Islam’s True Face

American Muslims Have a Unique Duty

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
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It is difficult to believe that September 11, 2001 was some twelve years ago. It really did seem like another seemingly innocent day in September. A light blue sky conspicuously cloaked the horrors in a New York City skyline. I remember I was in sixth grade at May Grisham Elementary in Santa Maria. It was early in the morning and my classmates and I were waiting in line to enter class.

Osaama Saifi

We were young and we did not have a clear idea of what was going on. We just knew that some accident occurred. I did not know that the people who claimed to be behind the terrorist acts were Muslim. I did not know that the ringleader of this terrorist gang was usurping the beauty of my first name.

When I first introduce myself to others, their interest piques when I tell them my name is Osaama. I think there is a natural assumption that growing up with such a name post-9/11 comes with its own unique set of challenges. I won’t deny that it does. But I can say that I am fortunate to have grown up in Santa Maria and in the larger Santa Barbara community. People seem to forget that besides being known for our pleasant weather and commitment to making the best tri-tip sandwiches, our community is also known for the warm, welcoming people who live here.

After 9/11 occurred, I was called into the principal’s office. I was a fairly well-behaved student, and would dread even having my card flipped for minor classroom misdeeds. I was, then, rather concerned to be called into the principal’s office. When I got there, I was surprised when Mr. Tift asked how I was feeling. If anyone bothered me about my name, Mr. Tift told me, I should let him know. At the time, I didn’t know what to think of this meeting. I was grateful for the principal’s kindness, but now I realize how kind this gesture really was. This warmth, which is embedded in our Central Coast community, encourages me to protect our community from baseless attacks on Islam, and to show Islam’s true message of peace and inclusion.

It goes without saying that Islam today is often portrayed in the media in a negative light. The media cannot entirely be blamed. Muslims of the past were integral in many of the world’s advancements, but recently have been lagging – it’s not like Muslims of today invented the iPhone. But at the same time, there is a deep disconnect between what is often portrayed about Islam and the reality of Islam. Islam, whose literal definition means “peace,” is often portrayed as a violent religion.

American Muslims have the unique privilege and duty to condemn violent extremism and to show Islam’s true face of peace. After all, unlike in France, Muslim American women are allowed to wear their head scarves. Unlike in Switzerland, mosques in America are allowed to have minarets. While other Western countries practice democracy, only in America is true freedom of religion seen.

Twelve years after 9/11, our beloved nation is still suffering from ignorance and misinformation about Islam. The terrorists on that dreadful day did not only destroy buildings and take the lives of innocent people, but they attempted to hijack Islam. The purpose of this column is to defeat those terrorists and anyone else who attacks Islam’s true peaceful image. By fighting back with the pen, and not the sword, we show that rationality and logic prevail over the sharpness of any sword.

Osaama Saifi is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the oldest Muslim organization in the United States. He was raised in Santa Maria, earned a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Berkeley, and is pursuing a law degree so that he can combat blasphemy laws in countries such as Pakistan and protect religious minorities through out the world.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Thank you Osaama for this important piece. Keep writing, we are all looking forward to learning more about Islam through your important efforts!

SNK (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 3:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think this writer means well, and he's a local Moslem. As noted before, his Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, a recent offshoot dating from between 1880 - 1908, constitutes from 10 to 20 million Moslems, many living in Pakistan (outlawed there as non-Moslem) or India or Britain. Their guy, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is part of the Ahmadi effort to make Islam less fundamentalist and to liberalize it...perhaps one of many sects that might form a "Reformation" for Islam.
The writer is correct that "Twelve years after 9/11, our beloved nation is still suffering from ignorance and misinformation about Islam" -- yet we recently learned that the numbers of mosques going up in the USA has increased a great deal. There are many varieties of Islam just as there are in most world religions.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 4:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm an atheist. Can I form a group or start a place of non-worship of some sort in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc.?
Or ("God forbid??"), if I were a practicing something, could I found or participate in a "house of worship?"
Has to work both ways or self-described marginalized groups don't get to complain. As commenter above suggests, this group is considered a "heretical" sect by most adherents of Islam.

zappa (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 6:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for your hardwork and dedication Osaama.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 6:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well let's see...Yusef Islam, formerly known to the music world as Cat Stevens, was barred from the U.S. Paranoia much? Even he had to laugh at this absurdity.

Maybe they were afraid he'd corrupt our youth with songs about peace,...wait he already did that.

For what it's worth, I'm FAR more afraid of the U.S. government and it's continual attacks on our freedoms (The Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act) then I am of Muslim attacks. There is always a risk of being attacked by terrorists, Muslim or otherwise, but the random odds of any individual being a victim of these attacks is quite low. (To wit: about 3000 out of 300,000,000 in the 9/11 attacks adds up to 1 in 100,000) The laws coming out of Washington D.C. are affecting ALL of us.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 9:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mohammed practiced violence. He was not a peaceful guy. The idea that Islam is peaceful is foolhardy. The practice of Islam involves conformity to violent and repressive actions.

"Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality, and a working political order that serves the true interests of all."

No form of Islam tolerates peace for women and gays. Islam's idea of peace denies equality to women and homosexuals without exception.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 9:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dear Osaama

Islam was never been hijacked by radicals, as they are the 21st century brave warriors/jihadist/terrorists or as true hardcore loyal good devout Muslims who followed what Muhammad commanded in his true teaching of Islam. Islam was NEVER been peaceful and tolerant as you and many others claimed to be, as Muhammad commanded to all good devout muslims for jihad.

For the record Muhammad decapitated 900 Jews in his time, how could anybody claimed Islam is peaceful?

Please read Muhammad bio's and your Qur'an, you might understood someday!

alstockton (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 10:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Protestants and Catholics stopped butchering eachother. Religion is demented by its very nature, still, progress is progress.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 10:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Bible is arguably more violent than the Quran:

But let's not let the geezers spoil this promising new column. I look forward to reading more installments from Osaama Saifi.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 11:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"It goes without saying that Islam today is often portrayed in the media in a negative light."
Then why did you say it and I completely disagree. If reporting on Muslim terrorists is a bad portrayal, so be it.
The American press bends over backwards to constantly tell us how peace loving Islam is.

Young man, you seem well meaning and intelligent. It is not intellectually honest to continue to claim what the real face of Islam is etc. As long as radical Muslims are bombing and killing folks they too will be the face of Islam. Our most recent idiot immigrant Muslim killers in Boston, intentionally radicalized by organized and large groups of wing nut Muslims are an example of the active dichotomy that Islam permits.
While only a tiny minority, the face of the Catholic Church is now child molesting Priests; the church has earned this and so has Islam.
I look forward to your future columns.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 7:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To a large degree, I think it isn't productive to characterize a religion as this or that (although Jenkins research is interesting from an academic viewpoint). Ultimately, the actions of men are self-interested and religion often serves merely as a tool or convenient rationale.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 9:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@EastBeach, In old testament there were the live story of the good vs evil of human kinds that's to be used for teaching what to follow and what to despise, but in the Bible Jesus never commanded for all Christian to kill Muslims, Buddha, Hindu, etc, as Muhammad commanded to kill Christians and Jews as the people of the book "41 times in the Quran" by promising 72 virgins in paradise. Not even one Muslim or Imam could argue this! Because It's in the Quran!

The fact is Islamic terrorism occurs every 5 minutes around the globe in the name of Islam. And if Bible is more violent than Quran?? How come we don't see Christians blowing up others in every 5 minutes all over the world, and screaming Alleluya, in the name of Jesus?? agree!

alstockton (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 10:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Muslimsforlife(dot)org - successfully collected 10,000 pints of blood to honor 3,000 dead of 9/11 (by saving 30,000 lives)
Muslimsforpeace(dot)org - condemning terrorism, promoting Islamic value of loyalty to ones nation, peace, bus-ads and flyers and leaflets to promote the same
love4all(dot)org(dot)uk - We serve humanity in many ways including a wide range of activities that provide disaster relief, medical facilities, energy, education and self-help programmes across the world

KTShamim (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 3:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

uh, alstockton, in the New Testament of the Bible, written 1250 years BEFORE the beginning of Islam, Jesus certainly "never commanded for all Christian to kill Muslims" -- you can see why.
In the Old Testament the Jewish god El commanded Joshua to kill EVERYONE in Caananite Jericho, which the text says he did.
This goes on forever; 350 years ago warring Christian sects in Germany killed off a third of the humans living there in the name of Jesus. Etc.
EB's right stating it isn't helpful -- it's quite simplistic -- to characterize a world religion in a few words or terms. These are stereotypes. There are 100s of millions of peaceful Moslems. Generally, bad folks utilize religious rhetoric to do what they want to do: very often the issues are about land and money, power or control. Want more? Why did the Christian Crusader knights murder over 30,000 Moslems and Jews, women and kids, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in July of 1099 CE?? this goes on forever....

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 7:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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