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Islam is not ISIS

Last February, Sayed Hadi Qazwini, an Arab-American Islamic educator, Imam, and adjunct professor of Islamic studies, posted this cartoon on Twitter. The cartoon represents a common violent action committed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, a group which is brutalizing the world. The group’s targets consist not only of non-Muslims, but also include Shias and Sunnis who don’t follow ISIS’s particular brand of Sharia Law.

Unfortunately, this contrast is not clear in the minds of many Americans. As a Turkish Jew studying in the United States, I have a decidedly different perspective when it comes to how Muslims are viewed in U.S. society. I am friends with many Muslims, ranging from the most liberal ones to some whose acquaintances found the actions of ISIS rightful. However, one thing that has caught my attention here is that although the United States is based on values such as diversity and freedom, society is easily manipulated by perpetual news broadcasting. Americans who do not critically question the information they receive start to form prejudices that contradict the values the nation was founded upon. This is happening now with the view towards Muslims and preventing domestic travel rights to Muslims from abroad.

{mosads}The image above depicts why Americans must differentiate Muslims from ISIS. The two individuals: one, a man on his knees is clothed in traditional garb and the other; an ISIS figure dressed like a soldier illustrates that a Muslim who believes in his religion in a different way than an ISIS member does is labeled as an infidel and murdered by his co-religionist in the name of fundamentalism.

The picture further demonstrates the clash within Islam: ISIS targets peaceful Muslims who strive to live their religion in a private zone, just like Americans and other Westerners. ISIS fights in Iraq and Syria and also commits terrorist attacks in other Middle Eastern countries, including Turkey. Most recently, the terrorist group assassinated 129 people in Paris, France. Yet, as vicious as the attacks were, it must not be forgotten that in Iraq, in the first eight months of 2014 alone, the ISIS group caused the death of 9,347 civilians, the vast majority of who were Muslim. Even so, some Americans believe Muslims as a whole fundamentally share the ideology of ISIS and, even if they are not a part of the group, that they pose a threat to this nation.

The forming distaste towards Muslims is not only towards the incoming refugees, who often are very valuable members of our society, but also towards U.S. Muslim citizens. A 6th grade girl studying at Williamsbridge Secondary School in New York City was allegedly put in a headlock, punched, and called ISIS as her assailants, her fellow classmates, tried to pull off her hijab. For unknown reasons, the New York City Police did not charge the perpetrators and the school’s disciplinary hearing was put on hold. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) declared “Unfortunately young Muslims have been experiencing this for quite some time… Since August of last year… we’ve seen a cycle of Islamophobia that’s had a much more violent tinge to it than we’ve seen in many, many years.”

The reason for such prejudiced actions is clear. As the spokesperson of (CAIR) said, Islamophobia is swelling in the country and Americans, as a result, view Muslims as hazardous terrorists who create global damage and fear in the world. They think all Muslims share Islamic State’s ideology, but this is completely wrong. Qazwini’s tweet and the hashtag #MuslimsAgainstISIS, a phrase on Twitter which became a top trend, show some of the ways Muslims express their strong disapproval of ISIS and feel threatened by them.

 What Americans should realize is that the fight against ISIS is not a religious fight as the majority of the Muslim population wishes ISIS gone just as much as Americans do. No peaceful Muslim interprets Islam as a method to create Islamic supremacy in the world. We must acknowledge that Muslims are from varying backgrounds that many fellow Americans share, and they all believe in different values just like any of us. It is not time for Americans to embody the role of ISIS in the image; it is time to end Islamophobic prejudices and view Muslims just as we view our other religious and ethnic groups, with no prejudices and by critical observation.

Kebudi is a Turkish student studying at Columbia University, NYC. 


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