Muslims in America: Part of the solution, not the problem

American Muslims

Last weekend, anti-Muslim rallies sprung up in several cities across the United States. Protesters, many of them openly armed, showed up outside more than 20 mosques in various states across the country, carrying signs saying “Stop Islamization of America!”

Organizers of the rallies are encouraging fellow Americans to unite in protest against the presence of Muslims in America.

Protests like these will only serve to ignite hate, fear, and violence, and to divide communities. These rallies are spreading hate towards Muslim Americans who are devout, peaceful, productive, and law-abiding citizens.

Some people came to the rallies to show support to the Muslims living in America.

On an ABC 7 news report, Martha Alkayyali said, “My neighbors are Muslim. My neighbors are Christian, some are Jewish. We have no problems.”

The Muslim teachers, doctors, school kids, restaurant owners, engineers, and businessmen living in America are not a threat to American society.

The real threat and the real terror, which became evident in the wake of the October 1st shooting rampage at a community college in the state of Oregon, are school shootings.

Faithful Muslim communities may actually be part of the solution and not the problem in America. Spreading hate about Muslims (or any religious group) is diverting public attention away from the problem that is jeopardizing the safety of school children in America.

According to data collected from the Centers for Disease Control, on an average day, 88 Americans are killed with guns. Nearly 12,000 Americans are murdered with guns every year — a rate more than 20 times higher than that of other developed countries.

With lax gun control laws and the ease with which people can obtain a gun illegally, American children are being exposed to gunfire. A report by the Urban Institute showed that in the single school district of Washington, DC, there were at least 336 gunshots in the vicinity of schools over a single school year.

On October 1st, Christopher Harper Mercer shot and killed nine people in a creative writing class at Umpqua Community College, and shot and injured nine others. After a brief exchange of gunfire with police, he shot and killed himself.

This is the 45th school shooting in the US in 2015, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that conducts research about gun safety and communicates this knowledge to the American public.

This is the 142nd school shooting, since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, not once were the perpetrators of these terrors Muslim.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members. After police arrived at the scene, Lanza committed suicide by shooting himself.

This was the second bloodiest school shooting, after the Virginia Tech massacre, on April 16th, 2007 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Seung-Hui Cho, a student in his senior year shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others, before committing suicide. This attack was the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in US history and one of the deadliest by a single gunman worldwide.

In a Harvard Politics Review published in April 19th, 2015, Samarath Gupta explores some of the causes of school shootings in America.

“Common arguments point to a lack of gun control, mental health issues, and the media’s glorification of shooters. But none of these explanations tell the full story. The underlying reason appears to be a combination of these factors and others,” wrote Gupta.

Katherine Newman, in her book, The Social Roots of School Shootings, pointed out that in the 1997 Heath High School shooting, the shooter stole guns from his father’s closet and from his neighbor. In the 1998 Westside Middle School shooting, the shooters stole several guns and ammunition from the grandfather of one of the shooters. The energy required for the shooters to acquire firearms was minimal. The shooters knew exactly where the guns were and it was quite easy to acquire them.

Newman argued that more gun control would deter a significant proportion of would-be shooters because it would frustrate the ambivalent shooters; they would not put in the extra energy to acquire a firearm.

Although research shows that more than 60 percent of shooters were mentally ill at the time of the shootings, mental illness alone is not the reason behind school shootings.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish found that the shooters displayed symptoms of mental illnesses, including paranoia, depression, and delusions. However, the most significant factor was that the shooters were socially marginalized, ostracized. They had no sense of involvement, no sense of belonging to a student group, close-knit family, or community.

Researchers said, “Mental illness can lead to school shooting when accompanied by social isolation resulting from economic instability, social exclusion, and socioeconomic inequality.”

Social marginalization on top of mental illness can increase violent tendencies in the mentally ill.

Muslim children and teenagers actively involved in their local mosque are highly unlikely to get caught up in gangs, violence, school shootings, or terrorism. These kids are constantly supervised by mentors, educators, the imam, and parent volunteers. Any behavioral or mental issues will be recognized and remedied before getting out of hand. The role of the mosque in America is to engage the youth in healthful and intellectual activities, teach rituals of worship, and to prevent social isolation and violence. Mosques do not promote violence.

Another potential culprit in American school shootings is the media’s tendency to glamorize shooters, according to Gupta. The media is not solely to blame, but its coverage of the shooter can create a copycat effect.

Smith College professor, Joshua Miller told the Harvard Politics Review that the media coverage of shootings can provide unhappy, unstable people with “a model of how they can enact their own grievances.” Bringing fame to the shooters through the media may encourage others to imitate the crime in order to garner the same attention.

The high level of school shootings in America is caused by a combination of mental illness, social inequality, gun control policies, the structure of schools, and lack of faith.

In the Islamic schools established in America, part of the teachers’ responsibilities are to look out for students’ behavior and moral values, in addition to academic progress. Teachers must identify and try to correct troubling patterns in a student’s behavior before the problem exacerbates.

One sure way to protect American school children is to talk to them. Children need to know that they can come to their teacher, school counselor, or parents when they suspect any foul behavior in another student, or even if they are struggling with harm inflicting thoughts themselves.

Police officer, Greg Ellifritz, founded a company dedicated to providing solutions to resist criminal violence.

He said, “Most school shooters told at least one other student about their plans for the attack before they acted. Harvard University did a study to determine why the students who knew about the shooting plans didn’t tell the authorities. The students reported that they didn’t believe that the shooter would actually follow through with the plan. Teach your children to tell you about anyone who talks about planning a school shooting. This may be the single most influential action that you as a parent can take to prevent someone from shooting your child or someone else in a school.”


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