In December 2017, my father and I had the honor of joining Umrah, the pilgrimage to the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, the two holiest places on Earth for Muslims.
In light of what’s been happening in France in regards to alienating and generalizing all Muslims, Islam as a whole and its Prophet Muhammad, I felt obligated to express my love and support for Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and all the Muslims across the world who have been targeted for their faith.
As a Muslim born and raise in the United States, my interactions with people over my faith, Islam, has been very difficult at times. But going on the Pilgrimage reaffirmed what I already knew about my faith.
The attacks from the French Government over the heinous murder of a teacher has nothing — nothing — to do with Islam, Muslims or the Prophet Muhammad. The shutting down of mosques and closures of organizations in France is a testament to French biases and disregard for its own citizens. Islam has been around for more than 1,200 years as a testament to peace.
Shut down mosques? Say Islam has a “crisis”? Defame the Prophet Muhammad by spreading more ignorant cartoons? In the name of freedom of speech at the cost of hurting millions of Muslims?
Why? The French government is well aware of the optics of their wrong reaction.
The hateful rhetoric and hurtful messages over the cartoons and Islamic beliefs pointedly discourage Muslims to pursue their faith. It makes Muslims targets for ignorant and hateful people.
They did the same thing to Jews in Germany before the Holocaust. Governments belittle delegitimize their beliefs in order to make it easier to discriminate against them whether it’s closing mosques or not allowing women to wear head scarfs or literally just attack them. That’s what happened less then a week ago where two Muslim women were left injured after being stabbed near Paris’ Eiffel Tower by two white female assailants.
Instead of treating the crime as crime, French authorities are treating it as if Muslims in France and across the world are all complicit.
President George Bush, after the Sept. 11 attacks, wisely went to a mosque and made a speech, saying we not at war with Islam.
France, however, appears to want to turn this murder into a justification to outright destroy Islam.
France has a great opportunity to unify the nation like Bush did in 2001. There was still harassment of Muslims and hate crimes, but you can’t say Bush invited them. If anything, he tried to support Muslims in the US. Though his foreign-policy strategy was literally the complete opposite, here at home, the President was trying to put out the flames of racism and xenophobia. Unlike President Donald Trump, who has only fans the flames. I guess French President Emmanuel Macron wants to take a page from the Trump play book.
Macron has gone a step beyond what Trump has done and fully embraces fascists, racists and xenophobes.
This behavior is hauntingly similar to what Adolph Hitler’s Germany did to Jews. Macron is dehumanizing muslims, their beliefs, even their religious clothing to make it easier and to justify what they’ll do in the future like closing mosques.
The only thing missing so far is curfews, which was the last step before Jews were sent full on to concentration camps.
It won’t be the first place to abuse Muslims in the same way. In China, the government there for over a year now has put Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps.
That started the same way. First, they closed mosques. Then they destroyed them. Now over a million Muslims are in concentration camps. The Chinese government calls them “Re-Education” camps.
My pilgrimage taught me this:
The struggle and consistent threat to the lives of the early Muslims for practicing their faith, leaves me nothing short of humbled and in self-reflection.
To be born and raised Muslim in America is a blessing beyond explanation, regardless of the issues we have back in America, from political turmoil and the harassment of Muslims and my cousins in the Jewish faith.
I can’t help but be thankful for being raised among such beautiful people, the American people.
I hope my countrymen don’t forget that bond we have as a people.
Too often we see Islam through the lens of those with their own agendas and interest. We forget how it all started. I only hope the message gets across that we, Muslims, aren’t what the haters of Islam say we are.
The Islam we know is now and has always been a religion of devotion to peace.
If you have a questions about Muslims, ask one. We’re more than willing to show you who we really are.
Count your blessings, America.
Obeid Kaifo lives in Aurora and runs a Denver restaurant with his family.