Since the recent terror attacks in Paris, many people have begun to believe that all Muslims are terrorists and ISIS sympathizers, sparking many people to fear their neighbors and friends based solely on their religious affiliation and ignoring the history they share together.

These attacks have made many Americans look toward their Muslim neighbors and question their moral character. Is my Muslim neighbor an Isis supporter? Is that woman wearing her Hijab sympathetic towards al-Qaeda?

The upcoming political elections have only continued this fear as the candidates begin to debate the answer as to “what to do” with American Muslims, but these answers have only brought more strife and fear to the situation.

Dr. Nasser H. Zawia, who spoke at URI’s vigil on Nov. 18, accounts that attacking a fear of the Muslims in the community by segregating Muslims and making them wear an identification – as presidential candidate Donald Trump has suggested – will not solve the problem of ISIS. Zawia wagers that it is, in fact, what Isis wants America to do.

Zawia said, “ISIS wants to show that the United States and the West are enemies of Islam,” because of how they treat the Muslims in their own community ,even though they are innocent of all actions they are being held accountable for. They are being associated with these actions just because they share the same religion that the perpetrators of these crimes claim to have.  

Zawia believes that most of this fear comes from the media and that these terrorists do not represent the entirety of Muslims. “Those individuals, those terrorists, that are doing these atrocious acts… do not represent [Muslims] in any shape or form,” He said. “It’s important for our citizens not to just fear Muslims because these are extremist inner groups.”

To put things into perspective, Zawia said there are about 1 billion Muslims in the world and ISIS and other Muslim terrorist groups are just 1,000.

Furthermore, Isis does not discriminate in its attacks. In both the September 11 attacks and the recent attacks in Paris, Muslims have been killed, but the media makes no mention of this. Rather, mainstream media alludes that the terrorist claiming to be Muslim while committing these crimes make up the entirety of the Islam and Muslim culture. Zawia said ISIS are not enemies to America or western society, but are “enemies to humanity.”

“These extremist groups have been killing Muslims in schools and hospitals,” in their own countries, he said. ISIS is not a part of Muslim religion, it targets those people even more than it targets western society.

So then if ISIS is fighting against humanity, why are Americans targeting their fellow citizens just because of their Muslim affiliation? “A white person doesn’t have to explain when some deranged white man goes out to a university campus and starts shooting people killing them,” said Zawia, “No white person goes off on stage and apologizes for their race… but [Muslims] have to do that, [Muslims] have to apologize for every deranged act” done by someone who claims the same religion.

Note from the reporter: Throughout the interview with Zawia, one thing was very prevalent: his use of the term “we.” Zawia used it to refer to his fellow Muslim community but he also used it in reference to American Citizens and those fighting against ISIS and terrorism. The interchangeability of this pronoun puts into context how even though Zawia refers to himself with his fellow American Muslims, he dually sees himself as an American, and the same can be said for other American Muslims.

Muslims know their religion and “if [these extremists] try to hide among [them], try to use [their] name and try to use [their] beliefs and hijack [their] religion, [Muslims] are going to be the ones to recognize [these extremists] and help authorities go after them,” said Zawia.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Zawia and other colleagues founded the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement when Muslims were very vulnerable in Rhode Island. Zawia saw it as a way to create “an umbrella structure for our schools for our community centers so that we are coordinating activities, we are engaging the public” to help communicate with other organizations throughout the state and through that create a bond between the different communities.

To stop terrorism, Zawia believes we must all come together against this common evil and not become terrorists or dictators ourselves. “We need to be a lot smarter than them,” Zawia said. “We need to help each other and look out for each other… we are all Americans and we are all human beings.”