A “savage” Muslim on bigoted perception

Hiba Ahmad
Contributing Columnist

illustration by Candace Faircloth.

After my column “The American Muslim community matters” was published last week, a bigoted comment was posted online, accusing this columnist of, among other things, being a “savage.” The column detailed the failings of media in reporting on the Muslim community in the wake of three Muslim students that were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The comment reflects what seems to be a widely held belief that an entire community is to be held responsible for the actions of a select few.

The commenter stated that “when you savages,” speaking of Muslims, “learn to play nice, then the media will stop reporting on you.” As much as I welcome criticism from all viewpoints, it is my duty not only as a writer, but also as a member of the Muslim community to combat the misconceptions held by this bigot and other Islamophobes.

The commenter pulled a quote from my article: “As citizens we need to take back control over what we want covered in our media.” He assumed that when I referred to citizens that I meant Muslims need to take control over the media. This is a misunderstanding. When I wrote citizens, I meant all American citizens, regardless of faith or ethnicity. We all watch the news on a daily basis and we all have the right to be represented in the press equally.

He went on to make a list of the crimes all Muslims should stop committing in order to stop getting an unfair representation from the media. He argued, “stop killing us over cartoons,” referring to the horrific Charlie Hebdo shootings.

I want to clarify any confusion regarding the depiction of anything holy in Islam. The illustrations of not only Prophet Mohammed, but of all figures mentioned in Islam including Jesus and Moses are condemned. The reason why depicting anything mentioned in the Qur’an is prohibited is to prevent the worship of idols. No being is to be prayed to other than God or Allah in Islam. Often times when symbols, pictures, or statues are created, followers will begin to pray to the objects rather than the higher power. The only Islamic art that is seen as acceptable in Islamic communities is the Arabic calligraphy itself, which often times are verses from the Qur’an.

I am in no way saying that the murder of our fellow journalists is justified, but there is a reason why Muslims felt insulted by the cartoons, the same way any Christian, Jew or Sikh would feel ashamed to see a perverted version of their religious leaders. This whole perception that Islam is a very vengeful and violent religion is misguided. The eye for an eye theory is not Islamic (in fact, such punishment has its origins in ancient Greece). Communities that follow such practices certainly need to reevaluate, but it is a cultural issue specific to those communities, not a problem with Islam.

Another suggestion the commenter provided was that Muslims should “stop strapping bombs on themselves and blowing us up,” or to “stop beheading us.” I too wish terrorists would stop strapping bombs on themselves and blowing themselves and innocent civilians up. I too grieve for the families who have to watch in horror when mainstream media outlets highlight their evening broadcasts with their loved ones at the mercy of black-cloaked terrorists. However, notice I said terrorists, and not Muslims.

To generalize all 1.6 billion Muslims based off of the actions of the small percentage that makes up terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and ISIS is absurd. Also, suggesting that Western nations are the only ones who suffer at the hands of these monstrous organizations is wrong. In December, over 140 students and faculty members lost their lives in Peshawar, Pakistan at the hands of the Pakistani Taliban. They were Muslims. Twenty-one Egyptians were murdered execution style according to a video released by ISIS on Sunday night. They were Christians.

These terrorists know no boundaries and are blinded by their personal agendas. They cower behind the excuse that Islam allows them to commit such atrocities in hopes to reach the highest levels of Jannah, or Heaven. These are warlords who took advantage of the suffering populations within the Middle East and Southwest Asia and exerted their power through empty promises of wealth and safety. So trust me when I say, I truly do wish terrorists would stop strapping bombs to themselves or executing citizens, but I can assure you that that’s not an everyday hobby of an everyday Muslim.

In a defiant, all-caps offer of advice, the commenter simply suggested, “STOP KILLING US.”

Once again, the entire Muslim community cannot apologize on the behalf of some misguided individuals. Unfortunately, when Muslims are mentioned in the news it is to highlight some sort of calamity that has happened in an Islamic region or population, and more often to indict an entire community for misdeeds performed by a small group of radicals. This is what was addressed in the previous article.

If the only image that is painted of Muslims is negative and violent, then viewers will have an incomplete — and incorrect — view of an entire community of people. However, by using our individual skill sets and our faith, Muslims have stepped out of their comfort zones and opened up their doors to encourage those who are curious to come seek information about our practices.

Buzzfeed shared an article showing Muslims taking a pledge to practice Lent, a Christian practice of avoiding vices, to promote interfaith solidarity. Right here on campus the VCU Muslim Student Association holds Qur’an classes that welcome anyone who is interested in learning about the faith and the Holy Book to come study with fellow Muslims.

But the best way for anyone who is curious about Islam to see the true nature of our faith is to come and witness Friday prayer. We gather to collectively hear a sermon, often times about issues that any individual regardless of what background could be facing. Then we stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and pray. For a moment, all is calm. All the tribulations we face are forgotten, and silent prayers waft through the room.

That sense of community and devotion is what Islam is all about, and I promise if any of you choose to wander in one day, you too will be awed.


  1. That was me you mentioned in your article. My issue was less about muslims in general (it may surprise you to know that I have many muslim friends), but rather about those who seek to silence free speech and expression.

    I am very passionate about our Free Speech and Expression rights in America. Some say I am a fanatic about it (there is some ironic humor in that actually).

    when I said "you savages" I was directing that at the crazies. My writing style is often more like an open letter to the people I am ranting against. In the case of that comment, I was directing my words to those muslims who are actually guilty of the aforementioned acts, not the standard run of the mill muslims. It was my mistake in not clarifying that, and I do apologize.

    That being said, I have noticed that it is not just the crazies (ISIS, Al Quada, etc…) that do not want any negative or humorous depictions of Mohammed or Islam, but also the moderates. Where the crazies call for death for such things, many moderates say things like "free speech has limits. This [depictions of Mohammed] is one of them". They do not advocate violence, but instead call for restrictions on such expressions. This is still wrong in my opinion.

    I have always lived by the saying: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it".

    Free Speech and expression does have limits in America, but they are intentionally very narrowly defined. Blasphemy is not one of those limits…Causing offense to people is also not one of those limits either.

    I am well within my rights to draw or post cartoons of Mohammed. I personally have never done that as there has not been a compelling reason for me to do it. I wouldn't do it just to offend. I would need a good reason to do such a thing, and I have yet to find one. In other words, I don't say or do things simply to offend someone.

    When you (the author of the article) said you need to take back control of the media, it came across as you calling for muslims to become censors on our media. No one group should ever control the media. Combine that with the "muslim lives matter", and it sounded very ethnocentric and arrogant. ALL lives matter.

    i hope this helps clarify things. We are all living on this tiny rock in the universe. We need to learn to live with each other in peace.

  2. Sadly many Americans do not have Muslim friends where they can experience Muslims at first hand rather they experience what Fox News and extremist Pastors and politicians tell them. We collectively need to reach out to the average American more and keep challenging extremists – whether Islamophobes (or any other phobes) as well as a few extremist nuts in our own Muslim community

  3. some of us DO have muslim friends, and still see Islam as a backwards and violent religion. The problem with people throwing the word "islamophobia" around is that they cannot separate the religion from the followers. One can hate the religion, but be ok with the followers (well, the peaceful tolerant ones anyway).

    Muslims as individuals are just like anyone else: some good, some bad. Islam as a religion (like all Abrahamic religions) is violent, misogynistic, and intolerant. The "holy books" of those three religions is filled with hate, intolerance, and violence.

    "Religion is for those who are afraid of going to Hell, Spirituality is for those who have already been there."

  4. i really don't think you understand the definition of a "psychopath".

    Anyone who marries a 6 year old child and who rapes a 9 year old child is a pyschopath. Anyone who calls for the deaths of those who don't believe in what they believe is a psychopath. ISIS, Al Quada, and Islam's prophet Mohammed all fit that definition more then any alleged "islamophobe" does.

    Thanks for playing tho.

  5. Terrorism is not a Muslim monopoly its the dirty game and agenda of greedy politicians, when America bombed Japan or when Hitler incinerated 6 million Jews its not called christian terrorism, these ISIS terrorist are nothing but paid mercenaries who are crazy and those areas are war zones, no foreigner should go there for their own safety. If prophet of Islam has to marry a young girl then his community who were so averse to his message should have been the first one to object but none did that, why ? Because it was in their culture and not a taboo. Freedom of speech does not mean to insult other religious believes or the holy prophets. Can any one ever imagine why we muslims never ever used their capabilities of freedom of speech if just insulting is what it is about ?? Because we are commanded in the glorious Quran Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did. (6: 108)

  6. All the prophets from Adam to Nuh, Abrahim,Moses, Jesus peace be upon them all and all others mentioned in the bible and the holy Quran and the last and final messenger Mohammed (SAS) may Allah's praise and exaltation be upon him are all from the one and same God the almighty bringing the same message of oneness of the God almighty( that He should be worshiped alone with out associating partners with Him) . To know about a religion one must read its religious scripture but not its followers nor the bias media before forming any opinion or being prejudice about it. We are commanded in the glorious Quran to examine first the authenticity of any news before forming any opinion about it, and It is said in the Quran "O ye who believe! if a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done. (49:6)"

  7. well, my muslim friends ARE quite handsome (I think middle eastern men are very attractive), but I do not have a crawspace, so I improvised and store them in my rather large closets. I just spray Febreeze air freshner every once in awhile…cuz you know, smell. 😉

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