Islam isn't the enemy, ISIL is

After every unspeakable act of terror, America finds itself in a state of confusion, grief, and most of all, anger. With this, an inevitable cycle of backlash occurs, often with a spike in hate speech and in many cases, hate crime. We saw it in 2001, and we are still seeing it today. ISIL (also known pejoratively as Daesh) has shocked the world with its unprecedented level of brutality, and has left us in a position where we can no longer wait to retaliate. However, in the midst of these unspeakable acts against humanity, Americans have set their sights not only on the enemy, but an entire culture and religion. America has chosen to become paranoid in the face of terror with politicians being afraid of women and children seeking refuge from Syria. Some even support banning all Muslims from entering our country, effectively sticking a dagger in the freedom of religion America holds so dearly.

It has come to a point where the lives and even the fundamental rights of Muslim Americans are at risk. Politicians and media “pundits” have ignited a firestorm against Islam without realizing the potential consequences of their words. Before we declare war on an entire religion, we need to stop, think for a second, and get some facts straight.

First, we need to understand our enemy. ISIL, the self-proclaimed “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” has clearly established itself as our enemy. It claims to speak for all Muslims, trying to create their own paradise in the form of a Caliphate. This is an utter lie. Anyone who follows their heinous acts knows that ISIL is most certainly an enemy of Islam. Their recent suicide attacks in Lebanon are the most damning evidence of this as their targets were Muslim — Shi’ites to be exact. In addition, most of ISIL’s greatest opponents are Muslims too with Shi’ite militias, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and Syrian and Iraqi soldiers taking the fight to ISIL on the front lines.

Why is this happening? It is because ISIL is a predominantly Sunni (another sect of Islam) organization and their actions are motivated by politics (specifically Wahhabi and Salafist ideology) and race (Sunni supremacy) as well as religion. Yes, ISIL identifies as Muslim, but they absolutely do not represent Islamic teachings and values. They even alienate themselves from other Muslims, branding them “apostates.” For the most part, members of ISIL are thugs who seek justification for their crimes. This is the enemy we are dealing with.

Unfortunately, the media chooses to believe the notion that ISIL is actually representative of Islam. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to downplay the very real threat of Islamic extremism, but blaming Islam and treating all Muslims (even our own countrymen) as the enemy is not only a hasty generalization, it can be highly impractical.

Going back to the topic of hate crime, people need to understand that succumbing to prejudice and petty violence is the absolute worst thing we could do in times like this. When people harass, threaten, and assault Muslims in feeble acts of “retaliation,” their actions are aiding the enemy. ISIL wants a war between The West and the world’s Muslims. If we choose to approach the fight against terrorism as “us vs. them” (West vs. all of Islam, rather than West vs. ISIL) we would essentially validate the same “us vs. them” ideas that our enemies perpetuate. Not only that, but in each case the victims are completely innocent, and sometimes mistaken to be Muslim. This is still happening and it must not continue for everyone’s sake.

With the threat of terrorism on the rise, we need to focus on exactly who the enemy really is. Is it the Middle Eastern taxi driver you see everywhere or the girl with a hijab who sits behind you in math class? Or is it the group of people overseas who have established themselves as the enemy?

Even if we have a domestic terror incident in which the perpetrators are radicalized Muslim Americans, we cannot use this as a reason to target an entire culture. If we do, we risk falling into a chaotic state with an emboldened enemy and unconstitutional sacrifices to our civil rights… again.

In the midst of terror, Americans must stay calm, yet vigilant. We cannot allow ourselves to let our guards down, but we cannot afford to sacrifice our country’s dignity either. In a difficult, confusing, and frightening time like today, we must stand united against the enemy, no matter who we are up against.