Muslims don’t want faith marred by actions of a few

Muslims don’t want faith marred by actions of a few
January 22
00:00 2015

Imam Khalid Griggs, an associate chaplain at Wake Forest University and leader of the Community Mosque, said in the aftermath of tragedies – like the one at the Paris headquarters of a satirical magazine – there is a tendency to blame all Muslims for actions of a misguided few.

 Imam Khalid Griggs stands on the Wake Forest University campus.

Imam Khalid Griggs stands on the Wake Forest University campus.

“In the aftermath of events like this, it becomes very difficult for the message of Islam and the example of the majority of Muslims in the world who are active, community participants,” he said. “In Paris, many mosques were shot at, burned, defaced, and Muslims were being beaten up in the streets. Because of what has happened there’s this lynch mob mentality that develops.”

Since the Jan. 7 shootings at Charlie Hebdo, whose depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, the Pope and others had been criticized by many as offensive, and a subsequent attack at a Paris Jewish market, French officials have arrested hundreds, including those who have expressed support via social media for the alleged shooters and anti-Semitic sentiments.

In North Carolina, Muslim backlash as a result of the attacks – which left more than 15 people dead – has been cited as a reason Duke University reversed a decision last week to have an Islamic call to prayer sounded from Duke Chapel. The school had its change of heart after evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, and others criticized the plan. In response to the school’s 180, Christian and Muslim students held a protest outside the chapel.

Griggs wants the public to understand that most Muslims abhor those who carry out acts of violence in the name of Islam, a religion he said was founded on nonviolence.

“When horrible things are done like this by Muslims, it directly influences the narrative about Muslims and the religion itself,” Griggs said. “The faith itself demands that we as Muslims should bring about a peaceful and just society, not to be a menace to society or create havoc.”

Tala Khatib, a junior at Wake Forest University and member of the school’s Muslim Student Association, said the killing of innocents is a heinous act that should be condemned. Like many, Khatib did not find Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire funny.

“It shouldn’t be OK to make a mockery of and ridicule a major world religion on a national magazine. Freedom of speech is a beautiful and powerful right; however, to use that right in a way that belittles the second largest religion in France calls into question the kind of society we want to live in. A society where people are valued, regardless of religion or ethnicity,” she said.

On several occasions, Charlie Hebdo had also faced criticism for caricatures deemed racist. For instance, it once depicted Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, one of France’s few black government officials, as a monkey on its cover.

Fleming El-Amin, a local Muslim who serves on the Forsyth County Board of Elections, recalled his visit to Paris in 2000. He was amazed by the segregation he said he saw. He believes better cross-cultural understanding is key to not only building bridges, but preventing future violent events.



“(Muslims) were there but separate from the primary society. My colleagues and I made a comment that this needed to be resolved because these people were not a part of the Parisian society and that it would create some problems as it did in America,” he said. “Things need to be changed to encourage Islamic citizens to become part of the culture. Even though they speak French and were born there, many of them still feel like outsiders.”

El-Amin, a member of Masjid Muhammad, a nationwide community of mosques that date back to the 1930s, sent out a statement from national Masjid Muhammad leader Imam Talib M. Shareef, a retired U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant, in the wake of the Paris attacks.

“This attack … is an attack on all of humanity and freedom of speech globally,” Shareef’s statement reads. “ While the facts reveal that the magazine company had been threatened and attacked in the past because of its derogatory references to Islam and its inaccurate depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, the actions of those identifying themselves as Muslims gravely misrepresent the beautiful religion of Islam. When Prophet Muhammad was attacked personally with physical harshness, he didn’t respond in any way close to how the attackers responded, rather he resisted and responded with prayers, kindness, mercy and forgiveness.”

Griggs decried the lack of media coverage Muslim-on-Muslim violence received. He pointed to the largely Muslim nation of Nigeria, where the militant group Boko Haram has wreaked havoc. On Jan. 3, at least 2,000 people, including children, were shot to death or burned alive. The bodies had lain in the streets nearly two weeks after the tragedy.

“To me, the media has paid no attention to what is going on in Nigeria. I would hope that’s not because some lives have more value to them,” Griggs said. “Forgive me for saying this, but if 14 people get killed it becomes the singular focus, while 2,000 were killed in Nigeria by people claiming to be Muslim, but there’s hardly any attention paid to that. It makes one wonder if there is someone attributing higher values from this place to that place.”

Griggs said the saturation of media coverage has had dire effects for Muslims. Innocent Muslims are often viewed suspiciously, subjected to surveillance by authorities and accused of wrongdoing, he said.
He said that the media is to blame because it dominates the news cycle.

“As a result of these attacks that Muslims have done or are accused of doing, we have FBI and law enforcement officers surveilling Muslims schools, restaurant and mosques. A climate has been created that causes you to keep your mouth closed and be careful who you talk to because our mosques are almost littered with bodies in there who are intelligence gatherers,” he said.

Long before the recent attacks, Griggs had faced backlash at Wake Forest, where his appointment as the school’s first Muslim chaplain infuriated some. Last month, a container of urine was left outside of Griggs’ campus office. The campus responded with an outpouring of support for Griggs.

El-Amin is encouraged by the media’s coverage of Lassana Bathily, a Mali-born Muslim employee of the Jewish market that was attacked who helped guide many people to safety. Bathily, who initially was mistaken for one of the terrorists by police and was handcuffed once he made his way out of the store, is being hailed as a hero; he was awarded French citizenship for his bravery.

“He was of Islamic faith and he was protecting them from being harmed by that misguided individual who was killing innocent people,” El-Amin said.

Khatib said Muslims should not worry about working to counter the negative portrayals of Islam. The 20-year-old said those who practice violence share little with the faith she practices.

“All I share is the label ‘Muslim’ with these terrorists – nothing more,” she said.

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