By Jonathan Herrera
When considering what internships to apply for as I seek a master’s degree in public policy, I focused on programs that would allow me to contribute to the protection of religious rights in America.
I am most concerned with the decline in religious tolerance toward followers of the Abrahamic faiths.
As a Christian, I see Muslims and Jews as my brothers and sisters under the same God. Seeing how the American Muslim community is struggling for equally, I felt compelled to assist in some way to ensure that the religious rights of Muslims in America are protected.
I applied for a number of internships, but only the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Government Affairs Department Fellowship Program allowed me to gain an in-depth perspective on government affairs at the nation’s capital, while simultaneously using this knowledge to achieve my goal of protecting religious rights.
Please consider the following commentary for publication.
One of the bigoted themes often promoted by the growing cottage industry of Muslim-bashers is that the increasing level of Islamophobia online and in the public arena is merely a legitimate response to the violent actions of Muslims worldwide.
These Islamophobes scour the Internet to highlight every act of violence or political instability that can be tied to Islam and Muslims.
If a Muslim in a remote village in Pakistan violates Islamic beliefs by abusing his wife, we will hear about it and about why Islam should be blamed for his actions. Reports on every crime committed by a Muslim are assigned to the faith, whether or not there is even a remote religious connection.
This leads to a collective "mental list" of outrages committed by Muslims that is used to justify Islamophobia and suspicion of Muslims.
The list grows with each new crime or act of violence committed by a Muslim anywhere in the world.
For example, when Muhammad Ahmad Ali was recently stopped for speeding in Ohio and some 50 bombs and four guns were found in his vehicle, that was added to the list.
And when chemicals, fuses, guns, bomb-making materials, and how-to manuals with titles such as "Boobytraps," "Deadly Brew," and "Highly Explosive Pyrotechnic Compositions" were found recently in the Maryland home of Omar Ahmed Muhammad, that too was added to the list.
Never heard of these cases? Perhaps that is because they involved not the stereotypical pseudonyms used above, but instead involved individuals named Andrew Scott Boguslawski and Todd Dwight Wheeler Jr., who are apparently not Muslim.
We all know about and condemn the Boston Marathon bombings, but how about the bomb targeting the route of a Spokane, Wash., Martin Luther King Day march? That bomb was packed with fishing weights coated with an active ingredient in rat poison.
How about the plot to kidnap or kill Alaska state troopers and a Fairbanks judge? The plans included "extensive surveillance" on the homes of two Fairbanks troopers.
Never heard of these incidents in which no Muslims were involved? You are not alone.
Does anyone truly believe that anyone anywhere would remain unaware of these cases if it had been Muslims who were charged?
That is the problem with the "list," it only grows if the perpetrator is an "Ali," "Ahmed" or "Muhammad." Violent acts or crimes committed by others are either ignored, attributed to the "deranged" nature of the perpetrator, or quickly forgotten.
This "list" phenomenon can be expanded to include political instability around the world.
The campaign to sever South Sudan from Sudan was portrayed as a struggle for liberation from oppressive "Muslim and Arab" rulers. We now see "liberated" South Sudanese killing each other based on having the wrong pattern of tribal scarring.
Thousands of Muslims rallying in support of democracy have been killed or injured by the forces of a military coup in Egypt, yet the world acquiesces to the slaughter.
Would the world have similarly failed to stop the slaughter of 130,000 Syrians or the persecution of Burmese Muslims if the governments committing the killings and abuses were "Islamist?"
The answer to that question is intuitive based on the selective information accumulated in the "list."
Only when we view all acts of violence or instances of political instability through the same intellectual lens will we be able take the steps necessary to achieve what should be everyone's goal - a more just and peaceful world in which people of all faiths and backgrounds are equally valued and respected.
Ibrahim Hooper is national communications director for CAIR.
ISLAM-OPED is a syndication service of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) designed to offer an American Muslim perspective on current political, social and religious issues. ISLAM-OPED commentaries are offered free-of-charge to one media outlet in each market area. Permission for publication will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis.
Please consider the above commentary for publication.