have been shouting from the rooftops: “Islam, in no way, condones the actions of these [ISIS] extremists.”
The Queen explained that, “[terrorists] do not represent the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world who just want to live in peace and get on with their lives.” Never mind that a member of an Arab royal family reinforced what global Muslims have been saying since the attacks on 9/11. Predictably, Western media affiliates and political pundits continue to ask the same question, suggesting the same stale narrative: why aren’t moderate Muslims speaking out against terrorism? It’s a myth, which by now should have retired. Instead, this hackneyed interrogation has undergone a renaissance in the last three months since the Paris attacks.
One week after Paris, Dalia Mogahed was invited onto MSNBC to discuss the attacks. Rather than jumping at the opportunity to condemn terrorism—an imposed expectation clad as “opportunity”—Mogahed pushed back. “I think we should take a step back and ask a different question, which is, ‘Is it justified to demand that Muslims condemn terrorism?’”
“Condoning the killing of civilians is…the most monstrous thing you can do. And to be suspected of doing something so monstrous, simply because of your faith, seems very unfair. Now when you look at the majority of terrorist attacks in the United States, according to the FBI, the majority of domestic terror attacks are actually committed by white, male Christians. When those things occur, we don’t suspect other people who share their faith and ethnicity of condoning them.”
Despite illustrating the double standard imposed onto Muslims, non-Muslims continue to expect Muslims to denounce terrorism. Ironically, when voices like Queen Rania’s do unequivocally and unhesitatingly condemn ISIS and other terrorist groups, they are dismissed by Islamophobes and #creepingsharia schizophrenics.
Damned if you do; damned if you don’t. Simply put, you’re innocent until proven Muslim.
As mainstream media relentlessly works to convince us that a war is waging between Islam and the rest, ISIS actually operates as a heterogeneous network of faithless social exiles. While we marinate in narratives about the inextricability between ISIS and Islam, the ethnically and religiously diverse terrorist group has murdered more Muslims than non-Muslims.
“We really need to redraw the battle lines,” says Queen Rania, “and understand that this is a battle among all of us—Christians, Muslims, Jews—against the extremists. All of us, moderates, who are fighting for our way of life and our values.” As terror attacks indiscriminately claim innocent lives around the world, it is our collective responsibility to combat such violence.
Like any gang, ISIS thrives on hopelessness and discord. The more polarized the narrative on terrorism, the more breeding grounds ISIS claims. Thus, isn’t it clear that this is an ideological war as much as it is a physical one?
Muslims rest at the center of false culpability, bearing the burden of having to unfairly defend their faith; yet, we still stand and speak out. How and when we do so may vary, but one thing is clear: if we do not reimagine ourselves and our futures, the ignorant and bigoted will do it for us.
Our charge is to defend ourselves against Islamophobia from the West and fundamentalism from within in ways that maintain our integrity as human beings and as members of American civil life.
No task is more daunting, yet no group is more capable than the generation of intrepid Muslim Millennials—fearless minds like that of media titan, Amani Al-Khatahbteh, a 23-year old Palestinian American who made history yesterday as the first Muslim to ring the NASDAQ bell, her image later scintillating over Times Square.
No generation is better positioned to radically rewrite the narrative on Islam than heady voices like those of dynamic duo, Taz Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh of #goodmuslimbadmuslim. No generation before ours boasts a 22-year old journalist and rising hijabi anchor like Noor Tagouri.
Ours is the generation of Duke alum, hijabi Olympian-entrepreneur, Ibtihaj Muhammad and of Harvard-graduate, actor-activist, Osh Ghanimah. We walk alongside humanitarian visionaries like, Yusuf Ahmad Nessary of Zam Zam Water.
Muslim Millennials are not waiting for Western media to define their identities and futures, to force inherited stereotypes on their generation of lionhearted activists, humanists, and feminists.
As we forge ahead, may we remain courageous in slaying stereotypes and dispelling myths maliciously aiming to defame us and to erase our names from the annals of history.
Our generation of Muslim Millennials is, in fact, making history. Best the West started asking fresh questions.