Wasi Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. We met four years ago through the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and I’ve admired him since. Wasi is a leader in his faith community and in the Pittsburgh community at-large. In the aftermath of this week’s terrorist shooting at the Quebec City Mosque, where a White Nationalist shot dead 6 people as they prayed, his words are particularly important:
Sunday night in Quebec, 6 people were murdered and 5 people were injured at a mosque during evening prayers. Most people I know probably don’t know this but I actually work at a mosque, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, and have done so for almost two years now. As I went to evening prayers last night I couldn’t help but think about what happened. As I looked around the room last night, I noticed a lot of similarities between the men killed and those who stood beside me in prayer. They were also academics, civil servants, small business owners, and more importantly parents, friends, and loved ones. They were from several different countries. One of the brothers killed was a grocery store owner like my father. Another two were inseparable friends who were always seen together, which brings a few people to mind for me. They were people, human beings.
But I do not see the same outrage from people as I did when other tragedies occurred. I do not see the new profile pictures or the hashtags or the vigils. Instead, I see several outlets falsely reporting that a Moroccan Muslim committed this crime. Instead of mourning with us, just more blame. It made me wonder if it had been our mosque on that night and we were killed, would the country be as indifferent? The anti-Muslim rhetoric may just be noise to some people, but it leads to tragedy for many. This attack is not a lone example of violence against Muslims, it is consistent with the trend. The FBI reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes are up 67% in America, and being the executive director of a mosque I know that most go unreported. Trudeau announces that he welcomes Muslim refugees, and then there is a shooting at a mosque. Trump announces a ban on immigrants from several Muslim countries, then a mosque in Texas is burnt down. The hate crimes spike when the ant-Muslim hate speech is at its highest, that’s simply a fact.
People are praising this ban, saying it makes this country safer. Safer how? By keeping all of the refugees out who are fleeing war ravaged countries? Over 50% of them are children. Or keeping Muslims out? You are more than 400 times more likely to be killed by falling out of bed than you are by a Muslim. The people in the world that are being killed by the thousands by these extremist groups are Muslims.
I understand why you might think better safe than sorry, and I’m not calling my friends who support the ban stupid. But it’s not that simple. We just banned the Iraqi translators who saved the lives of American soldiers. We just banned the Yemeni children who’s parents we killed and homes we bombed (10 Yemeni women and children were just killed in the first drone strike of the new presidency). We made a religious exclusion that allows anybody besides Muslims to come to this country. Our constitution won’t allow this, that’s not America.
But why take the risk? That is the definition of a slippery slope. This mind set is very dangerous, and exactly why leaders throughout history wanted their people to make decisions while afraid. With this logic, wouldn’t it just be safer to throw me out of the country as well? Muslims are evil right? Or they might be, so let’s just be safe.
Honestly, I am not upset with people because of who they voted for or what prejudices they hold, we all have some we have to battle. What makes me furious is that politicians can support this legislation and call it a victory. Nothing was accomplished. We are not safer, we are more divided. We are not progressing as a society, we are taking another step back (Also, this is being used in ISIS propaganda as we speak which makes us less safe). Keep your opinion about the borders, but please do not take this as a victory. We were promised jobs and growth and new opportunity, do not let the defamation of a few minorities suffice as progress in that direction.
And please, if you do not understand someone’s point of view, talk to them. I don’t like Facebook and never post really, but I’d be happy to message you. I’ve seen several people who forgot they were my friends condemn me and my faith, but I have not had one person ask me a question. Ask my perspective. I’m sure I hold some views that are incorrect, educate me. Just because we are different does not mean we should be divided as a country.
All I can think about is how we as a country can stomach killing civilians, creating refugees, and then demand to shut our borders to them without feeling a single pang of empathy at all. If that’s your opinion, that’s fine. But if you did not feel any pain when you made it, that’s not fine. This path, one devoid of love and empathy and communication, will not end well for any of us.