Washington — I am an American Muslim. I have spent my adult life teaching and advising senior military leaders in the fight against terror. Last night, as I watched representatives of the American Muslim community in San Bernardino, Calif., denounce the shooters who had just killed 14 people in their city, I recognized in their bearing and words their feelings of humiliation, horror and loyalty to the United States — alongside a great fear that a new round of Islamophobia will now follow.
I know from my own experience that more Islamophobia would be the worst outcome for American efforts to defeat the Islamic State.
As a naval officer I’ve taken an oath to defend the American Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I’ve trained members of the Navy SEAL teams, and my mentors include the former head of the National Rifle Association, the supreme allied commander of NATO, and the commanding general of the war in Afghanistan.
I have been deeply troubled by the anti-Muslim vitriol in our country since Islamist fanatics wreaked havoc in Paris. Fearmongers have already called for registering Muslims and closing mosques. The F.B.I. has warned Muslims about possible attacks from white supremacist militias.
If we don’t want to play into the hands of Islamic State propaganda that America is at war with Islam, we must stand up against Islamophobia. We should separate the few extremists from the vast majority of law-abiding patriotic American Muslims by working with the moderates, not against them.
The Islamic State has little to no support in most Muslim-majority countries, according to a Pew Research Center poll after the Paris attacks. Instead, with more than 60 countries aligned against it, the Islamic State is banking on Western societies to alienate their Muslim populations to increase recruitment.
In the latest edition of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq, which glorifies the Paris attacks, a recruiter makes a telling pitch. He writes that a Muslim in the West is “a stranger amongst Christians and liberals … fornicators and sodomites … drunkards and druggies,” and must come to the Islamic State to avoid sleeping “every night with a knife or pistol … fearing an overnight or early morning raid on his home.”
The Islamic State wants every American Muslim to feel alienated. Its false utopia rests on the warped dream that the estimated three million American Muslims will believe they can no longer live, thrive and worship in peace in America. We must not let that happen, even while we remain vigilant about the few American Muslims who wish us harm.
Certainly, Islam faces a deadly cult of fanaticism, and a few American Muslims have attacked their countrymen: Colleen LaRose, Nidal Hasan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for example. More than 250 American Muslims have joined the Islamic State, according to a report by the House Homeland Security Committee, and 68 have been indicted on charges of supporting it, according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. According to New America Foundation data released before Wednesday’s attack in California, in 26 deadly attacks inside the United States since 9/11, Islamist extremists had killed 31 people. By comparison, right-wing groups had killed 48, the data said.
Indeed, a few American Muslim preachers stoke sectarian divisions, ignore human rights, fail to condemn female genital mutilation, look the other way when women are killed in the name of honor, and demonize gays. Like me, most American Muslims condemn such perversions of our faith.
But critics argue that Islam is against democracy, nation-states, human rights and the separation of mosque and state. There are no good Muslims, according to die-hard demagogues. The message is clear: Be an American or be a Muslim.
posted by f.sheikh