Just as our nation accepts its 10,000th Syrian refugee, calls to ban future Muslims from entering the country have reached a fevered pitch. In recent weeks, the patriotism of an American Muslim soldier has been called into question without cause; a New York-based imam and his associate were murdered and a county commissioner in Georgia temporarily blocked the construction of a new mosque.
Thankfully, Americans of all political and religious backgrounds are pushing back, which is good news as we mark 15 years since a group of Muslim terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.
Many Americans understand that that hatred of Muslims is an assault on American ideals. We’ve spent our lives working in different spheres — one of us is an evangelical Christian pastor, the other a retired U.S. Marine general — but we’ve both seen firsthand how Islamophobia diminishes us all and weakens our country.
Of course, Muslims are the primary victims of Islamophobia, which prevents them from exercising their basic rights, including their right to religious freedom. It also threatens their lives. Violence against Muslims spikes after high-profile incidents of terrorism, and a recent Georgetown University report found that an upsurge has coincided with the presidential race. Between March 2015 and March 2016, 12 American Muslims were murdered in bias-motivated attacks.
Yet Islamophobia isn’t a Muslim issue. It is an issue for anyone who cares about the United States and the values that undergird it.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but lies have gained so much traction that we feel we need to: terrorist groups represent a miniscule fraction of Muslims worldwide, who are, after all, both the primary victims and primary opponents of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. According to the FBI, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the United States are committed by non-Muslims. Terrorists speak for Muslims no more than the Ku Klux Klan speaks for Christians.
Nearly all Muslims are part of the American mainstream. More than 5,000 Muslims are in the U.S. military, and thousands more serve their country in other ways, as teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers and public officials.