American Muslims Must Confront Islam's Role in terror attacks and Reclaim Faith

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017, ISIS-inspired attack in New York City, the deadliest since 9/11, left 8 dead and several more injured. The perpetrator, 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was an Uzbekistan native who had moved to the US in 2010.

The attack comes on the heels of ISIS having major setbacks territorially in Iraq and Syria, and it is likely that we will see an uptick in similar attacks as the group attempts to save face following their failed attempts to establish a physical caliphate.

As we see this rise in homegrown, domestic terrorism, the United States' military strategy will be rendered more and more inept and ineffective. This is not a monster that can be tamed by going into the Middle East with bullets, drone strikes, or missiles. But a counter-extremism strategy that is hyper-focused on military tactics will result in limited success because it cannot penetrate the ideological layers behind the violence, and will, in the long run, serve the Islamists by providing more fuel for their narratives.

Let's be blunt, America has a radicalization problem and without us confronting it head on and calling it out we are hiding from the reality of the times we are living in. After the attacks, many American Muslim social media pundits quickly went on the defensive seeking to try to reclaim the narrative of the media's use of the term "Allahu Akbar" (Arabic for "God is Great") once the general public at-large heard that these were the words that the attacker echoed as he crashed into a school bus and exited the vehicle.

Like them, I agree that the term is used on a deeply personal level and said at least 20 times a day by me, my family and the broader American Muslim community, but quite frankly these individuals and many others have missed the point as a whole during this time of pain, hurt and death.

Prominent American Muslim commentators such as Linda Sarsour instantly took to the internet to defend the term "Allahu Akbar" and declare that we should "Prosecute the criminal not a faith." This instant sterilization of Islam that occurs almost immediately following a terror attack, while it may be well-intentioned, does more harm than good. It immediately shuts down debate and aborts any channels towards dialogue and civil society-led solutions.

As an American Muslim, I want to take active steps to reclaim the term, and reclaim my faith from the hands of those who wish for our community to adhere to a strict and narrow brand of Islam. Therefore, for me to imply that Islam, or more specifically, Islamist ideology, had nothing to do with Tuesday's attack, is to commit a grave injustice against my own faith.

Prominent American Muslim commentators such as Linda Sarsour instantly took to the internet to defend the term "Allahu Akbar" and declare that we should "Prosecute the criminal not a faith." This instant sterilization of Islam that occurs almost immediately following a terror attack, while it may be well-intentioned, does more harm than good. It immediately shuts down debate and aborts any channels towards dialogue and civil society-led solutions.

As an American Muslim, I want to take active steps to reclaim the term, and reclaim my faith from the hands of those who wish for our community to adhere to a strict and narrow brand of Islam. Therefore, for me to imply that Islam, or more specifically, Islamist ideology, had nothing to do with Tuesday's attack, is to commit a grave injustice against my own faith.


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