By Nezar Hamze
Nov 17, 2017
A protester holds a sign reading "Islam against Terrorism" at rally in Orlando (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Imagine coming home from a spiritual journey where you had an opportunity to connect with God, an opportunity to reflect on your life and to strive for peace and tranquillity, only to find your wife and two children missing.
Where did they go? Did they go visit family? Did they go to a friend’s house? Did they get into a car accident? Are they injured? No to all of the above? You find out that your wife intentionally and willingly took your two children and left the country and travelled to Syria to join one of the deadliest foreign terrorist organizations in the world, ISIS.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, no way! This kind of stuff never happens. This is some manufactured political or police propaganda. Unfortunately, this is very real. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and there are similar stories that involve American Muslims. Our fathers, mothers, daughters and sons are being recruited online to join ISIS. According to the Department of Homeland Security, dozens of Americans have left the country to join this deadly criminal organization.
ISIS has become one of the most effective criminal organizations that targets and recruits Muslims worldwide. This criminal enterprise has targeted and killed innocent people across the globe. The coward that ran over our fellow Americans in New York pledged his actions and loyalty to ISIS. On top of that, the online/social media recruiting platform that ISIS has created is something that the world hasn’t seen before from a terrorist organization.
The branding of ISIS has been disguised under the Muslim Kalimah and appears to western society to be an Islamic group. However, for the Muslim world, ISIS (or Daesh) represents the antitheses of Islam and I consider them to be a bunch of cowards. So how are they recruiting Muslims? They are targeting uneducated and disenfranchised individuals that have real-life grievances. ISIS creates an illusion that they have solutions that anyone can come join their utopia and engage in jihad.
Jihad, an Islamic term that is often misinterpreted as some sort of violent holy war, has unfortunately been redefined by anti-Muslim/Islam pundits with one goal — to marginalize and smear the beautiful religion of Islam and its followers. At the same time, criminal groups like ISIS are using the term jihad as a call to fight in their land grab, disguised as some sort of righteous resistance to the oppression and genocide of Muslims in the east.
Jihad means to struggle. And, yes, if someone or a group of people are being oppressed and slaughtered, the term jihad may refer to defending one’s self and fighting the oppressor. However, jihad doesn’t mean unilaterally killing innocent people to send a political message; in our terms, this is terrorism.
Las Vegas, Orlando, Blacksburg, San Bernardino and many others are horrific and deadly examples of mass killings that were committed by criminals that come from various ethnicities and backgrounds. The over emphasis on “Muslim” threats and the vilifying of Islam has made us less safe and has misdirected our much-needed safety resources to play a political chess game.
This has also caused a severe mistrust between the wider American Muslim community and the U.S. government as it relates to countering violence. Hundreds of cases involving informants, agent provocateurs and over-zealous prosecution accompanied by no Good Samaritan laws has made it difficult to work together to counter violence. So what do we do to find the balance?
We all need to do our own part with the platform we have and where we live. To ignore any threat because of mistakes that have been made by us and our government also makes us less safe. We are responsible for our own safety and all of us should care about our fellow countrymen. Doing nothing and complaining about what was or what is does nothing to make us safer.
My jihad against ISIS starts with education. I have been blessed to visit and train over 75 mosques throughout the southeast region of the U.S. I have trained and spoken to thousands of American Muslims about mosque, personal and home safety and security. I’ve never been much of a follower so my struggle against ISIS or any other terrorist/criminal organization will continue and, God willing, every opportunity I am given to educate the community and be a resource for them to counter these thugs I will. This is my jihad!
Nezar Hamze is regional operations director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida (CAIR Florida), the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the state.