Paris and Chapel Hill Attacks: Our Responsibilities as Muslims

By Taha Mehdi

Assalamulaikum brothers and sisters. I would like to discuss our roles as Muslims in an increasingly “Islamaphobic” world. The media commonly portrays Islam in a bad light, and unfortunately, many people instantly take what is being said on the news or the Internet as truth. This either is because they have come to not question what comes out of the media as really being factual, or because that is the sole perception of Muslims that they have. In instances such as the Charlie Hebdo shooting, where on January 7th 2015, two extremists claiming to belong to Al-Qaeda killed 11 people and injured 12 others over controversial depictions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it can be hard living as a moderate Muslim in the West. Indeed, following the Paris attacks, many French Muslims were subjected to harassment: young Muslim schoolchildren were bullied by classmates, and mosques were attacked by firebombs, gunshots, or pig heads. These actions were not nearly as extensively covered by the media.


Further, such actions can result in more violence. On February 10, three Muslim students were killed in their home at Chapel Hill. Although as I am typing this, the perpetrator has not been charged with a hate crime, but surely a triple homicide is very excessive for a simple parking dispute. In addition, media coverage of the attack was initially very low. Many asked, if the victims were non-Muslim and the perpetrator Muslim, would the incident have received faster and more extensive media coverage?


It is also interesting to note that when a so-called Muslim commits a mass murder, he or she is termed an “Islamic terrorist” or “Jihadist”, etc.. In other words, the logic is “his or her religion is the cause of the attack”. But when a non-Muslim commits a similar heinous crime, he or she may have had a “mental illness”, or as in the above case, the real reason may be detracted.


This brings up the question: what are our responsibilities as Muslims in this troubling time for our religion? Firstly, let us recall the history of our Prophet (SAW). He did not start spreading Islam until he was 40. His excellent Akhlaq (behavior) was his hallmark. Instead of preaching Quranic verses and Hadeeth to our non-Muslim friends, a much more meaningful and effective way to show what our religion teaches is by simply acting on what it says. As we know, Islam is a religion of peace, kindness, and love. By being kind to everyone, regardless of their color, race, religion, class, etc., Islam is portrayed through excellent and admirable action.


Secondly, I think a great point to remember is that hate will not defeat hate. I always like to remember the story of our Prophet (SAW): he was harassed by an old woman who would always throw trash on his head through the window as he walked by. What did he do? Did he throw something back at her? Did he yell at her? No, he ignored it. One day, she did not throw trash at him, so our Prophet (SAW) asked his companions where the old lady was. His companions told him that she fell ill. Our Prophet (SAW) then visited her (we all should remember to visit our ill family and friends!). She thought that he had come to take his revenge, but what did our Prophet (SAW) say? He asked her how she was feeling and prayed for her speedy recovery. How many of us treat the people who despise us with such respect and kindness?


How can we change our situation? As usual, the Qu’ran provides the answer. “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Surah Rad, 13:11). We must change how we live our lives, how we treat others, how we work with our coworkers in our jobs/or our classmates in our schools and colleges, how we react to these vicious attacks, how we post on social media, how we support the overall values of Islam. Yes, this will be a slow and difficult process! But as soon as we recognize what needs to be changed within ourselves, we will be closer to helping others realize what Islam really stands for. Jazakallahu khairan.


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    By: Taha Mehdi

    Taha Mehdi was raised in upstate New York and currently studies Information Technology and Web Science as a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Currently, he is the co-president and webmaster of Pakistani Student Association and vice president of philanthropy of the National Residence Hall Honorary. Outside of college, Taha enjoys making music, writing, web development, and traveling.

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