Originally published in The Beliefnet
Roaming the streets of Istanbul during this past Thanksgiving break with my camera and tripod was a dream come true. As a photographer, I loved staring at the beautiful scenes of the cosmopolitan city and capturing every detail with my DSLR camera. As an Arabic calligrapher, I sat in a mosque entranced by the beautiful twisting of Arabic letters decorating the walls and ceilings. As an Ahmadi Muslim, I felt my faith rekindling in the company of so much Islamic history. But most importantly, as an American, I felt proud to be able to freely travel and enjoy these experiences.
I awoke to a text from my father on the morning of January 12th, 2016. He informed my family of the tragic attacks in Istanbul, followed by the message, “God saved us.” We had visited Turkey just seven weeks prior to the attacks, and everyone in my family was truly grateful for our safety. But it was, in a way, surreal.
It was surreal to picture the joyous streets filled with beautiful people and buildings suddenly turn chaotic and hateful. I could barely imagine the open Sultanahmet Square being closed off by Polis tape. When I try to picture destructive ISIS militants in the area, my imagination is blocked by the happy memories I and so many others share from Istanbul. But this doesn’t make a difference looking forward. From now on, tourists will be scared of terrorists. Security will be heightened and Islam’s name will continue to be hijacked by these so-called Muslim extremists.
In a wave of ISIS-linked attacks, from the November 13th attacks in Paris to the December 2nd attacks in San Bernardino, the international community has seen too much of the un-Islamic “Islamic State.” On January 14th, 2016, tragedy struck yet again in Jakarta, Indonesia, when gunmen and a suicide bomber killed three people and injured 25 more. The blast was caught on video, and scenes of Indonesian law enforcement flooding the streets of Jakarta can be found online.
However, the ongoing news coverage of the attacks in Jakarta and Istanbul is minuscule compared to the coverage of the San Bernardino and Paris attacks. It’s more common to hear the latest blunder from Donald Trump than to hear anything related to these attacks across various news outlets. Any attempt to find information on Twitter regarding these two latest attacks in Jakarta and Istanbul requires various sifting and searching; whereas, fresh information and news is still being released in regards to Paris and San Bernardino.
I don’t find it a coincidence that Turkey is a majority Muslim country, with a population of over 70 million Muslims, as well as Indonesia, being the most populous Muslim country in the world. I also don’t find it a coincidence that these attacks in these countries have received not nearly enough recognition and coverage as they should.
The issue lies in the hands of myself and my fellow Americans. It can be very easy to pin the problem of ISIS on the Muslim community, and only to show concern once they commit acts of terror against majority non-Muslims. But this is a harmful and divisive perspective. This perspective claims that Muslims must deal with this Muslim problem, when in reality, this is a global issue and requires unity of all people. It’s not only non-Muslims who are bearing the brunt of ISIS. It has become clear that ISIS does not discriminate; they want to destroy Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This is why we must have unity.
Our unity does not require military strategy or massive amounts of funding. It simply requires the ideological weapon of consensus.
If we, as Americans, work towards agreeing on what “True Islam” actually is, as taught by the Prophet Muhammad, we will effectively destroy the Islamic State’s un-Islamic foundation. In order to unite and understand what “True Islam” is, as a religion which embodies all Human Rights, rejects terrorism and senseless killing, grants full religious freedom, and places a strong emphasis on racial equality and the equal treatment of women, I encourage my fellow Americans to visit www.trueislam.com and to give their endorsements. Rather than letting ISIS set the rhetoric of Islam, it’s time we stand up as a country and take the lead on speaking out for what’s factually correct and just.