How Muslim Millennials are Rewriting History
“This is an ideological war, and you can’t kill an idea with a bullet. The only way you can kill an idea is to propose a better one.” –Queen Rania Al-Abdullah
FOX News recently interviewed Queen Rania of Jordan and probed her about — surprise, surprise — today’s political buzzwords, namely “ISIS,” “terrorism,” and “Islam.” Eloquently, the Queen reiterated what Muslims have been shouting from the rooftops to no avail: “Islam, in no way, condones the actions of these [ISIS] extremists.”
Queen Rania went on to explain that, “those [terrorists] do not represent the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world who just want to live in peace and get on with their lives.” It doesn’t matter that a member of an Arab royal family has reinforced what global Muslim have been saying since the attacks on 9/11. Predictably, Western media affiliates continue to ask the same questions, suggesting the same stale narrative: moderate Muslims are not speaking out against terrorism. It’s a myth, which by now should have retired. Instead, this hackneyed statement seems to have experienced a renaissance in the last three months since the Paris attacks.
One week after Paris, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd invited Dalia Mogahed to discuss the attacks as a representative Muslim and expert on Muslims. Rather than jump at the opportunity to condemn terrorism — an imposed expectation clad as “opportunity” — Mogahed pushed back. “I think we should take a step back and ask a different question,” she said, “which is, ‘Is it justified to demand that Muslims condemn terrorism?’”
“Condoning the killing of civilians is, to me, about the most monstrous thing you can to do. And to be suspected of doing something so monstrous, simply because of your faith, seems very unfair. Now when you look at the majority of terrorist attacks in the United States, according to the FBI, the majority of domestic terror attacks are actually committed by white, male Christians.
Now that’s just the facts. When those things occur, we don’t suspect other people who share their faith and ethnicity of condoning them. We assume that these things outrage them just as much as they do anyone else. And we have to afford this same assumption of innocence to Muslims.”
Despite succinctly and powerfully illustrating the injustice and double standard imposed onto Muslims, the expectation of non-Muslims is for Muslims to speak out against terrorism. Ironically, when voices like Queen Rania’s, which unequivocally and unhesitatingly condemn ISIS and other terrorist groups, they are dismissed by Islamophobes and #creepingsharia schizophrenics.
Damned if you do; damned if you don’t. Simply put: You’re innocent until proven Muslim.
Queen Rania explicitly divorces Islam from acts of terror occurring around the world under the false banner of Islam, and she caveats with the following: “We, as a Muslim community, can’t bear responsibility collectively for the actions of terrorists.”
As mainstream media relentlessly works to convince us that the war being waged is that between Islam and the rest, in actuality, ISIS operates as a heterogeneous network of faithless social exiles. While we marinate in narratives about the inextricability between ISIS and Islam, the terrorist group’s members of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds have murdered more Muslims than non-Muslims.
“We really need to redraw the battle lines,” says Queen Rania, “and understand that this is a battle among all of us — Christians, Muslims, Jews — against the extremists. All of us, moderates, who are fighting for our way of life and our values.”
And like any gang, ISIS thrives on hopelessness and isolation, discord and dissonance. The more polarized the narrative on terrorism, the more breeding grounds ISIS can claim.
Thus, is it not evident that this is an ideological war as much as it is a physical one?
In forging a platform for Arab and Muslim Millennials to join together in conversation about social taboos, I can’t help but underscore Queen Rania’s statement:
“This is also an ideological war, and you can’t kill an idea with a bullet. The only way you can kill an idea is to propose a better one.”
We are all in this together — Christians, Muslims, Jews. As terror attacks indiscriminately claim innocent lives around the world, it is our collective responsibility to combat such violence.
Evident to Muslims is the fact that we rest at the center of false culpability, bearing the burden of having to unfairly defend our faith; yet, we are still standing up and speaking out. How and when we are doing so may vary, but one thing is clear: if we do not reimagine ourselves, if we do not reimagine our futures, the ignorant and bigoted will do it for us.
Our charge, as Muslim Millennials, is to defend ourselves against Islamophobia from the West and fundamentalism from within, and to do so in ways that maintain our integrity as human beings and as members of American civil life.
No task is more daunting, yet I believe no group is more capable than that of our current generation of intrepid Muslim Millennials — fearless Muslim minds like that of media titan, Amani Al-Khatahbteh, a 23-year old Palestinian American who made history yesterday as the first Muslim to ring the NASDAQ bell, her image later scintillating over Times Square.
No generation is better positioned to radically rewrite the narrative on Islam than heady voices like those of dynamic duo, Taz Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh of #goodmuslimbadmuslim. No generation before ours boasts a 22-year old journalist and rising hijabi anchor like Libyan American, Noor Tagouri.
Ours is the generation of Duke alum, hijabi Olympian-entrepreneur, Ibtihaj Muhammad and of Harvard-graduate, actor-activist, Osh Ghanimah. We walk alongside humanitarian visionaries like, Yusuf Ahmad Nessary of Zam Zam Water.
We — Muslim Millennials — are doing anything but waiting for Western media to define our identities and our futures, to force inherited stereotypes on our generation of lionhearted activists, humanists, and feminists.
As we forge ahead, may we remain courageous in slaying stereotypes and dispelling myths maliciously aiming to defame us and to erase our names from the annals of history.
Our generation of Muslim Millennials is, in fact, making history. Best the West started asking fresh questions.