Op-Ed Published in Miami Herald: "When it comes to negative stereotypes, I feel your pain - twice!
As an American Muslim and a law-enforcement officer, I’ve been drawing scary parallels between the Muslim and law-enforcement communities after the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard all Muslims being painted with a broad brush of criticism and condemnation when only one commits an act of terrorism. Some Americans say things such as: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim,” or “Muslims aren’t the problem, it’s the system of Islam,” or “Not enough Muslims speak out against terrorism.” The list goes on and on.
This type of rhetoric is the kind of inappropriate stereotyping that creates division and fear. Sometimes it’s based on pure bigotry. Muslim leaders often say, “There is a very small minority in the Muslim world that commits acts of terrorism,” or “Don’t blame all Muslims for the actions of a few,” or “Muslim leaders across the globe continuously condemn terrorism.”
Besides verbal condemnation of the acts, there’s little or no systematic work done internally by the leadership of the Muslim community to deal with this deadly problem. This, of course, is a major grievance that continues to impact the entire globe which, in turn, fuels the negative stereotyping.
Muslims have reversed the negative stereotyping, and some leaders have started using the same rhetoric against law enforcement: “Police officers are racist.” “Police officers target the black community.” “You can’t say there are only a couple of bad cops. It’s the system that’s racist.”
Law enforcement leaders are mounting the defenses: “Don’t blame all cops for the actions of a few.” “There are only a couple of bad apples.” Again, besides condemnation of the acts, there’s little or no systematic work done internally by law-enforcement leaders to deal with police brutality, which continues to impact our society and,in turn, lead to negative stereotyping.
Are there Muslims who want to use Islam to justify acts of terrorism? Absolutely, but those are the actions of a few. I’ve seen the beauty and miracle of Islam and the good work Muslims do across this nation. Are there racists and bigoted law-enforcement officers who abuse their power and authority? Absolutely, but those are the actions of a few. I’ve also seen the courage and good work that law-enforcement officers do across this country to serve and protect.
As you can see, racism, bigotry and discrimination are living, breathing evils that are alive and well in this country. They also are found in the Muslim and law-enforcement communities.
So, how do we confront this evil?
Our beloved Prophet Mohammad addressed this issue specifically in his last sermon: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white — except by piety and good action.”
Our forefathers also addressed this issue in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
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Muslims and law-enforcement officers have clear direction about these evils. The only way they will change is when their leaders admit there are problems and then deal with them. We need to lift the boot heel off the black community in this country, follow what we have been taught and protect what we have been sworn to protect — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Nezar Hamze is the executive director of the South Florida Muslim Federation and a Broward County deputy sheriff.