When destructive acts happen around the globe in the name of Islam, the reputation of the religion itself, particularly in the post 9/11 era, is also tarnished. Chicago writer and activist Ahmed Rehab feels that while those outside the faith need to think before they generalize those inside the faith need to reassert its peaceful roots.


Every time I receive news of a terror attack carried out by someone professing to be Muslim, I brace myself for what is to come.

Sure enough, a few moments after the Glasgow airport car-ramming incident took place, the phone calls started trickling in. Reporters wanted to know how Muslims felt about it. So I cut short a day at Brookfield Zoo with my nephews in order to appear on camera and, once again, state the obvious: mainstream Muslims everywhere are just as outraged by this shocking incident as anyone else, criminal acts are personal choices that reflect on the perpetrators and no one else.

But it’s post 9/11 America, and reason is not the token of our time.

In a way though, I empathize with the general public. They get to see or hear little else about Islam outside of the evening news when cars – or flags – are burning. As such, I am quick to entertain any opportunity I can get to reclaim my faith and set the record straight.

Terrorism is not only un-Islamic, it is anti-Islamic. The murder of, or intent to murder, innocent civilians is blatantly rejected in Islam regardless of the legitimacy of any personal or political grievances one may claim to have.

Extremism, even if non-violent, is starkly antithetical to the spirit of Islam which is rooted in the notion of “compassion for the world.”

As a Muslim activist and leader, I have a duty to lead the fight against terrorism in the most decisive battlefield of all: the young impressionable mind. No government, terrorism expert, or talking head can do as much there. I believe I can best challenge deviant minority ideologies by enkindling the beauty latent in our faith.

Islam shuns self-victimization and cultivates self-accountability, restrains rage and releases the intellect, rejects self-righteous isolation and embraces humanity; it is tolerant in recognizing the diverse expressions of truth, yet unflinching in its condemnation of injustices, including those at the hands of Muslims.

This is Islam as taught by Muhammad and all the prophets before him, it is the one embraced by enlightened Muslims around the world. It is the one I aspire to personify when at the pulpits of Chicago’s largest mosques or in private conversation with disaffected youth. It is every terrorist recruiter’s nightmare.

For me, challenging extremism, both within the Muslim community and against the Muslim community, is a passion. I am in to win – even if it means never having to see the baby Gorillas.


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