I AM a Muslim. Let me tell readers about my immediate apprehension after I read or hear any news about a terrorist incident like the Jan 6 storming of the United States Capitol building by a mob of President Trump supporters.
In such cases, first, I want to know whether or not the perpetrators are Muslim. If they are, I fear that my religion and the global Muslim community will be blamed for the action of some criminals.
The Trump supporters who broke into the US Capitol complex have been described as Trumpists, fascists, domestic terrorists and extremists, thugs and political miscreants.
President-elect Joe Biden rightly regarded the incident as an “insurrection”. Importantly, none of these terms have any religious connotation.
Since the majority of US citizens are Christian, most of Trump’s supporters conceivably belong to Christianity; and the rabble that stormed the US Capitol largely comprised Christian men and women.
However, when condemning the Capitol chaos and venting anger at Trump’s populist gabs, no notable politician or media commentator is known to have been busy flipping through the pages of the Bible to find out what motivated the hooligans to storm the US legislature.
No church has come under police surveillance, nor has any Christian religious institution been ransacked or closed down. No Christian organisations have been investigated.
The global Christian community has not been expected to apologise for what happened in the heart of the US capital.
No stop-and-search method targeting the Christians has been used or increased.
Even though airports are nowadays almost “deserted” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Christian travellers have not had to face airport harassments.
Now let us stretch our informed imagination and hypothesise about grim possibilities if a group of Muslim US citizens had broken into the US House chamber, frightened the staffers and vandalised office equipment.
Almost all that I have mentioned above would have happened barring the fact that the targets would be Islam, Muslims and Islamic institutions.
Additionally, some US lawmakers and Pentagon officials might have started studying the world map and eyeing the Muslim-majority countries for possible interventions and invasions.
Following the mayhem at the Capitol, rightly, Christianity and Christian communities around the world have not been blamed.
This is because the mob attack on the Capitol building was instigated by political anarchism, not by religion. Unfortunately, this simple logic is not applied when such offenses are committed by perpetrators of Muslim backgrounds.
There are criminals in every religious community; and they should be treated only as criminals without any reference to their religions.
As in other religious populations, in the over 1.5 billion-strong global Muslim community, there are bad elements who should not be allowed to define the religion of Islam even if they shout Allahu Akbar to justify their misdeeds.
The vast majority of people in all religious traditions are peaceful and peace loving.
For a better world, harmony and understanding among them are inevitable. Trump has used hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric as one of his strategies to mobilise his supporters and to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims. Therefore, dispelling myths and misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims is important to help disabuse people’s minds in respect of the negative perceptions about the religion and its adherents.
Conscientious Muslims and non-Muslims should play their part to make sure it happens.