From Zohaib Zafar, a student at Davidson College:
More than 100 people were shot Sunday by a Muslim terrorist named Omar Mateen in what is the largest massacre in American history. I am scared for the future of our country, my own religious community and, thanks to a divisive presidential candidate, the world at large.
This month is important for both Muslims and the LGBTQ community. For Muslims, this is the holy month of Ramadan and for the LGBTQ community, this is Pride month. Unfortunately Muslims are divided about how this month is supposed to be celebrated.
For Ahmadi Muslims, the community that I belong to, Ramadan is supposed to be about strengthening our relationships with our family, fellow human beings and our creator. We do this by ritualistic fasting, which develops our empathy for the hungry as well as by helping the downtrodden as much as we possibly can.
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However, for a small portion of Muslims such as Mateen, the words in the Quran mean nothing and their relationship with their creator is nothing. These terrorists are influenced by low passions. They may genuinely believe in an afterlife but this afterlife is only a deluded fantasy.
All of the misconceptions that many Americans have about Islam are true for these terrorists. Yes, even the perverted idea of 72 virgins. Yet, these terrorists somehow convince themselves that they are God and that they can decide who deserves to live and who does not.
It is a shame that these terrorists claim to believe in the same Quran that I do. It is a shame that they believe, as reportedly in Mateen’s case, that beating your own wife senselessly is condonable. Mateen and I may both claim to be Muslim, but our definitions of the word are directly at odds with one another.
Donald Trump continues to divide our country, but he is right about some things. Our Khalifa, His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad who resides in London had recommended many months ago before Trump did, that mosques should open their door to surveillance. Indeed, many of our own Ahmadi mosques have non-Muslim guests on a daily basis, and we even invited and met a man who shot at our mosque and was charged for a hate crime as a result of it. He said that if he had spent just five minutes with us, he would have never done what he did. The same probably would have been true for Mateen had he spent five minutes with someone in the LGBTQ community.
Regardless, we need to remain very vigilant about the exposure to hate through the internet that these men have. Many anti-Muslim bigots ignore these preventative measures but call for “deporting” Muslims and closing down mosques. They fail to understand that this is not only nearly impossible for logistical reasons, but will also help ISIL further their narrative about a war between Islam and the West.
The most powerful preventative measure we can take is to have more dialogue between Muslim-Americans and non-Muslim Americans. We need to understand one another. Most Americans do not know Muslim-Americans, and the Muslim-Americans who are radicalized need to recognize the beauty of our great nation, our people and our culture.