Op-Ed: Muslim Americans in their own voice

(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)
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Violent extremism from groups like ISIS and their lone wolf recruits that claim to be Muslims make compelling news and present a huge international problem that has hit home. From New York on 9/11 to San Bernardino a few months ago, these despicable acts of violence rightfully capture our attention and cause our outrage.

While terrorism does create real security issues and is a public safety threat, what also arises out of terrorism is the back and forth of hate speech and propaganda campaigns in which the voice of the average Muslim is lost.

In the name of security in the homeland, the narrow interests of politicians and media pundits lead to outlandish conclusions about Islam and Muslim Americans. With fear mongering advancing the agenda of the Islamophobes and haters of all other stripes, it is little wonder why misunderstanding abounds. Even in the land of the free, Muslim Americans and the mosques across the country are all too often met with outright bigotry.

With the endless stream of information about Islam and Muslims, the authentic voice of Muslim Americans is conspicuously absent and has practically vanished in the noise. To be fair, the relatively new immigrant Muslim community does not do enough outreach with their neighbors and in their community. Hearing each other’s genuine voice can be a foundation for addressing terrorism or any other issue related to Muslims in the U.S.

Pollyanna-like dialogue will not help when having tough discussions about hard issues, but confronting honest disagreements head-on will help. When we focus our efforts on human and community relations at the grassroots level, American pluralism can shine and the vitriol can start to subside through mutual understanding.

The vast majority of Muslim Americans are part of the solution and not the problem when combating terrorism. Otherwise the small number of terrorists from groups like ISIS will succeed in drowning out the voice of authentic Muslims who are proclaiming “Not in my name will you hijack the religion of Islam.”

Hence, addressing religious extremism with authentic conversations and seeking ways to collaborate can be a crucial first step in the fight against terrorism at the local level. This is one among many reasons to participate in a community forum organized by the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge and La Cañada Presbyterian Church on Sunday, March 6 at 5 p.m. at LCPC.


LEVENT AKBARUT is a local resident and member of the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge. He can be reached at



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