A Muslim American’s Letter to President Obama Regarding His Address on Terrorism

Originally published on Huffington Post Religion on 12/08/15: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sajdah-nubee/a-muslim-americans-letter_b_8741406.html

I sent the following correspondence to the White House expressing my concern regarding the recent address to the nation on terrorism.

Dear President Obama,

After hearing your speech on terrorism on Sunday, Dec 6th, I was left feeling disappointed and concerned. As a Muslim American, I honed in on some key points of your address that I found problematic. But before I get into that, I do want to say I appreciate the acknowledgement that the threat of terrorism is real and the dedication to overcoming it. I also appreciate the recognition that Muslims are our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and men and women in uniform, and that the attackers of San Bernardino embraced a “perverted interpretation of Islam.”

However, the following statements quoted below concerned me:

“As we’ve become better at preventing complex, multi-faceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass-shootings that are all too common in our society. It this type of attack that we saw in Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.

This was an address to discuss terrorism. However, your examples were only of Muslim terrorist attacks. There was no mention of other acts of terror such as the Dylan Roof shooting, or Mr. Dear attacking the Planned Parenthood. Targeting Muslims as terrorists while discounting all other forms of terrorism in America is dangerous. It further evokes fear in the American people that Muslims are the most likely suspects of terrorist acts or that Islam does promote terrorism, which is false.

“That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslims leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and Al-Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.”

Muslims and Muslims leaders are confronting the issue. I hear and see it. I receive email press releases and statements from some of the larger Muslim organizations as ISNA, ICNA, and CAIR each time there is a terrorist attack condemning such actions. Following the Paris attacks, there was an outpouring of condemnation from Muslims recorded on YouTube stating “Not in My Name” referring to the killings of ISIS in the name of Islam. I see tweets, trending hashtags, and Facebook posts all condemning terrorism from the larger Muslim community. I do not appreciate the implication that Muslims and Muslim leaders are not doing “enough.” Muslims should not be held to a different standard than anyone else. I would like to hear more acknowledgement of how Muslims are speaking out.

“But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination.

The first part of the above statement is problematic as it implies several things. 1) It suggests that radical Muslims conspiring to do harm are freely roaming our communities while sharing their ideology and it is going unchecked. 2) It implies that our communities are not concerned about the threat of terror just like anyone else would be. 3) Lastly, it puts the onus to fight terrorism on the Muslim community, when in fact, this problem is not uniquely ours. It shouldn’t be. It impacts all Americans, and we should equally be concerned.

Furthermore, white Americans are not asked to condemn the shootings by white males. White Americans or Christians are not asked to root out misguided members in their community. Muslims should not be held to a different level of scrutiny. This kind of bias is born out of attitudes of white supremacy where minorities are not given the same privilege as whites. This is similar to the idea by some that blacks are to blame for their own conditions by using the reason of “black-on-black” crime without unpacking other factors such as systemic issues.

It was mentioned in your speech that, “It is our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.”

Therefore, it is important to be mindful of suggestive speech that has unfavorable implications for the Muslim community and further confirms the narrative that terrorism is a “Muslim problem.” I also think we should avoid words and actions that perpetuate the already unfair bias against minorities in this country.


Sajdah Nubee
Concerned Muslim American

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