April 20th, 2013
10:57 AM ET

My Take: Don't lump evildoers with Muslims

Editor's Note: Imam Khalid Latif is a chaplain for New York University and executive director of NYU's Islamic Center.

By Khalid Latif, Special to CNN

(CNN) - April 19, 2013, marks the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings, a terrorist attack that took the lives of 168 people and injured another 680. In the wake of the tragic events that took place in Boston this week, we should remind ourselves that the actions of a few deranged individuals don’t represent or reflect the communities that they more broadly come from. Timothy McVeigh, the Tsarnaev brothers and the likes of Adam Lanza, Wade Michael Page and Nidal Hasan are a group unto themselves, and we should not let their utter disregard for humanity affect our embrace of it.

This morning I woke up to messages from three different Jewish friends, a current undergrad at NYU, an NYU alum and a rabbi from the Bronx. Their respective messages, though short and simple, represented to me the kind of approach we all should be taking at this time.

"I will walk with anyone who feels unsafe, anywhere they need to go."

"(As) a past member of the NYU community, and as a Jew, I want to wish you, your loved ones and your community safety and health. May G-d bless us all that there is no backlash against the Muslim or any other community over the currently transpiring events. Hatzlacha and Bracha to all of you."

"If you find out any way we can be helpful please let me know."

This is what America is about. The courage of these words resonated deeply within me, especially in response to the cowardice of those who seek to divide us through their hateful acts of violence. Our coming together is our strongest asset in the face of this hate. We should not let terrorists divide us.

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My hope is that no one in Boston is left intimidated by this attack. We should do what we can to alleviate the fear that results from these acts of senseless violence.

It was beautiful to see the response from people - diverse in their race, ethnicity and religion - as they came together to help the people of Boston. My further hope is that we continue to stand together throughout this ordeal and not turn against one another. Our strength lies in embracing our diversity, and just as we are united in our anger and our grief, so, too, should we be united in our resolve.

Leaders of all backgrounds should step forward to condemn any act of bigotry and take full responsibility to ensure that no one further gets hurt due to a backlash from the attacks in Boston.

Racism, xenophobia and anti-religious hatred of any kind goes against the core values of equality and freedom that our country is founded upon, regardless of who is carrying it out or who it is being carried out against.

It is not OK to target innocent people just because they are Muslim. Since Monday, there have already been two hate crimes reported, one targeting an Arab, female doctor in Boston and a second targeting a Bengali man in the Bronx. How is it OK to inflict violence and hate toward individuals simply because of the way they look or their religious affiliation? And even if we are not perpetrating it, how is it OK for us to sit by and let it happen?

Simply put, it's not. We must be better than that.

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My continued thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston, those who we lost, those who were injured, their loved ones, the courageous first responders and the law enforcement that has spent the last week finding those who carried out these heinous acts.

May people once again come from all over to run Boston's streets, and may we not let those who lack compassion triumph.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khalid Latif

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Islam

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.