As violence erupts in the Middle East over an anti-Islam film, Oklahoma communities should seek to rise above these hate-filled actions and messages through peaceful dialogue and mutual understanding with those of other faiths.
An anti-Islam movie trailer recently posted to YouTube resulted in unfortunate and inexcusable acts of violence in parts of the Middle East. The film itself is a shameful and disgraceful take on the religion of Islam, and has caused pain in the hearts of the American Muslim community.
As an individual who was born in America and made the choice to embrace the faith of Islam in my teens, I am saddened when I feel my faith is under attack in a country I love.
As Americans, we relish the fact that we have freedom of speech and expression. However, at this time I implore Oklahomans to reach out to their fellow Americans, and embrace them in their time of need and sadness, for American Muslims should not be feeling alone in difficult times.
The concerns of the nation’s Muslim community are not intended to overshadow the heinous attacks on American embassies. These acts are also a cause of concern for the Oklahoma Muslim community, as they do not reflect the sentiments of American Muslims or the traditions of the Islamic faith.
These acts of violence were a misguided attempt to protect the image of the Prophet Muhammad, in direct violation of his teachings and personal example. One beautiful text in the Islamic tradition states, “You (Muhammad) do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.”
Additionally, in Islam’s revealed text, the Holy Quran, God states: “When [the righteous] hear vain talk, they withdraw from it saying: ‘Our deeds are for us and yours for you; peace be upon you. We do not desire the way of the ignorant.’” Recently I was asked, “How are Oklahoma Muslims doing 11 years after the devastating attacks on 9/11?” My answer was simple: Oklahoma Muslims, and American Muslims in general, are looking for acceptance as contributing members of their country and society, and as individuals who seek to peacefully practice their faith.
It is sad and unfortunate that, at times, American Muslims are the target of hate-filled messages and rhetoric. However, as an American, I know this country can rise above these challenges to see a better and brighter future where individuals will not be judged based upon their race, ethnicity or religious preference. The challenges ahead are great, but so are the people of this state and country, and that is what keeps my faith strong.
Soltani is the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.