Don't kid yourself, there's a war over Muslims in America. As 2010 comes to a close, it's clear that this year offered few favors for the American Muslim identity or reputation. Indeed, Pew reports that Muslims in America had a higher approval rating after 9/11 than in 2010. As moderate Muslims fought valiantly (no pun intended) to present a peaceful image of Islam, extremists ascribing their views to Islam made these efforts all the more difficult.
For Muslims, the new year stumbled to a start (right off the heels of the 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber) when five Virginian youths were arrested and convicted of a terrorism conspiracy. In May, Faisal Shahzad made world headlines after his homemade bomb failed to detonate in Times Square. In November, a disgruntled Mohamed Mohamud attempted to detonate a fake bomb in Portland. Likewise, this December, Antonio Martinez tried to detonate a fake bomb of his own in Baltimore.
In response, anti-Muslim sentiments grew dramatically in 2010. With the nine-year anniversary of 9/11 on the horizon, Terry Jones concocted the International Burn a Koran Day, to honor 9/11 victims no less. Though Jones stopped short of the publicity stunt, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church would not disappoint -- to honor Christ no less.
Opposition to a proposed mosque in New York made headlines due to its proximity to Ground Zero. Opposition to a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. also made headlines due to its proximity to ... America? "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" was introduced on Facebook and spread like wildfire. A "Prophet Muhammad" episode was re-introduced on South Park--extremists, in response, threatened to literally spread wildfires.
Also, did Islamophobes really convince 20 percent of Americans that Obama is a Muslim (without adding Seinfeld's patented line, "not that there's anything wrong with that")?
Ignorant individuals bombed a mosque in Jacksonville, Fla. (Yes, really.) Ignorant politicians proposed excluding Muslims from the constitution's protection of religious freedom. (Yes, also really.) Between Sarah Palin chiming in on the one topic she probably knows less about than leadership, and Pamela Gellar claiming to liberate Muslims with her Islamic hate campaigns, being Muslim in America seemed more like a life sentence than a life choice. While opponents waged their political war with fear, intimidation and the proverbial sword, peaceful Muslims waged their war with grassroots efforts, and the pen.
Beginning in New York City, literally where Shahzad failed to promote violence, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community responded with the nationwide Muslims for Peace campaign. Thousands of Muslims took to the streets for the same peaceful message: "No More Terrorism" and "Love for All, Hatred for None." Judge for yourself if Muslims condemned religious violence vigorously enough in 2010. The Big Apple, the Windy City, the Motor City, Baltimore, Miami, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Dallas, Houston, Harrisburg, Los Angeles, Portland, Zion, Ohio, Oshkosh, St. Louis, Richmond and numerous small towns witnessed American Muslims condemn extremism and promote peace. To date, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have distributed hundreds of thousands of peace fliers to Americans all over the country--from the "Joe Six-packs" to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg-- by hand, door to door, at State fairs, at busy intersections, at national rallies, at peace festivals and at book fairs.
Assertions that only negative propaganda about Islam make the headlines are false. The Muslims for Peace campaign continues to make major headlines. NBC, CNN, FOX, the New York Times, the Houston Chronicle and countless news affiliates and other papers around the country continue to report on this phenomenon. For example, the Muslim Writers Guild of America, an auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, published nearly 200 opinion editorials and letters nationwide to promote pluralism and to express Muslim-American loyalty. Likewise, if you happen to be in New York City over the next month, look for the Muslims for Peace advertisement to run every hour in, you guessed it, Times Square.
Sure, 2010 was an abysmal year for the Muslim identity and reputation in America. But, the Muslims for Peace campaign will ensure that 2011 is a catapult forward, in word and action, to demonstrate that American Muslims emphatically stand for peace.
If nothing else, Christmas passed and no Muslim tried to blow up his underwear on a plane. Compared to last year, I'd say we're off to a good start.
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