Six years after Sept. 11, the Council on American Islamic Relations of New Jersey remains concerned with the growing trend of Islamophobia (fear of Islam and Muslims). New Jersey is among the top 10states in America to receive the most number of Muslim civil rights complaints and anti-Muslim hate crimes reports.
Since the previous year, civil rights complaints have increased by 25 percent and anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased by 9 percent nationwide according to CAIR's 2007 Civil Rights report.
Muslims frequently have to deal with people using terms such as "radical Islamists," "Islamofacism," "Islamic fanatics," etc. As a Muslim who has grown up in Muslim countries, these terms hold no meaning for me, but I recognize that they work to promote a fear of Islam and Muslims among our fellow Americans. CAIR-NJ hopes to dispel some of these misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims.
Islam is a religion of peace. There are many verses in the Quran (Holy Book of Islam) that illustrate this point such as Chapter 5, verse 32 which states, "To take one life is as if you take the life of all humanity and to save one life is as if you save all humanity."
The "radicalism" and "fanaticism" that is frequently referred to is not a function or product of Islam and therefore should not be associated with Islam. True, there may be Muslims, Christians or Jews who commit violent acts in the name of their religions, but it is important to note that their religions do not condone these acts of violence.
I hope that our fellow Americans realize that Muslims across the nation also mourn for the victims of Sept. 11. We consider America to be our homeland and like every other U.S. citizen, we also want to protect our country and ensure that it comes to no harm. In the near future, CAIR-NJ will be offering a course on Islam to the general public at no cost, and I hope that the audience of this newspaper will consider joining us to learn more about the peaceful nature of Islam and Muslims.
Afsheen Shamsi, communications director, CAIR-NJ