A true terrorist threat: Hostility towards young Muslim Americans

One of Hamza Warsame's older sisters, Ikram Warsame, at a Dec. 10 rally in front of Seattle Central College. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
One of Hamza Warsame’s older sisters, Ikram Warsame, at a Dec. 10 rally in front of Seattle Central College. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)

While nearly a quarter of the world population is Muslim — about 1.6 billion people worldwide — Islamic extremism is exceptionally rare, and terrorist attacks by Muslims are even more so.

A 2013 report found that, of all extremist groups in the U.S., terrorist attacks were least likely to be perpetrated by Islamic extremists. In fact, someone on U.S. soil is more likely to be killed by a piece of their own furniture than killed by any kind of terrorist act, according to one 2012 study, and more likely to be killed by a toddler than lose their life to terrorism, as one 2013 count claims.

This reality has been lost in xenophobic noise since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, and racist vitriol from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who wants to profile and ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.

As a Muslim American at South Seattle College, I started to notice people staring at me, and many of my Muslim friends texted me about those they have encountered blaming them for the recent terrorist attacks.

“The only crime I am guilty of is not praying on time, and also, not doing my homework,” said Hodan Mubarak, 20, a student in her second year at South Seattle College.

According to a study published Dec. 14 by the Qatar Computing Research Institute, 68 percent of English anti-refugee tweets after the Paris attacks were from the U.S. By the end of 2015, anti-Muslim threats, harassments and vandalism of mosques in the U.S. reached a record high.

While terrorist attacks against Europeans and Americans are disproportionately discussed in the news, hate crimes against Muslims by comparison are rarely discussed. Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, anti-Muslim hate crimes are still five times higher than before 9/11, and continued to rise in Washington state last year. According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation report of 2014 hate crimes, racially-motivated hate crimes outnumber religiously-motivated hate crimes in the U.S. by more than two to one.

“Religious tension in this country traditionally hasn’t reached the level of racial tension that accompanied the police shootings of unarmed black men this past year,” wrote Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham in February.

South Seattle College students Fatima Adam (left) and Hodan Mubarak (middle) want to study to become a psychiatrist and nurse, respectively. (Photo by Roukhya Ouedraogo)
South Seattle College students Fatima Adam (left) and Hodan Mubarak (middle) want to study to become a psychiatrist and nurse, respectively. (Photo by Roukhya Ouedraogo)

So when 16-year-old Hamza Warsame, a black, Somali-American Muslim student at Central Seattle College, fell off a building in Capitol Hill in December, it wasn’t unreasonable for hundreds to question whether the Running Start student was murdered, and whether the police were doing right by him. (More than a month after his death, the King County Medical Examiner ruled Warsame’s fall an accident).

Fatima Adam, 21, is a student at South Seattle College who lived a block away from Hamza Warsame.

“I didn’t know him, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about him,” she said. “The lack of concern [around his death] … angered the community.”

Amidst so much recent tragedy and tension, we forget that Islam’s message is fundamentally one of peace. The actual meaning of “Islam” means peace and submission, and Muslims greet each other with “as-salamu alaykum,” meaning “peace be with you” in Arabic.

That a religion with peace written all over it is being presented as a source of violence is sickening to me.

The so-called Islamic State attacks everyone — including Muslims. And ISIS only wins in the U.S. if they succeed in turning non-Muslim communities against Muslims.

“Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam,’” Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland professor studying the psychology of terrorism, explained to Washington Post in November.

In reality, Muslim Americans are against terrorism just as much as anybody else is.

“I am not a terrorist, I don’t know a terrorist and I don’t wish to know a terrorist,” Adam said.

The Muslim’s goal in life is to please Allah (God) by having beautiful character, and sharing what he or she would love with others.

After the San Bernardino attack, American Muslims in the San Bernardino area came together to raise $20,000 for the victims. To date, they have raised $215,515 from 2,043 donors, exceeding their most recent goal of $175,000.

Adam, in addition to being a part of the SisterHood, a student group supporting the educational goals of young women, is a former member of the Muslim student association at South Seattle College, and one of the founders of Hope Academy’s cleaning committee. She aspires to one day to become a psychiatrist to help those in need, while Mubarak wants to become a nurse.

These students love their country, have big dreams and are looking forward to successful futures. They are just like any other American students, except they pray to Allah.

So why don’t we come together to fight the real terrorists — and not hate on young Muslims trying to make America a better place?