On Sunday June 12th 2016, people woke to the horrifying news of what is now the deadliest mass shooting in US history. 50 people were killed and 53 injured when Omar Mateen entered a gay nightclub in Orlando and opened fire. There was a hostage situation and he was killed by policemen after a 3 hour standoff.
Once more, the Muslim American population has been brought into the spotlight, with terrorism, extremist ideology, and immigration as the common discussion topics.
“Was he part of a domestic terrorism network?” “What compelled him to take action like this? “Was it his faith?” These are the questions at the forefront of news coverage.
This comes on the heels of Muhammad Ali’s funeral over these past days, a man both American and Muslim, despite attempts to whitewash his faith and what he so boldly stood for, and against. It was a funeral attended by thousands and viewed by many others; a moment Muslim Americans could finally breathe easy, watching his funeral prayers being performed, and Quran being recited for all to see. We basked in the inspiration he was to all, a man known and loved by millions. And he was Muslim.
It was a moment to share a side of Muslim rituals not often shown. That was a moment gone too soon.
No less than 72 hours after that, when the news of this horrifying mass shooting broke, the Muslim American community was thrown for a trip. Many waited by their TV’s in fear, praying the words “Muslim”, “Muslim extremist,” or “terrorist” wouldn’t accompany the perpetrator’s name.
But of course, this has already happened. Now that he’s associated with a particular ideology, Muslim Americans are being scrutinized once more for the actions of another. It doesn’t matter whether or not he practiced Islam – as long as his name sounds “Muslim,” he was a Muslim.
There is absolutely nothing Islamic about the killing of innocent people, no matter the reason. Anyone who tells you otherwise is completely wrong, and doesn’t understand the basic premise behind Islam. It’s exhausting for Muslim Americans, to say the same thing every time there’s a shooting, and the suspect is Muslim. We face severe backlash too. We are frightened that we’ll be attacked for our beliefs, our appearances, our names. We’re frightened of being publicly harassed or told that we need to “go back home,” when in reality, we are home. Prejudiced individuals will turn this into an issue of tightening immigration, banning Muslims from entering, and tracking “homegrown terrorism.” Until the time when media sets apart the actions of one person as his own and not reflective of the entire community, Muslims will become the scapegoats for issues that reach far beyond religious ideology: gun control and mental health.
Gun control is something that needs to be urgently addressed. From school campuses to clinics, to movie theatres and now a nightclub, far too many lives are lost because there isn’t stricter gun control.Tied to gun control is mental health. It isn’t normal to think that you can kill people because you hate them, and then actually do it. Discussion on both topics is supposedly happening, but adequate legislation is yet to be brought to the table. In the interim, lives are lost.
And just how many lives need to be lost before something is actually done?