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Muslim students dispel myths about Islam and extremism

The recent attacks in Europe led to a resurgence of the role of Islam in relation to extremism.

On Jan. 7, gunmen, all Muslims, attacked the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, a French satirical magazine, which published controversial cartoons that concerned Islam. Twelve people were killed.

On Feb. 15, a shooting occurred in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, which resulted in the deaths of a security guard and a director.

Mahrukh Ahmed, secretary of the Muslim Students Association at Queens College, said the shooters involved in the attacks in Europe did not truly follow the faith.

“In the Koran, God says that when you face the ignorant people, when you face those who are doing evil or saying things to you, you have to respond with peace no matter what,” Ahmed said. “Even the Prophet Mohammad, in his life, he faced a lot of accusations, a lot of insults from the people, but yet he always responded in a positive way.”

Ahmed specifically focused on the attacks in Paris as an example.

“We don’t condone the actions of the man who killed the people of Charlie Hebdo, he should not have taken that approach. He should have spoken to them, sent them a letter or have a conversation, but never to go and kill them. He had no right to do that. Even in Islam, you can’t just go and kill somebody, even if you disagree with them,” Ahmed said.

She also discussed the topic of Islamophobia and the safety of Muslim students amidst the popularity of films like “American Sniper.”

The movie portrays the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle on the front lines in the Middle East and his struggles with PTSD after returning home. The film was adapted from Chris Kyle’s own autobiography, which includes many Islamophobic, hate-filled quotes.

“I hate the damn savages,” Kyle wrote. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.”

While the film doesn’t necessarily show the darker side of Kyle, it still portrays a man with little regret for killing innocents. Activists worry that the film may spew further racism towards Muslims in the country. Ahmed commented on how she would react to someone influenced by “American Sniper” and other propaganda-like media.

“First, I would greet them with respect, and then I would tell them maybe you should review the facts from the proper source, you can’t just rely on media and movies, these are things that can be distorted a lot. The media can be very biased; they can just show what they want to show. Go to a mosque, speak to a Muslim, go online and look for Islamic sources,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed explained Islamophobia is an irrational fear and that Muslims must respond against fears with peace. She states that films and people can install fear and can be indifferent to what happens to Muslims.

“Not just this film, but also people, like politicians, who are very Islamophobic, these are influential people. Whatever they say, the masses will take it. This is very dangerous because if they are spreading a lot of hate, especially irrational hate, it’s going to install fear and hate in the people,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed noted the murder of three Muslim college students at The University of North Carolina as an example where Islamophobia contributed to their deaths.

“They’re college students just like us, and they were killed by this Islamophobic man. It did cause fear in me and in many Muslims. Despite this fear, you have to keep responding in a positive way and constantly be a good role model in society,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed suggested other schools have an Islamic Awareness Week, such as at QC, talking about Islam to students and Islamophobia.

MSA strives to create an environment for Muslims and spread awareness about Islam for more than 50 years.

Ahmed explained that the extremists should not have done what they did as they have misinterpreted the Koran.

“When the extremist do these type of actions, they’re giving their own religion a bad name. You have to consider their upbringing. It shows they are not educated about their own faith, about their own religion,” Ahmed said.

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