(RNS) There is a saying in the Middle East: “Some days are for you, and some days are upon you.”
No doubt the latter is the case for Muslims now.
Prominent from within are al-Qaida and ISIS. Their hateful words and violence violate the principles of Islam. Muslim scholars and leaders worldwide have unequivocally condemned ISIS for linking its outrageous deeds to a distorted and false interpretation of Islam.
Their ideas and actions are based on revenge, by any means whatsoever, on those who have invaded and occupied Muslim lands and on those who have supported them. And they kill many Muslims in the process.
An innocent life is one of the most sacred things on earth. Taking an innocent life is a heinous crime. If the people gunned down in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., were not innocent, who is? The Quran is clear: “That whoever killed a human being — except as a punishment for murder or for spreading corruption on earth — shall be regarded as having killed all mankind, and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as having saved all mankind.”
Any individual who identifies with any religion, ethnicity or nationality can commit criminal acts. Associating these crimes with an entire group is a reductive, irrational tribal idea.
So is the idea that there is a uniform “Muslim community.” Muslims live all over the world, representing all colors and races. The millions of Muslims in the United States — immigrants and American-born men, women and children — embody every nationality and ethnicity.
Prominent from without are substantial numbers of bigoted individuals and groups who, when crimes are committed by people with Muslim names, seize the opportunity to dehumanize all Muslims and disgrace our religion.
Recently some American politicians have made shocking comments regarding Muslims — shocking because they have been cheered on and gained political mileage; shocking because the politicians pretend they are honoring the U.S. Constitution; and shocking because the politicians are willing to overlook the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for all in order to dehumanize Muslims.
American Muslims feel sad, depressed and frightened about this trend. Fascism takes a long path, but it starts this way. At the same time, we are optimistic that these days that are upon us will pass and that Islamophobic politicians and their backers will fade in due course.
The support Muslims have received as fellow citizens and neighbors from non-Muslim Americans during this time has been enormous — far greater than the demonization. This gives us strength and hope that we will remain an integral part of American society and live in it with freedom and pride.
(Shamshad Ahmad is president of Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany, N.Y., and a physics professor at the University at Albany. He is the author of “Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment After 9/11.” A version of this commentary was first published in the Times Union of Albany.)