Monday, December 07, 2015

Focus On the U.S. Muslim Community In the Wake of the San Bernardino Shootings

Last night, just days after the San Bernardino killings, President Obama addressed the nation on issues of terrorism and keeping the country safe. (Full text of Oval Office speech). A portion of his remarks addressed the relationship of all Americans with the American Muslim community:
We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim. If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.
That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.
But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.
The Muslim community is rethinking its responses to violence committed by Islamic radicals.  An AP article yesterday reports:
[S]ome in the Muslim community say a new game plan is needed. A younger generation is especially impatient with the condemnations of Islamic extremism from Muslim groups after every attack. They argue that the statements merely reinforce false notions that Muslims are collectively responsible for the violence
And a group of American Muslims last week launched the Muslim Reform Movement with a Declaration (full text) that rejects interpretations of Islam that call for violence, social injustice or politicized Islam.

Meanwhile, a Reuters poll released yesterday finds that 51% of Americans view Muslims living in the United States the same as any other community, while 14.6% are generally fearful of Muslims living in the U.S. However 34.7% say they are fearful of "a few groups and individuals" in the Muslim community.  Some 69% of Republicans surveyed and 48% of Democrats favor closing mosques suspected of having extremist ties.