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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

soundoff (985 Responses)
  1. Oltan

    Like it or not, the 800 pounds gorilla in the room is religion. If you are serious believer, you live for the next world. Analyzing acts of a religious fundamentalist on a secular basis is an oxymoron. If you are a deeply believing Muslim it is easy to view the US as waging war on Islam. No, there is nothing mysterious about them, they are simply fundamentalist Islamist. Even if they lived here for decades in reality they did not, they lived in the hereafter. The matter that should be at the center of discussion is how come we still have religious fundamentalism centuries after the dawn of Enlightenment.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Edwin

      How is that different from the fundamentalist Christian who lived in America for decades but was really living "in the hereafter" as you call it? And why does it even matter?

      Unless a person is violent, we should not care what God(s) – if any – they worship, or what books they consider holy. Judge them on their own actions, not on their belief system or the acts of others who claim to believe the same thing. I am sure most christians do not think Shelley Shannon was doing the work of Jesus when he murdered abortion doctor George Tiller during a church service one Sunday, but Shannon sure thinks he was.

      Does that mean if Christians do not actively denounce Shannon's actions then they probably sympathize with him and wish they were the one who pulled the trigger? Or does it mean that extremists do not represent ANYTHING about religion – they just represent themselves?

      April 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Edwin,

      "Unless a person is violent, we should not care what God(s) – if any – they worship, or what books they consider holy. Judge them on their own actions, not on their belief system or the acts of others who claim to believe the same thing."

      Saying you shouldn't judge someone based on their belief system has some ridiculous implications. Do you really mean that if someone is a member of a political organization who's goals include (for example) overthrowing the US government or legalizing adult-child se x we shouldn't assume that there's a higher probability the member won't have a higher probability of doing those things? A person who belongs to a religion that promotes ritual drug use won't be more likely to use the particular drug?

      Religions and political organizations I the US are voluntary organizations. Of course people belonging to them have a higher probability of believing their principles and taking action they think support them. To believe otherwise is flat out willful stupidity.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Perhaps it should be a crime, then, to have a higher probability than some standard person of committing a serious crime in the future.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Tom, Tom, the Other One,

      Of course it shouldn't be a crime to have a higher probability of committing a crime, but remember this isn't something out of your control, like your se x or race, but a conscious choice. You have willfully decided to throw your hat in with a group when you, as an adult, choose what religion to belong to. If you voluntarily join an organization that has certain beliefs (has texts supporting violence, condemns ho mose xuality, demeans women, looks down on other religions or races or whatever) you shouldn't come crying about people assuming you have those beliefs.

      Religion in the United States is a free choice for adults. You join a group, puff out out it's membership numbers, give it more money and clout by your presence, you take deal with it without whining. If you don't like what the group believes and don't like to be lumped, start your own and make your principles very clear.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  2. Ghostriver Studios

    Reblogged this on Ghost River Studios Blog.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Eli

    While it is true that most muslems are not terrorist, it is also true that most terrorists are muslems

    April 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Gawd Almighty

      You would be taken more seriously if you could actually spell.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  4. Denis

    Lumping the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan in the same group with Timothy McVeigh is willful distortion. In his mind, Nidal Hasan was mass murdering the enemies of Islam as was clear in his communications with AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula) leader Anwar Al-Awlaki. He is an Islamist terroist, another radicalized Muslim. One of a large and growing group who many more Muslims refuse to confront and condemn. That the U.S. government called Hasan's Ft. Hood shooting "workplace violence" instead of Islamist terrorism is a sign that Islamism (political Islam) is succeeding. Expect more Islamist terror attacks.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  5. Ken

    Unfortunately, we have to lump together as evil doers as the Muslim community itself is doing so little to help prevent terrorism. They've put more time and effort into advertising and community outreach programs to convince people they aren't a problem than they have into rooting radicals out from their faith and shoving them out the door. Probably the most basic problem with the faith is it puts so much faith into the individual within the religon that they shun having an official organization. With no official ordaining body, and no hierarchy per say, anyone with a radical agenda can take on the trappings of the faith and try to use it for their own purpose. So we the citizens are left with no real choice. To us a mosque could be a quiet and positive influence in the community. Or it might house a radical bent or their descruction or forced conversion to that faith. We don't know! And since we don't know, we have no choice but to lump all together in order to feel safe. It's your own fault.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  6. Groundhog Day

    It's like Groundhog Day. Everytime Muslims do this they say "Don't lump these evil doers in with Muslims" and then the next terroristic attack ends up, unsurprisingly at this point, being Muslims again.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • anon

      True, people from ALL walks of life have committed acts of terror. But they don't do it in the name of their religion. The number of non muslims who commit these acts are so incredibly small compared to the thousands and thousands of terror attacks that take place across the world specifically in the name of Islam. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain and very telling who the vast majority of the worlds really ARE.

      It kind of reminds me of that movie, "mars attacks" where the aliens go around shooting everyone, blowing everything up while all the while walking around with a loud speaker saying, "don't run, we are your friends", over and over while constantly being the source of all that carnage. The most fanatical Christians, the Westboro jerks, even, have YET to bow anyone up, or assault anyone. They just shoot off their mouths at funerals, hurting feelings. !

      April 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  7. les

    I am so sick of every comment that strives to undo the damage that Muslims have already done to what ever image they ever had; by mentioning Timothy McVeigh. Keep reaching into the empty grab bag of Caucasian terrorists and this is the gold standard of names. Time after time, we see the same product of this evil ideology which is Islam. Your are preaching to deaf ears now...don't waste our time.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  8. Paul

    While it is said the majority of Muslims are peace loving and Islam is a religion of peace, why then in this day and age all the major problems with the world, save North Korea, have something to do with Muslims and or off shoots of the Islamic faith?? Broad statement for sure but look behind every situation in the middle east, and go back in time to the start of WWI and at heart of the conflicts are\were radicalized Muslims. When it will come I do not know but the next "Holocaust" won't be the rounding up of Jews and Gypsy's, it'll be the imprisonment of Muslims. The world is going to eventually get sick of their crap and take action.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      . The world is going to eventually get sick of their crap and take action.

      Maybe the world will get sick of every fairy tale organization.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • G to the T

      I don't know... Could it possibly have something to do with the West constantly screwing over the middle east for their resources?

      April 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  9. RonnieLee

    Muslims should be judged as individuals, on the basis of their character, just like anyone else. However, we cannot let the fear of hurting their sensibilities, or political correctness prevent us from having an honest discussion of Jihad doctrine in the Islamic texts, and how terrorists use it to justify their actions. The root cause of Islamic terrorism is Islamic jihad doctrine in the Islamic religious texts. It is the common thread amongst all Islamic terrorists.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • anon

      Yeah, well, when these individuals finally gather in the streets and write articles to denounce and protest acid thrown in girls faces, or a little girl shot in the freakin head, THEN, I'LL BE INTERESTED IN ACTUALLY LISTENING TO THEM DEFEND THEMSELVES WITH THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS IN THEIR RELIGION WANTING TO KILL US. Isn't that what the mere 10% of muslims who are thought to be radicals ARE in a religion of one billion. Yes, it is STILL thousands upon thousands of radicals who want us dead.

      April 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  10. SCOTTA.

    islam=satanism

    April 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Just Call Me Lucifer

      Sure... blame me.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  11. Bob Court

    It's been said that the problem with Christianity is Christians. In contrast, I'd say, the problem with Muslims is Islam.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  12. jack straw

    I want to kill kill kill. I think these moslems are evil doers. That's right, Children of Satan. It's up to us to rid this world of this menace before they kill us all. God save us from these infadels. After the moslems, I think we should kill the Jews next. And then the Hindus and blacks. These people just hate anything they aint. Kinda of like me, but...wait a minute I didn't say that. I meant I hate for a good reason, these people hate for a bad reason. We didn't kill enough of them in Iraq. WMDs, bubble you NDs, who needs them to kill the moslems. Send me to Iraq. I want to shoot me a rag head.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • dileep

      If I lump evil doer's with Muslims, then there wont be many left as Muslims.....

      April 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  13. Truth

    and don't mix good christians with catholics.. Most religions didn't and don't cover up child abuse

    April 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • UncleM

      You can guarantee that any sentence from a religiot that contains the word truth is a lie.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  14. Islam4fools

    If Muslims were to accept that killings of non-Muslims is just as wrong as 60 year old prophet marrying 6 year old Aisha, they would turn into better human beings.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      From follower of the one, who rap ed his sister to justify hinduism, racism.

      April 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  15. Brad

    IIslam = violence

    April 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Truth

      if we didn't tame religions in the free world.. excpet the USA to be like the middle east, except with christians

      April 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • billybilly

      @ Truth

      Muslim nations define themselves based on their religion, America does not.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  16. Gisele

    when Muslims living here in our country stop preaching hatred against America, against Jews and Israel and when they stop encouraging the subjugation of women and a Muslim man's right to physically discipline women, in their mosques and in their schools right here in the USA, then I will stop lumping them in with the evil-doers.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Kevin

      Does it bother anyone else in the USA that so many are being allowed to immigrate to America? The numbers have tripled in the past 10 years or so. WHY?

      April 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • john

      ..I AGREE !

      April 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • dileep

      The park that I go to play tennis in the state of Texas, more recently make me feel like I landed in Iraq or Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

      April 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Jose M Pulido

      You are right Gisele; and I will do the same thing you are doing.

      April 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  17. Guest

    The author's point is fine but the call to not lump all Muslims in with guys like these always ring a little hollow when those speaking out fail to at least acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of terrorist acts are carried out by Muslims acting in the name of their religion.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  18. jerry upstate new york

    then why does the president,shotgun joe, and freakenstien group all gun owners in with evil people? putting more restrictions that do nothing to fix the problem which is gun free zones!! the pres's kids are protected by guns!!

    April 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Denis

      We need to do background checks on all pressure cooker purchasers.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  19. NabraskaFilly

    To Richard Cranium: I'd really like to hear the answer to this one: exactly how did Christianity play a part? Are you once again trying to blame the victims?

    April 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Kevin

      Don't blame the Muslims? Are you serious? These people do not mind telling you that you are an infedel because you don't believe their way and they also believe that there is a reward awaiting them IF they can kill us while dying with us. Why are so many being allowed to move to this nation? I think I know and it scares the heck out of me.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  20. billybilly

    Muslims get democracy and the first thing they do with it is elect genocidal maniacs like hamas and muslim brotherhood. That is not the action of a moderate people, that is the action of an extremist.

    April 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      It is their choice hindu ignorant, go to hind with your hindu ignorant hinduism stupidity.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • billybilly

      @ Islam Foundation

      I'm not Indian, I am no hindu, and I do not practice any religion. But your anger and defensiveness is telling.

      April 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
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About this blog

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.