Last week, we all witnessed the horrifying attack in Boston and learned about the two perpetrators, which have sadly triggered stereotypes and suspicion of Muslims, yet again. Regardless of the conversations about who the two young alleged perpetrators are, the fact is there are many perceptions that we need to deal with as they will impact our realities.
After my 40 plus years of working in the U.S. and with American Muslim youth, I feel that time has come for us to work together to help you carry on the message of Islam in America.
One common thread emerging in the media circus is that no matter how "normal" a person may look, if and when he becomes "religious" he will be triggered into an extreme ideology and perhaps capable of violent behavior. The twisted message that is being relayed is that it is not mental health or perceived political grievances or family background that inspires violence; it is simply Islam.
This is a hard and dark issue we are facing. The old narratives that dominated our American Muslim community -- whether in the form of denial, defensiveness or escaping the real concerns of our fellow citizens -- have not advanced us or the country or the image of Islam.
What we need to do in order to reclaim the future of Islam, actually led by you, is to produce and promote alternative readings of Islam that are more inclusive with the central message of justice and promoting life. We need to bring back the principles of compassion and mercy.
The toxic reading now by many conservative pundits is that we are the "tribe of Muslims," standing up with our brothers. We worry only about our own, and we are the only ones on the right path. This is why all are against us, which means we are against all. Add to that: We are witnessing a frightening glorification of death by online "clerics" with misinterpreted verses and non-researched hadith offering theological cover.
The other reading about Islam, and the one I stand with, is that it is an inclusive, compassionate religion that is made to deliver people from darkness to light and to stand for justice even if it is against our own.
The Islam that formed our ummah for the service of humanity, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, is one where peace is the primary option and human life is sacred.
We are at a transformational moment when old business as usual and traditional victim languages should be no more.
If you, the Muslim youth, support humanistic global values, I urge you to have the creativity and fresh mind to create a new language and style to change gears and drive in that direction.
So count your blessings, your time has come.