MYTH: Islam & Terrorism

Somayyah Ghariani

More thoughts on Islam and Terrorism

By: AIA Intern Sarem M.

(High School Student from Loudoun County Public Schools)

Sympathy without Empathy:  These three words are essentially the sum of how the issue of terrorism affects me as a Muslim-American High School student in Northern VA. I personally feel really terrible about all of those suffering from the likes of Boko Haram and ISIS, and would fully support any effort to protect innocents. If someone were to ask me, I would shout til my voice ran dry.

But the moment I remember my History or Physics or Calc Final tomorrow, I would shut up and get to work. Any thought of terrorism would completely vanish. Essentially, I feel like so many clichéd movie characters, too wrapped up in my own world, deciding what shoes to wear, etc., to save somebody else’s life. On reflection, I think I feel kind of disgusted with myself, but thankful now that I joined AIA 2020 and maybe can make some positive impact…


Honestly, I think I have the most typical high school experience possible…kind of dull actually. I realize that in certain areas Muslim Americans as a minority will have to deal with some form of discrimination due to terrorism, but for me it’s non-existent. I go to an incredibly diverse school, where pretty much every minority group that has been persecuted at one point or another has significant representation. As a result, nobody really bullies or attempts to make fun of anybody.

On the flip side, nobody really asks me questions about terrorism. Just as I wouldn’t ask my Hispanic friend about a gang war breaking out in South America, every group in my school and in my circle of friends here realizes there are some people from their “community” who bring them shame…but they also remember the more important question, “What does that have to do with me?”

But I also understand this attitude is not generally shared, especially in the media.  My friends know these terrorist acts truly have nothing to do with me, but my diverse school and social circles are not typical across America.  They should however be the model that we all hope to reach, where my religion, or your ethnicity, or someone’s sexual identity, should not – and does not – matter.  If we can get there, we can all live together in an Indivisible America.

MYTH: Islam & Terrorism

Somayyah Ghariani

One student’s thoughts on Islam and Terrorism

By: AIA Intern Ali J.

(High School Student from Fairfax County Public Schools)

In the past few years, Americans have seen many terrorist groups emerge in the Middle East and other areas, including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and Taliban, as a result of the unrelenting political turmoil in region. These groups may claim to be religiously motivated and to follow Islam, but in truth their actions are utterly un-Islamic and violate all the very core values of the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

Recent accounts of terror attacks committed by Muslims have continued to fill the news, but these reports neglect to note that the victims of most of these terror attacks are Muslims themselves.  The National Counterterrorism Center reports that 82 to 97% of the victims of terrorism-related fatalities between 2006 and 2011 were Muslims. After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) proclaimed itself as a global Islamic caliphate in 2014, it grew quickly in the Middle East, promising to overturn the local instability, corruption and persecution that populations were experiencing at the hands of sectarian rulers and militias.  ISIS then committed many atrocious terror attacks, killing thousands, including 18,800 civilians in Iraq alone, proving that it too was even more corrupt than the local leaders it had supplanted.

One of the most common tactics that terrorist groups like ISIS employ is suicide bombings targeting large groups of civilians in markets or other public gatherings. Suicide however is considered a heinous crime in Islam according to the Quran (4:29), and as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) repeatedly said “Indeed, whoever (intentionally) kills himself, then certainly he will be punished in the Fire of Hell, wherein he shall dwell.” (Bukhari #5578).

In the past few months, ISIS claimed responsibility for suicide bombers who attacked a Kabul mosque where Muslims had gathered for prayer in the holy month of Ramadan, and two months earlier, two Coptic Christian churches were attacked by ISIS suicide bombers in Egypt on Palm Sunday. Ironically however, one of the rare cases in which violence is permitted in Islam is not to damage but rather to protect religious freedom. As the Quran (22:40) states “…If God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed.”   Islamic scholar and convert Muhammad Asad has explained that this verse means that “… the defense of religious freedom is the foremost cause for which arms may – and indeed must – be taken up.”   If ISIS and other “Islamic” terrorist organizations were to actually follow the Quran as they so falsely claim, they would protect places of worship instead of destroying them.

We have seen many populations under the control of ISIS being forced to pledge allegiance to the so called “Caliphate” and men are forced to attend prayers at mosques. Throughout the history of Islam, Christians and Jews and other People of the Book have typically been free to practice their religion even in area controlled by Muslim rulers.  ISIS however has subverted that long history, and the required tolerance of other religions, by giving their subjected populations only two options: convert or die, and those who resist the rule of the Islamic State are killed. This is a complete negation of the spirit and indeed the very tenets if Islam.  The Quran (2:256) clearly says “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion,” therefore, when ISIS forces people to convert to Islam and pray at the mosque, ISIS is actually ignoring and even repudiating the teachings of the Quran.

Islam also does not allow the killing of children or of innocent people. The Prophet Muhammad said, “Do not steal the spoils, do not be treacherous with the enemy, do not mutilate the dead, do not kill children, and fear Allah.”  He also said, “Do not kill children or women or old men.”  The Quran (5:32) says that  “…if anyone slays a human being – unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all of mankind.”  Terrorism by contrast targets innocent civilians, with no concern whether its victims fall within these strictly prohibited categories.  The May 2017 ISIS attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK, killing 22 people, mostly children, are the epitome of actions that definitively go against Islam.

The prohibition against suicide bombings, against any compulsion in religion, against the killing of innocents, and the obligatory calls for the protection of holy sites, therefore make it incomprehensible to compare Islam to terrorist groups like ISIS.  Just as Catholic and other Christian Churches continuously condemn violent extremism by groups like the KKK, Muslim mosques will never sanction terrorism by deranged groups like ISIS and other such extremists.

How the State Interacts with Muslims – A Book Review

Somayyah Ghariani

“Good” and “Bad” Muslim Citizens: Feminists, Terrorists, and U.S. Orientalisms,’ Book by Sunaina Maira

Review By Javaria Abbasi, AIA 2020 Intern

In her essay in Feminist Studies, Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies at University of California Davis, argues the United States’ “national security” rhetoric hides an imperialist agenda that is manifest most blatantly in the way American Muslims are treated by the state. Through case study of Muslims in the media over the years, Maira exposes the dichotomy between “good Muslims” who are public figures that act as “trusty” informants for the state by attesting to Islam’s theoretical cruelty towards women, and “bad Muslims” who are viewed as threats to national security because of their “traditional image.”

Since the start of the War on Terror, state-supported media has juxtaposed images of the gratuitous violence of Al-Qaeda, and the more recent self-proclaimed “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), with images of ordinary American Muslims. Maira concludes the state’s plan is in fact a Right-wing campaign to distract the populace from its own failures in preventing 9/11.

With the highly unpopular war in Iraq demolishing popular support for Bush era policies, the state had to shift gears. Saddam’s fall accelerated the haste in which the terror cells he had suppressed filed the vacuum.  The State could no longer claim to be “rescuing an oppressed population from the clutches of a savage dictator” when the Iraqi people began to revolt against the perceived U.S. liberator – and Occupation.

So began the crusade against “bad Muslims.” To garner public support, Maira suggests the state needed its own champions and consequently created a category of “good Muslims” to be prime subjects for interviews.  She is as mistrustful of the state as she is critical of Right-wing politics.

While Maira paints a vivid picture of the history of U.S. Foreign Policy to the Middle East and South Asia and treatment of American Muslims since 9/11, her 2009 article could not foresee the positive strides in foreign and domestic relations with Muslims by the Obama Administration.

Moreover, while Maira highlights the problems in the way the state handles Muslims, she does not offer a tangible solution.  She does not address how to “defend the right to express radical dissent against imperial terror” (pg 653) by “bad Muslims” in the Middle East when they resist foreign imperialism. While any publication in an academic journal is constrained by word limits, Maira’s depiction of an America for American Muslims is therefore too bleak and unforgiving.

As an American Muslim student at the University of Virginia, I believe Maira underestimates the potential for improvement without radically overhauling the entire system. What is needed more than rebellion or radicalism is education reform, to guarantee that certain media outlets and officials cannot smear upstanding American citizens like myself.  If Muslim children can learn the true tenets of democracy, they can and will participate more actively in their own defense.

Her bleak future analysis notwithstanding, Sunaina Maira’s essay is a must-read for all combatants of Islamophobia, to better understand the nature of the problem we all face.


Maira, Sunaina. “”Good” and “Bad” Muslim Citizens: Feminists, Terrorists, and U.S. Orientalisms.” Feminist Studies 35.3 (2009): 631-53. Print.

4th of July Reflections: I am an American Muslim and I am Proud to be an American

Somayyah Ghariani

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July. My Family and I were in a 4th of July Parade in Purcellville, VA. My Boys were a part of the Boy Scouts of America Honor Guard with the US Flag and we were a part of the Purcellville Rotary Club Float.

I remind all of us to take a moment on The 4th of July to remember Independence Day and what it means – Freedom, Democracy, Hope. On this special day we thank our Lord, Who created all people equal and for granting us with exceptional liberty in our beloved country, the United States of America. Please say a Prayer and Thank God for the Blessings we have in this Great Land of America. Let us recommit ourselves to service to our Country. Let us recommit to more Community Service, Interfaith Collaboration, and Civic Engagement.

Let us all remember this day as a reflection on our Precious Heritage of Freedom and Liberty Declaration of Independence

Please reflect on American Muslim Contribution to America since before its founding, during its founding, and today. Reference: American Islamic Heritage Museum:

In 1492, Columbus had two captains of Muslim origin during his first voyage, one named Martin Alonso Pinzon the captain of the Pinta, and his brother Vicente Yanex Pinzon the captain of the Nina. They were wealthy expert ship outfitters who helped organize Columbus’ expedition and repaired the flagship Santa Maria. The Pinzon family was related to Abuzayan Muhammad III, the Moroccan Sultan of the Marinid Dynasty (1196-1465).

Approximately, 30% of Enslaved Africans brought to America during the Slave trade were of Muslim background. We all know about the famous story of Kunta Kinte in Alex’s Haley book Roots. In 1767, Kunta Kinte was captured and enslaved. Kunta Kinte was a Muslim born in 1750, in the village of Juffure in Gambia. He was shipped to Annapolis, Maryland on the ship Lord Ligonier and sold to a Virginia planter. Kunta Kinte fought hard to hold on to his Islamic heritage. Having learned the Qur’an as a boy Kunta scratched Arabic phrases in the dirt and tried to pray every day after he arrived in America.

Research has revealed that Muslim Veterans and people with a Islamic last name have participated in the different wars America has engaged in over the years. The United States Armed Services records confirm this fact, particularly during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. On June 17, 1775, Peter Salem (Saleem) born (1750?-1816) a former slave who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Peter Salem got awarded for fighting in the Revolutionary War, and he also fought at Lexington. Peter Salem and Salem (Saleem) Poor were honored for their bravery. History reports that a Jewish man told the people that the word was like “shalom” which means peace. The name for peace in Arabic is Salaam and Saleem in Arabic means one who is peaceful. Postage stamps have been made of Peter Salem and Salem Poor as American Revolutionary war heroes. From 1774-1783 there were at least six people with Islamic names who fought in the Revolutionary War as colonial soldiers. One of them was Yusuf Ben Ali, also known as Joseph (Benenhali) Benhaley, who fought with General Sumter in South Carolina. After the war, General Sumter took Joseph Benhaley with him inland to Stateburg where they settled down. Joseph Benhaley’s name appeared in the 1790 census of Sumter County. Revolutionary records also show that there was a Bampett Muhamed who was a Corporal in the Revolutionary Army, from 1775-1783 in Virginia. Francis Saba was listed as a sergeant with the Continental Troops in roll 132, 1775-1783, and Joseph Saba was listed as a Fifer in the Continental Troops roll 132, 1775-1783.

1864-1865 Max Hassan was another Muslim from Africa who fought in the Civil War. His war record shows he came from Africa and worked as a porter in the service.

In 1860, Muhammad Ali ibn Said (1833 – 1882), known as (Nicholas Said) arrived in America as a free man. In 1861 he arrived in Detroit. Shortly afterward he found a teaching job and in 1863 Muhammad enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts colored regiment and became a Civil War hero. He served faithfully and bravely with his regiment as Corporal and then Sergeant in the South. Near the close of the war he was assigned, at his own request, to the hospital department, to learn some knowledge of medicine

From the Foundations of America to over 7 Million American Muslims today, we all know many famous American Muslims like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Hakim Olojuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine Jackson, Mos Def, Ahmad Rashad, Janet Jackson, Dr. Oz, Ice Cube, Ellen Burstyn, Aasif Mandvi, Dean Obeidallah, David Chappelle, Congressman Keith Ellison, and Congressman Andre Carson.

The roots of Muslims in America are represented in more than 500 names of places, villages, streets, towns, cities, lakes, rivers, etc . . . in the United States in which there name are derived from African, Islamic, and Arabic words. Places like Mecca, Indiana; Morocco, Indiana; Medina, NY; Medina, OH; Medina, TX; Toledo, OH; Mahomet, IL; Mahomet, Texas; Yarrowsburg, MD; Islamorada, FL, and Tallahassee, FL are found throughout America.

I am an American Muslim and I am proud to be an American.

PEACE, Rizwan
Board Member & Interfaith/Government/Media Committee Co-Chair, All Dulles Area Muslim Society(ADAMS)
Board Member, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington(IFC)
ADAMS Cub Scout/Boy Scout/Venture Institutional Head, Pack/Troop/Crew 1576 and Troop 786
Member At Large, Goose Creek District Committee, NCAC Boy Scouts of America