Kourosh Ziabari – Huffington Post: Imagine you’re traveling from Sacramento, CA to Richmond, VA on a flight you’ve been anticipating for a couple of weeks so as to reunite with the family members you were missing for quite a while. At the airport, you’ve gone through all the security inspections and passport check, handed over your laptop and iPad devices for “additional screening”, taken off your shoes at the request of the guards talking to you grimly, emptied your pockets – having no option but to allow the security officer unzip your wallet and find how much money you’re carrying while he is actually looking for something suspicious, and finally boarded the plane, fastened your seatbelt, adjusted your pillow and just given a call to your brother before the taxiing to let him know that you’re on the way.
You start talking to your brother in your local Middle Eastern language, assuring him that everything is okay and that he should expect you in about 7.5 hours. A few minutes later, and as you turn off the cell phone and ask the flight attendant to bring you a glass of water, two police cops enter the aircraft, brandishing a sheet of paper in their hands, looking beneath the overhead compartments to find a specific seat number. As they approach the row wherein you’re seated, they take another glance at the paper, identify you and ask you to take your belongings and follow them. You dare to ask the reason, and are simply responded that you simply need to abide by the instructions. The plane takes off, and you miss the flight. Maybe you’ll have to give your brother another call, but apparently you won’t have enough time for that, as you should get prepared for the interrogation.
The entire experience, regardless of the outcome, and even if you’re treated respectfully and finally released – although you’ll never receive an apology – would be psychologically shattering and cataclysmic. I cannot imagine undergoing such a tormenting embarrassment before the eyes of tens of baffled passengers, and many apathetic ones, who simply solve the puzzle by coming to the conclusion that I should be a terrorist, a security threat or somebody sufficiently abnormal to be denied boarding. Just put yourself in the shoes of those people who are the subject of such experiences. Isn’t it nerve-racking? Doesn’t it wipe out one’s self-esteem and dignity? But this is quite accepted and customary for the Muslims in the United States and Europe, whenever there’s some sort of terrorist operation on a Western soil, which is ultimately blamed on the “Muslim fanatics” and “terrorists”. In the aftermath of Paris attacks, incidents involving the profiling and exclusion of Muslim-American passengers flying with the Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines provoked nationwide outrage, drawing public attention to the resurgence of racism and anti-Muslim prejudice in the wake of a tragedy which the Muslims actually didn’t have anything to do with.
Even though I cannot genuinely come to terms with using such phrases as “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic fundamentalism” – as I believe there’s nothing inherently violent in Islamic ideology that can render people Islamically terrorist – it’s conceivable to me that the horror-stricken people in Paris, and the broader public in the West, needed to find the culprits behind the atrocities that unfolded on November 13 and 14, and perhaps the most easily-condemnable people to be called blameworthy were the Muslims, at a time when the bloodthirsty terrorists of the ISIS are wreaking havoc on the Middle East and exporting terror and mass-killing in the name of Islam. As a Muslim, I was absolutely shocked and terrified at the depth of the brutality that had emerged and deluged Paris; a city which I’ve always adored for its contributions to arts and literature. However, I couldn’t really sympathize with those who had instrumentally used the Paris attacks as a basis to stimulate anti-Islamic sentiments and hold 1.5 billion Muslims responsible for the sadistic actions of a dark-hearted cult of mass killers whom I can categorically claim that 99% of the Muslims worldwide despise and denounce.
Islam is a philosophy of life; a set of traditions and commandments for saying prayers, social engagements, familial relationships, philanthropy, charity, marriage, parenthood, dressing, eating and drinking and education, plus some edicts on governance for the leaders of an Islamic society – which I’m not delving on here. Nowhere in the text of Quran, which is frequently misinterpreted by the ruthless terrorists like those fighting in the ranks of ISIS, can you find any proclamation or decree that endorses the killing of innocent people. Perhaps those murderers who hold a Quran in their hand and shout “Allahu Akbar” before spilling the blood of civilians have totally overlooked the verse in Quran which says, “He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind” (Quran, 5:32).
Ostracizing and defaming the followers of divine faiths, because people or entities associated or supposedly aligned with that faith commit appalling and vicious crimes, should not be made a tolerable convention: this holds true for the Muslims, Jews, Christians or the people of other faiths. I’m always dismayed and troubled when people, especially my fellow citizens, begin denigrating the Jewish people once Israel launches an offensive into the Gaza Strip and kills a large group of people. The derogatory language used against the Jews and the desecration of their synagogues is utterly obnoxious. Clearly, there’s no justification to the Israeli violence and aggression, but it’s undoubted that the Jewish people are not responsible for what Benjamin Netanyahu decides to do to the suppressed Palestinians overnight. That’s why I reject anti-Semitism in the strongest terms and firmly believe that the Jewish people should be treated courteously, first because they’ve historically undergone discrimination, and the discriminatory measures should come to an end at one point, and also because bigotry against people under the pretext that we don’t like the way they worship or dress, or because a perverted minority has hijacked their ideology and justifies its cruelty through resorting to their sacred beliefs is in my view tantamount to theft in the daylight. For the same reason, I was always disturbed when the statements of my former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fueled a vitriolic anti-Semitic discourse in the Iranian society: totally indefensible.
Equally, I believe spreading Islamophobia and fabricating a Muslim demon which everybody should be scared of is not a reasonable way of dealing with 1.5 billion people who bemoan the mayhem and carnage caused by the ISIS terrorists similarly as the people in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe do. Yes, it’s true that the “ISIS” stands for the words “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” but as the British Prime Minister David Cameron, former Australian PM Tony Abbott and the Obama administration officials have accurately argued, ISIS is neither Islamic nor a state. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are equally abominable. We simply alienate and isolate people by profiling and accusing them over the wrongdoing of a minority that struggles to attribute itself to the nonviolent teachings and principles of an overwhelmingly peaceful majority.
This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.