As we were making "The Muslims Are Coming!
" we spoke to people of all different backgrounds and discovered that the No. 1 issue troubling them about Muslim Americans was that they didn't hear us denouncing terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslims.
At first I was surprised by such responses. After all, I knew firsthand that American Muslim groups had vocally condemned every such incident. But the reality was that most people still had not heard this condemnation, in part due to our media business model, under which sensationalism sells and thoughtful denunciations don't.
I hope by now most have heard Muslim Americans condemn any such acts of terror. For example, after Thursday's shooting in Chattanooga, which left five of our country's servicemen dead, national and local Tennessee Muslim community leaders unequivocally condemned the attack
. And on Friday, the local Chattanooga mosque canceled religious services
, which were to celebrate the big Muslim holiday known as the Eid Al Fitr, "out of respect and remembrance for our fallen Marines."
But I would predict that most are unaware that the Muslim American community has done far more than simply condemn terrorism in recent years. For example, have you heard of some of the inspiring interfaith work that has been going on, like the recent campaign organized by young Muslim Americans that raised about $100,000 to rebuild the black churches burned down in the South
And I bet most haven't heard that American Muslims are now on the front lines combatting ISIS, al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and the like's recruitment efforts. As Imam Abdullah Antelpli of Duke University explained on my SiriusXM radio show Saturday, we can't deny that some American Muslims have been radicalized and that these terror groups hope to radicalize even more. (Although to put the threat in perspective, since 9/11, Muslim terrorists have killed less than half the number of Americans than have other extremists
, like those with extreme anti-government views).
In response, we now see more Muslim Americans than ever engaged in the fight against these terror groups' radicalization efforts. Indeed, I saw this firsthand when I attended the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in February. Muslim American leaders from various organizations, together with law enforcement, spoke of their close and mutually respectful working relationship on this issue.
Why the increased action on this front? We are keenly aware of the stakes. If more Muslim Americans become radicalized, not only could they possibly kill innocent people, they also (wrongfully) define Islam to many Americans. And the result is a likely backlash against the millions of other American Muslims who have zero connection to these bad actors, other than sharing -- in name only -- a faith.
That's why people like Imam Antelpli, and others such as Washington, D.C.'s Imam Mohamed Magid
, are not just spiritual leaders but increasingly soldiers in the recruitment war versus ISIS. As Antelpli explained, the radicalization is not coming from mosques. Instead, close to 99% happens, or at least begins, online. Consequently, he and other Imams, together with IT developers, are working daily to counter the online sales pitch of terror groups that pervert Islam for their own political agenda.
But we need your help in this fight. The hate spewed by certain U.S. elected officials, the professional anti-Muslim bigots and some far right religious clerics, all help ISIS.
How? Well, their demonization can result in Muslim Americans, especially younger ones, feeling like they are truly not part of the fabric of America. And as I heard over and over at the CVE Summit, alienation is often the first step on the path to radicalization. Common sense tells us that it's easier for ISIS to convince a young Muslim American that people in the United States hate you, hate Islam and don't want you there when there's a continual drumbeat of anti-Muslim bigotry being served up.
Now I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about the threat of ISIS and the like. We must. What I'm saying is there no place for outlandish allegations such as those by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who claimed a few months ago that Muslim Americans want to impose "no go zones" where sharia law is imposed, despite this being based on a debunked claim
about such places existing in Europe. And there is also no place for comments
such as those by Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett, who stated that Muslim Americans are a "cancer" that must be cut of the country.
Of course, people have the right to spew this kind of hateful talk. But they should also remember that such baseless, fear mongering comments are exactly what ISIS hopes to hear -- they want to provoke a clash between faiths.
If there ever was a time we need to stand united it's now -- just like we saw Friday in Chattanooga, when Christians, Muslims and Jews came together at a vigil to mourn the five servicemen killed. Lets help each other in this fight, not help ISIS.