Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

“Fight ISIS by supporting Muslims in your community”

Indianapolis Star Sunday April 17

Fight ISIS by supporting Muslims in your community
David Carlson

To this point, the Islamic State has proved frightening and frustrating for many reasons, but one of these reasons is certainly that it seems to be one step ahead of Western Europe and North America.

Attacks go off without a hitch in Paris, and the West reacts. Another attack takes place in San Bernardino, Calif., and the West reacts. A bomb explodes in Istanbul, and the West reacts. Bombs shatter the calm of Brussels, and the West reacts. Suicide bombers from ISIS/ISIL blow themselves up in Iraq, and more innocent people are killed. To our dismay and fright, the Islamic State is currently calling the tune.

Our frustration and alarm are understandable. As counterterrorist experts have told us, terrorists only have to be right once, while to stop attacks, our security forces have to be right every time. We should also take some solace in the knowledge that we learn something about the Islamic State with every attack. There is, however, one way that each of us can thwart the goals of the Islamic State. What we know is that one of the reasons the Islamic State conducts terrorist attacks in Western Europe and North America is to make the lives of European and North American Muslims unbearable. The Islamic State knows that Muslims in the West will be harassed, vilified and even physically attacked after one of the Islamic State’s terrorist attacks. When this happens, the Islamic State is quick to send out this message to Muslims in these countries: You will never be welcome in the West.

We are well aware of another tactic of the Islamic State. That is, the group is proficient in using social media to lure Muslim youth in the West to join their cause. They target young people between the ages of 18 and 29, a time when many teenagers and young adults spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog sites and websites.

What is less well-known is the standard demand of the Islamic State when it attracts a Muslim youth through social media. The group requires that the Muslim youth cut off all contact with his or her local mosque. The reason for this is obvious — the Islamic State knows that European and North American mosques are almost without exception against terrorism. Western mosques preach that the Islamic State, al-Nusra, al-Qaida and Boko Haram have distorted the true message of Islam.

Knowing this, Americans can strike a blow against the Islamic State’s extremism by supporting and strengthening mosques in our country. That is our first and best line of defense. The Islamic State’s propaganda machine cannot spread its message of Muslims never being welcome in the West if Muslims, in fact, are welcome in our communities.

Here is the good news: Progress is being made. Wonderful interfaith initiatives are sprouting up all over the country. Amazing spiritual friendships are developing through efforts such as the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Neb., through cooperation between the Somali community and the police in St. Paul, Minn., and even in Indianapolis.

The Center for Interfaith Cooperation offers vibrant leadership and regular educational programming. Indiana Muslims are being invited to the houses of worship of followers of other religions more frequently now than ever before. Another surprise: For more than 18 years, a group of Muslims and Christians have been meeting together nearly weekly for lunch at Shapiro’s Deli.

In a time when religious slurs are prominent in the presidential campaign, more and more Americans recognize that religions have a choice: They can either build walls of hatred or bridges of understanding. Let’s build bridges.

✭ David Carlson is a professor of religious studies at Franklin College. Email him at dcarlson@franklincollege.edu.


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