OPINION: Why should Muslim people have to defend themselves

IMAGINE if Catholics had to publicly apologise every time it was revealed a priest molested a child.

Or if Republicans had to defend themselves every time Donald Trump persecuted a minority.

Seems harsh? Well try, just for a second, to put yourself in the shoes of someone from the Muslim faith.

At an Iftar dinner at Parliament House in Queensland this week, Queensland Intercultural Society's Abdul Celil Gelim expressed sorrow and horror to the 100 plus crowd about the mass shooting in Florida over the weekend.

"We feel it is more important than ever to stand in solidarity against violence, hate and terror as well as any attempt to justify this horrible, horrible act," he said.

"Our hearts go out to victims and their families and all those affected by this crime.

"This shocking incident cannot in any way be accepted in Islam, in any religion at all, which values the life and freedom of all people.

"As Australian Muslims, we feel the need to state that we will not tolerate any form of hate towards any group within society.

"Islam states in the Quran, if you kill an innocent person, (it) is equal to kill everyone in this world and all humanity.

"As a Muslim, I never accept terrorists as a Muslim or a believer or human being."

A man, who was reportedly struggling with his own sexuality, bought a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol, walked into a gay nightclub and caused carnage - 49 people dead and at least 50 injured.

The gunman claimed allegiance to Islamic State - the evil terrorists responsible for attacks on commuters in Belgium, music lovers at a rock concert in Paris and countless atrocities in Syria.

Then we have Muslims the world over having to remind everyone that the people who commit these acts - whether lone wolfs or planned group executions - are extremists.

That they act outside the most widely accepted interpretations of Islam and the Quran, that we can't victimise and persecute all other Muslims because of a small, albeit increasingly loud, group of terrorists.

Why should they have to?

Why should Muslims have to keep defending themselves over and over again?

Why do authorities have to keep reminding us terrorists are terrorists, acting outside religion, to stop people targeting mosques, even people walking down the street or on a train just because they are wearing a hijab or niqab?

As theologian and Muslim Mehmet Ozalp said at the same event, look at what happened in one week.

We had Muhammad Ali's funeral - a positive reflection on a Muslim's life that united the world - and then the shooting in Orlando that once again put Muslims on the back foot.

Putting into perspective just how far Islamic State, and the many people ensnared in their bogus ideologies, acts outside the religion millions of Muslims practice, Ozalp spoke about work he did with friends of the teenager who shot a police officer in Sydney last year.

He believes powerlessness drives people to terrorism, so they can have an impact on the world, but getting access to traditional Islamic learning could be "the key to dealing with radicalisation in our time".

"To my dismay, one of those arrested did not know how to recite the Muslim fatiha, the lord's prayer. You have to know that by heart in order to do your daily prayers," he said.

"He couldn't recite it, and I'm wondering how you're praying daily, and he's talking about joining ISIS, saving the world with Islam rhetoric.

"There's a lot of ignorance out there in relation to Islam, really the solution is to tap into the richness and tradition of Islam."

Iftar is a sunset meal eaten when Muslims break their daily fast during the month-long Ramadan.

But it's also a time for community, as Muslims are encouraged to break the fast with their neighbours and strangers.

Muslim families around Queensland have opened their homes during Ramadan to share their beliefs and customs, in an effort to bridge the cultural divide groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda create.

We need to embrace our fellow Australians, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

They should not have to defend themselves every time a crazy person does crazy things in the name of Islam.


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