The shocking massacre at San Bernardino that killed 14 innocent souls and wounded 21 people unfortunately adds to the tally of the mass shooting epidemic in the country and must be condemned under no uncertain terms. This time around, the perpetrators were Muslims with links to an ISIS terror group and thus have inflamed the already volatile Islamophobic atmosphere in the country.
There is no denying that the ISIS terror group, using a perverted interpretation of Islam, has caused much misery in the world, most recently in France and with the downing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt. To blame ISIS’ actions on Islam – which categorically says that “whosoever killed an innocent person, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind” (Quran 5:33) – is against the true principle of fairness.
ISIS is a terror group that thrives on propaganda, fear and intimidation. It is not and will never be an Islamic organization, because its extremist views and actions contradict the Holy Quran, Sunna and Hadith (sayings and practices of prophet Mohammad). It should be viewed as a splinter group jostling for power and dominion in the Middle East.
The inability of the mass media to give a balanced representation of Islam, coupled with the rise of social media of late, has created a perfect environment for this barbaric group to thrive and to recruit from our own backyard to advance its evil agenda and to gain infamy.
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No religion in the world – be it Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Islam – teaches its followers to kill innocent people. Religion does not condone murder, lunacy and extremists’ views and neither does it have monopoly over such things. Therefore, blaming a religion that is followed by billions will only foment hatred and societal disintegration. Blaming Islam and its followers for the despicable incident at San Bernardino without solving the problem of defeating ISIS and making sure guns do not fall into the hands of would-be mass murderers will lead to marginalization of an already vulnerable Muslim community in the country.
According to the mass shooting tracker, there have been 355 mass shooting incidences this year in the country. Interestingly, what is clear is that these incidences span the societal spectrum with the common denominator being mental health issues and easy access to guns.
At this time of sorrow for the loss of innocent lives by terrorists or mass murderers, we should not lose sight of the fact that ISIS is lurking to pounce on any division that my creep into society for recruits and to spew propaganda, fear and unfounded version of Islam on us. We should not play into ISIS’ script of sowing hatred and division, which it has successfully used to lure unwitting individuals into its fold to harm us.
We should come together as one to remove all the bottlenecks that might have stopped law enforcement agencies from preventing these mass shootings from occurring rather than lay the blame on Islam, which actually condemns all such violence.
Seidu Malik of Chapel Hill is youth education leader at RTP Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.