Islam Does Not Hate Us Despite What Trump Says

14 March 2016
Published in

By Huma Munir

March 15, 2016

Once again, Donald Trump has tried to simplify the issue of extremism in the Islamic world by simply suggesting that Islam “hates” the United States.

As a Muslim-American, I don’t think Islam hates America. In fact, Islam requires of its followers to obey the laws of their country of residence. The Prophet Muhammad said loyalty to one’s nation is part of one’s faith. Since its inception, Islam has been a champion of religious freedom. During Prophet Muhammad’s time, religious freedom was granted to anyone who chose not to convert to Islam. This is further confirmed by the Holy Quran, the Islamic scripture, that says that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256).

While I firmly believe that Islam is not at odds with the western values, I do think as a religion, it disagrees with the bigotry and prejudice Trump is trying to promote. And just because Islamic values disagree with Trump’s racist beliefs, it doesn’t mean that Islam hates him or anyone else. In fact, by saying that “Islam hates us,” Trump is using his beliefs to speak for billion plus Muslims— something that most of us find very troubling.

Trump wants to use broad brush strokes to paint an inaccurate picture of certain minority groups— one that defines these people by stereotypes and by his own divisive beliefs. By doing that, he is not only putting millions of American citizens at risk, he is also paving the way for disunity among the nation. The Holy Quran is clear about this: “And when it is said to them, ‘Create not disorder on Earth,’ they say: ‘We are only promoters of peace.’”

However, Trump and his supporters are completely blind to the prejudice and racism they exude, and think of themselves as those who are waging a war on “political correctness.” This reminds me of a verse from the Quran that says, “Beware! It is surely they who create disorder, but they do not perceive it,” (2:12-13).

Trump and his supporters see the refugees from Syria and other Islamic countries as a threat. While I believe that caution is necessary in admitting anyone into the United States, I do think that as a powerful nation, we have a moral imperative to help those in need. Most of the people fleeing violence in Syria and other parts of the world are humans who have seen and experienced terrible atrocities. Children have been orphaned, women have been widowed. In some cases, men have faced torture before escaping the wrath of militants. Such people, who are destitute and helpless, require that the world open their arms to them— regardless of their faith or creed. Above all, they are human.

But Trump seems to focus on one point only: They are Muslim and therefore, they must be terrorists. In reality, a wealthy person like Trump, should be spending his wealth trying to better this world. Instead, he is using his power and money to marginalize people who have been forced to flee severe and intense persecution in their homelands. The Quran says, “Has thou seen him who denies judgement? That is he who drives away the orphan. And urges not the feeding of the poor…” (107:2-4).

Islam is not the only religion that decries Trump and his ideology. Any faith or belief built on reason will disagree with racism, bigotry and prejudice. The Bible reminds the followers of Moses, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt,” (Leviticus, 19:33-34).

Trump and his supporters find it convenient to simplify arguments about extremism, because it’s an issue that requires us to look at the big picture— something that Trump and his supporters are incapable of doing. They fail to see that poverty, ignorance and most of all, violence plays the greatest role in radicalizing people. They see the terrorists reciting Islamic slogans, but they fail to see how Islam is being used as a tool to achieve political motives. Trump and his supporters would rather blame all Muslims for the atrocities of a few, because they find it too complicated to separate good Muslims from bad Muslims. And if you can’t separate the good from the bad, then all should perish, according to Trump.

When it comes to innocent people and their lives, the president of the United States can’t be lazy. We need someone who will look at the big picture and truly understand all the underlying causes of extremism. We need someone who has the courage to face the truth about such complicated issues rather than hiding from the facts. We need someone who won’t use simplified arguments to address issues that need greater scrutiny. Unfortunately, Trump is not that person.

The Holy Quran says, “Surely, we have created man in the best make. Then if he works inequity, We reject him as the lowest of the low,” (95:4-5). While this verse can be applied to militant groups waging the war in the name of Islam, it can also be applied to politicians who use their power to marginalize and hurt innocent people. 

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Huma Munir is an ESL teacher in San Antonio ISD, Texas and  a member of Teach for America, San Antonio.  She serves as the local media secretary for Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association in Austin, Texas. You can follow Huma on Twitter.

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Muslims Celebrate Being American

07 July 2015
Published in

By Huma Munir

July 6, 2015

As people gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, there was heightened security in prominent locations across the country to counter any terrorist attack. The FBI issued a bulletin last month that put the Fourth of July events as possible targets for ISIS terror activity.

But while some people claiming to be “Muslim,” might be plotting the next terrorist attack, there are others who marched in the Fourth of July parades to show their zeal and support for their country. As a practicing Muslim and a proud American, I strongly believe in the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him): “Loving one’s country is part of faith.”

Thirteen years ago, my family left Pakistan to come to the United States in search of greater opportunity and freedom. As members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we faced government-sanctioned persecution. Saying a simple Islamic greeting or proclaiming yourself to be a Muslim can land you in jail in Pakistan. Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been murdered as a result of target killings. My story is the story of many Muslims who have escaped persecution or some type of discrimination to come to the United States and other Western nations.

In America, individuals like me have had the chance to reach their fullest potentials to go to the best schools in the world, and to compete in some of the most versatile job markets. If I was still living in Pakistan, I would have limited opportunities and freedom. How could I ever think of repaying my country by engaging in terrorist activity? It’s unfathomable and unnatural for someone to hate something that has brought them nothing but goodness. This is why I am left utterly confused when I hear of another Muslim man or woman pledging allegiance to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Not only is this behavior highly irrational, it is also un-Islamic.

As a Muslim, I can assure you that nothing is farther from the teachings of Islam than going against the authority of one’s nation. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) said that Muslims should follow their leader even if they despise him or her. The Islamic scripture, the Holy Quran, admonishes Muslims repeatedly from engaging in any activity that might cause disorder on earth (28:78). The Quran also says that those who seek to disturb peace are leading a path to eternal damnation, rather than salvation (2:12-16). Killing one person is akin to killing the entire mankind, according to the Quran (5:33).

Islam leaves no room for violence against any human being— let alone an entire country. In fact, it is because of the true Islamic teachings that I learned the meaning of being loyal. In Islam, you don’t have to go against the government to reach amicable solutions to your problems. Society’s peace depends on people’s ability to compromise without becoming rebellious to achieve their motives. Even if the ruler is unjust, Muslims are told to show patience and fortitude. Taking the law in one’s hand is strictly forbidden and out of the question.

It is possible that without the guidance of true Islamic teachings, I might have been misled like hundreds of other ‘Muslims’ who think they are waging the greatest Jihad by attacking their fellow countrymen. But the truth is that Islam has saved me and thousands of other Ahmadi Muslims living in the United States from going down a dark path.

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Huma Munir is an ESL teacher in San Antonio ISD, Texas and  a member of Teach for America, San Antonio.  She serves as the local media secretary for Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association in Austin, Texas. You can follow Huma on Twitter.

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Why Would Our Girls Join ISIS?!

27 February 2015
Published in

By Huma Munir

February 27, 2015

This week, investigators confirmed that three British girls who flew into Turkey have indeed crossed the border into Syria to possibly join militant group ISIS.

As a young Muslim woman, I am left grappling with confusion after reading stories of western youth— especially women— becoming radicalized. According to a recent study by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue in London, among the 3000 foreigners who joined ISIS, more than 500 of them were women.

These women are not just putting their lives at risk, they are also forsaking their rights and liberties for the sake of a narrow and constrained ideology. ISIS is known to use brutal tactics like rape and torture to subjugate women. Last December, ISIS published a pamphlet detailing how women slaves should be treated once they are caught by the militant group. In it, ISIS declared that it is permissible to rape, beat or trade women if they refuse to cooperate.

According to the ISD study, women who willingly join ISIS are used to spread propaganda, bear children and do housekeeping. They are essentially responsible for creating a new breed of terrorists who will be expected to carry on the responsibilities of ISIS. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you are a captive or an ISIS bride. The future of any woman living in the vicinity of ISIS’ brutal regime seems dismal.  

The three teenage girls who traveled to Syria last week were straight A students. It is simply astonishing that western women who join ISIS do so at the cost of walking away from privileges like education and the right to be their own person in life. They actually prefer restriction of freedom over liberty. This type of behavior is not only abnormal, it warrants a psychological examination. Some also believe that ISIS is successful in recruiting youth because young Muslims are lured in by a desire to serve God and to live for a higher purpose. But ISIS’ very ideology goes against the teachings of Islam.

The Islamic scripture, Holy Quran, teaches us to be more compassionate towards one another (16:91). It encourages peaceful coexistence and discourages the idea of war and violence (7:57). The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) commanded both men and women to seek knowledge even if they have to travel very far in search for it. Islam teaches tolerance and promotes education because these two elements are significant to achieving peace and stability.

The teachings of my faith are the reason why I find it difficult to relate to these incidents of so-called “Muslims” joining ISIS. This behavior is as alien to moderate Muslims as it is to non-Muslims. We also feel incredulity and shock when we read stories of youth becoming radicalized at the hands of ISIS.

I am not an expert on radicalization, but I think Muslim communities around the world can benefit by investing in youth empowerment programs. As a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I can personally attest to the success of such initiatives. My Community’s women’s auxiliaries throughout the United States have started programs to harness and guide the tremendous potential of young people.

“Youth programs are a platform where young people can engage in dialogue about issues relating to their lives and work to hone their potentials in order to become useful members of the society,” said Aziza Faruqi, president of the Austin, Texas chapter of the Women's Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

As a teenager, I was often lost and confused when I moved to the United States a few weeks after 9/11.  But I was fortunate enough to have the support of my community, which saved me and thousands of others from venturing into a dark territory. Growing up in a community where everyone feels cherished creates a special healing process from outside prejudices. It instills confidence in youth and enables them to take pride in their identity. But if Muslim communities are devoid of love, outside discrimination and stigmas can often leave populations susceptible to violence. Muslim youth today need empowerment and encouragement. They need to know that their voices and concerns have value. 

We cannot stand by idly as more and more Muslim youth join ISIS. Muslim communities must work together to create a stronger bond of love and kindness by staying united and rejecting sectarian violence. It doesn’t matter if you are a Shia or a Sunni or an Ahmadi. Everyone has a part to play in preventing our youth from joining ISIS or other militant groups. We are united in our struggle against extremism.

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Huma Munir is an ESL teacher in San Antonio ISD, Texas and  a member of Teach for America, San Antonio.  She serves as the local media secretary for Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association in Austin, Texas. You can follow Huma on Twitter.

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Oklahoma’s Muslim Problem

06 December 2014
Published in

By Huma Munir

December 6, 2014

54 percent of Oklahoma residents see Islam in an unfavorable light, according to a new poll by SoonerPoll.com.

As a Muslim-American, I hear this news with sadness, but not shock. The recent rise of ISIS and misdeeds of other extremist groups, have tarnished the image of Islam worldwide.  Plus we disturbingly see elected officials demonizing Muslims for political gain, such as Oklahoma State Representative John Bennett (R) who recently stated that American Muslims are a “cancer in our nation that needs cutting out.”  Distressingly, Oklahoma’s Republican state party chairman backed up Bennett’s anti-Muslim rant.

Unfortunately, what the world doesn't know is that Muslims are also victims of extremism. Terrorist groups in the Islamic world are also killing Muslims, who denounce violence in the name of Islam. Indeed, over 90 percent of the victims of so-called Islamic terrorists are Muslims. I have seen this Muslim on Muslim violence first hand as I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, an organization that has rejected violence of all kinds since its inception in the 1920s in America. For our beliefs, we are persecuted in different parts of the Islamic world. Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been targeted and killed in Pakistan alone. 

This is why many of us migrate to the western nations, searching for peace and security. But according to one resident in Oklahoma, L.C. Goodrich of Whitesboro, we don't have the right to be here. "Ship 'em back," he told Tulsa World. 

Goodrich, and other residents of Oklahoma who perceive Islam as a threat, fail to realize that extremism and Islam are two very different pictures. If they remain ignorant about Islam, they risk creating a powerful stigma against peace-loving Muslims who want nothing to do with violence. A stigma against law-abiding Muslim citizens who share American values and dreams could have grave implications. It can pave the way for active discrimination against Muslims in America.

After the Fort Hood shootings, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in which 81 percent of Muslim Americans participants rejected violence. But this resounding rejection of violence is muffled by a growing sense of prejudice against Muslims in America. In a study conducted by Carnegie Melon University this year, employers in most Red states are less likely to interview candidates that show an affiliation with Islam.

Does being Muslim make us less American? Though we are Muslim by faith, my family and I hold American values dear to our hearts.  When we left Pakistan 13 years ago, my father’s greatest goal was to send my siblings and I to the best universities in the United States. For this reason, he toiled his life away. Even when he was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago, he did not give up working. He still works more than 60 hours a week to provide for his family. My father is a Muslim, but as an American his dream is shared by millions of others who work hard and want a better future for their children.

If Goodrich had his way, my father and I would have to abandon our dream and go back to Pakistan where our lives would be in grave danger.

The only way we can end a growing divide between Muslim Americans and other citizens of this nation is by seeking the truth about Islam. The true Islamic teachings bear no resemblance to the image that ISIS and others are promoting. The Islamic scripture, Holy Quran, equates killing of one person to the killing of the entire mankind (5:32). The founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) defined a perfect Muslim as a person from whose hands and tongue mankind suffers no loss or sorrow. 

Thankfully, Goodrich, Bennett and others in the far right who want Muslims driven out of America are the minority in Oklahoma. While a majority in the state may view us in negative terms, thankfully close to 80 percent of Oklahomans believe that Muslims should have the same freedom of religion as all other faiths.

I am confident that the residents of Oklahoma who view Muslims in a negative light would see us differently if they actually got to know some Muslims on a personal basis. They would surely see a different and more peaceful picture of Islam than the one that they are exposed to in the media. They would find that we Muslims are not outsiders, but rather fellow Americans who share the same passions and dreams. They would find ordinary hearts trying to survive in this tumultuous world where open-minded citizens are greatly needed. 

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Huma Munir is an ESL teacher in San Antonio ISD, Texas and  a member of Teach for America, San Antonio.  She serves as the local media secretary for Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association in Austin, Texas. You can follow Huma on Twitter

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No, Islam is Not at War with The West

22 November 2014
Published in

By Huma Munir

November 22, 2014

In response to the horrific attack on Jewish worshippers in Jerusalem by two Palestinians, right wing political commentator Ben Shapiro claims that Islam is at war with the west.

Shapiro, in his recent article published in Brietbart News, alleges that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is a religious war between Jews and Muslims, ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Chirstians who have suffered in this conflict based on the policies of various Israeli governments. He also asserts that the Palestinian “Muslims” who were depicted in the media rejoicing in the killing of five innocent men, which is detestable, is somehow consistent with Islam.

This is a blatant slap in the face the overwhelming percentage of Muslims who believe in peace. When you try to group an entire religious population as extremist based on the actions of a few, you risk creating a powerful stigma and a culture of oppression. If left alone, this can lead to serious repercussions. 

Adolf Hitler created a stigma by convincing the Germans that Jews were the root cause of their misery. A powerful stigma against African-Americans in the United States resulted in widespread discrimination and decades-long suppression of human rights. In Pakistan, so-called religious scholars stigmatize minorities, such as Ahmadiyya Muslims, who are then targeted and killed.

What we say and how we think, gives rise to powerful cultural forces that can result in grave implications.  We must learn to distinguish between peace-loving Muslims and bloodthirsty extremists.

In my view, the two Palestinians who barged into the Jerusalem synagogue and proclaimed, "God is great," belong to no creed, let alone Islam. They are corrupted by extremist groups, like Hamas, who want to exploit Palestinians. 

Shapiro, who bills himself as an expert on all things Israel, fails to understand the true nature of the conflict. Palestinians face immense economic and political turmoil and extremist groups like Hamas understand how to take advantage of the vulnerability of Palestinians.

Matthew Levitt, an expert on Islamist terrorism explained at a conference titled, “The Roots of Terror: Understanding the Evolving Threat of Global Terrorism,” how Hamas manipulates its constituents. Levitt explained that, "Hamas has one supreme objective, it is to mutate the essentially ethno-political Palestinian national struggle into a fundamentally religious conflict." 

How does Hamas accomplish this? Hamas provides social welfare in the form of clinics, schools, mosques and financial assistance to the families of frustrated Palestinians living in sheer poverty, according to Levitt. “Projects like these play a critical role in building sympathy and support for the group among the local population,” Levitt notes. 

Some Palestinians rally around Hamas because they depend on the social welfare program the group is able to provide. In return, Hamas then targets the vulnerable Palestinians, persuading them to be suicide bombers and other perpetrators of violence.  Hamas is preying on its own people. This is human exploitation at its finest.

Shapiro also claims that if the western nations do not recognize Islam as a violent force, we risk losing more lives in the future. By making such a claim, he is negating the existence of millions of peace-loving Muslims residing in the West. In fact, the most common victim of these so called Islamic terrorists in terms of numbers are Muslims-by far.

As a Muslim, I am deeply troubled that these types of attacks are becoming increasingly common in the Islamic world. However, I find comfort in the fact that my faith does not condone such acts of violence.  The Islamic scripture, the Holy Quran, says that killing one person is like killing the entire mankind (5:32).

And Shapiro, whose views are so extreme on certain issues that Fox News has even condemned them, clearly has little understanding of American Muslims. For example, I doubt he has any idea about my own community, the Ahmadiyya Muslims. We have been holding blood drives on 9/11 during the past few years to commemorate the loss of innocent lives. For decades now, Ahmadiyya Muslims have invited people to interfaith events around the nation to spark intellectual dialogue about true Islam. Since its inception in the 1920s in America, the community has denounced terrorism.

There are, of course, numerous American Muslim organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who have publicly and passionately denounced all forms of violence. The work of groups like CAIR is intended to counter negative stereotypes in the hopes of fostering understanding.

In a survey concluded by the Pew Research Center this year, the numbers show that Muslims around the world view extremism as a growing threat. In Palestine specifically, 65 percent of the citizens see terrorism as a major concern and only 35 percent see Hamas favorably, down significantly from 62 percent in 2007.

If we let dangerous stereotypes fester, we consciously give way to oppression. We cannot remain complacent in the face of this injustice. In a society where education is easily accessible, we must keep exploring and questioning what we know. If we remain willfully ignorant, we also play a part in creating stigmas and perpetuating stereotypes. If western nations decide that Islam really is a threat to the West, then we condemn peaceful Muslims to silence—a death in itself.

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Huma Munir is an ESL teacher in San Antonio ISD, Texas and  a member of Teach for America, San Antonio.  She serves as the local media secretary for Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association in Austin, Texas. You can follow Huma on Twitter

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