A report released this week has at last confirmed what we Muslim Americans have long known to be true: the threat posed to US national security by the radicalisation of its Muslim community is minuscule.
The study, by the Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security, found that only 20 Muslim Americans were charged with violent crimes related to terrorism in 2011, and of the 14,000 homicides recorded in the United States in that year, not one was committed by a Muslim extremist.
We are thrilled that an objective, comprehensive investigation has revealed that only a tiny percentage of American Muslims support violent acts. However, we remain concerned that the greater danger to America’s civic union comes from an increasingly organised campaign that portrays all Muslims as potential terrorists and traitors.
Yes, there may be some Muslims who resort to violence; but it’s clear that these individuals signify nothing more than a statistical aberration, and are no more representative of the Muslim community as a whole than Timothy McVeigh, Jared Lee Loughner, or Anders Behring Breivik represent Christianity.
In recent years a network of politically motivated special interests has emerged that is determined to stigmatise and marginalise Muslims in all areas of American public life. After the Cordoba Initiative’s proposal to build an Islamic community centre near Ground Zero were distorted into a manufactured controversy by one such group, we were called “stealth jihadists” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. One person even claimed: “They seem like nice people now, but they will probably turn into extremists in 10, 15, or 20 years.”
What began as the work of fringe groups with racist ideologies has moved into the mainstream. The Islamophobic film The Third Jihad was played continuously between training sessions for new recruits to New York’s police. The film-makers were linked to an organised movement with a budget of more than $40m and sophisticated lobbying efforts in all 50 states.
Republican congressman Peter King – even as opponents questioned his own ties to IRA and Catholic terrorism in Ireland – convened a series of congressional hearings on the radicalisation of American Muslims that can only be described as a witch hunt. And on the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidates from Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have used their platform to demonise American Muslims and question our loyalty to our country.
It was not always this way. Following the 9/11 attacks President Bush, at the Islamic Centre of Washington, said: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam … When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world … America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.”
Our allies in the interfaith and civil rights communities are working to counteract the fabricated opposition to Islam that is gaining strength in America today. In response to King’s hearings, a coalition of 150 interfaith organisations sponsored a rally proclaiming “Today I am a Muslim too”. It is the Brennan Centre for Justice at New York University that took a lead in exposing the New York City Police Department’s missteps with regards to the Muslim community.
We know that the bulk of the American public recognises the truth of Islamic moderation and tolerance. The hysterical invective may be well-funded, but it does not capture the heart of the nation. By standing tall together we will overcome those who spread hate and suspicion and return respect and trust to their rightful place at the centre of American political and civic life.