By Osaama Saifi
Victims hid under dead bodies, attackers ambushed ambulances, and over 305 people were killed. Nearly forty gunmen unleashed a vicious attack upon the al-Rawda mosque, utilizing multiple bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and strategic ambush locations against first responders. The victims were Muslims, coming to the mosque for their holy day of worship on Friday.
Although such horrific facts should rock headline news for weeks, terrorist attacks where Muslims are the primary victims are underreported. The opposite holds true. Terrorist attacks where alleged Muslims are the perpetrators and the victims non-Muslims overshadow news cycles for days, even weeks. As noted by a study covered by the Washington Post, attacks by those who claim to be Muslim receive 449% more coverage than anyone else.
Attacks by non-Muslim attackers receive less coverage and are not usually categorized as religious terrorism. For example, the attack on a synagogue in Kansas by a KKK member, the attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado, and the attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin were not categorized as religious terrorism. Although there were religious underpinnings from the perpetrators of these attacks, they were not defined by their religious identity but by their mental issues.
For instance, Robert Dear, the 2015 Planned Parenthood attacker in Colorado wrote in an internet forum, “Turn to JESUS or burn in hell [...] WAKE UP SINNERS U CANT SAVE YOURSELF U WILL DIE AN WORMS SHALL EAT YOUR FLESH, NOW YOUR SOUL IS GOING SOMEWHERE.” Such a vile statement would have been disseminated widely had Robert Dear been a Muslim. Yet his Christian identity shielded him, and instead his identity was categorized by his mental issues.
The reality is that anyone who decides to commit murder, whether or not it be in the name of religion, has mental issues. This is no different for those who commit murder in the name of Islam. At its very essence, Islam literally means “peace” and “submission to God.” The Qur’an instructs Muslims to protect the houses of worship and specifically mentions churches and synagogues. (22:41)
The Prophet Muhammad himself encouraged interfaith dialogue and peace. This can be seen from the incident when a Christian priest had met Prophet Muhammad in a mosque. The time for prayer came for the priest, and instead of being turned out, Prophet Muhammad encouraged the Priest to conduct his worship in the mosque because it too is a house of God. These are the teachings of Islam, teachings that clearly reveal that “Muslims” who commit an onslaught of violence on worshippers in another mosque starkly contrast Islam’s teachings.
Yet, it has been merely a week since 305 people were killed in a Mosque that this atrocity has been forgotten. The past of the attackers are not headline pieces; their motives and influence towards terrorism are not magazine stories. Rather, these victims have been forgotten. Instead of being the perpetrators that they are often portrayed to be, Muslims are the victims here. Muslims, like any other religion, are susceptible to the violence of terrorists. Muslims are victims of many terrorist attacks. And “Muslim” terrorists, like any other terrorists, are defined by their deranged lack of humanity, not by the teachings of the religion they allegedly adhere to.
Indeed this victimization is further exacerbated when Muslims are targeted as the terrorists. Unfounded retweets by President Trump against Muslims and news agencies that cloak the nature of terrorist attacks create a false narrative about Muslims. The true narrative of Islam and Muslims can be seen by the True Islam nationwide campaign that addresses this ignorance against Islam by spreading knowledge of its true teachings. It is through this knowledge of Islam that alleged Muslim terrorists can be categorized as the terrorists they are, and the Muslim victims of such attacks can receive the justice they deserve.