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"Terrorist" is not a synonym for Muslim

Why should Muslims feel obligated to apologize for the individual act of a person who claims to share the same religion?

IT WAS an instant and very familiar reaction for Muslims immediately following the bombings in Boston: "Please don't let them be Muslim," many Muslims thought to themselves as they watched the endless replays of the Boston Marathon bombings on television.

Those same thoughts were posted to Facebook, flooding my newsfeed with immediate cautious condolences and prayers. Post after post, tweet after tweet, more and more of my Muslim friends felt that we, as an ummah (Muslim community), needed to defend our "Americanism." Each post, text and tweet drove home the idea that we are "not those guys," that we mourn like "every other American."

As a human being, a creation from Allah's own hands, I feel empathy for those who lost their lives, limbs and will forever be affected by yet another senseless act of violence. But I am not apologetic. I am not apologetic because I, personally, had nothing to do with the decisions of the two alleged culprits. Like everyone else, like most normal people, the recent attack was just as much as a shock to me as it was to anyone else.

So why should American Muslims, or any Muslim residing anywhere in the world, feel obligated to apologize for the individual act of a person who claims to share the same religion? The answer is they shouldn't, and I don't. I carry no guilt, because I am not guilty of anything. Being Muslim is not a crime. So I will not accept being guilty by association and being viewed and/or treated like a criminal.

Do we demand apologies from the decendants or relatives of Nazis? Of German citizens for the Holocaust? Do we demand apologies from the Dutch Afrikaans who implemented apartheid on the people of South Africa and imprisoned a brave freedom fighter named Nelson Mandela for his protest of such despicable laws? And although there have been many efforts to secure a formal apology from the United States government for the brutal, trans-Atlantic slave trade, there has been no apology, even when descendants of those slaves now occupy the White House. Go figure.

I don't feel the need to now proclaim my patriotism, and I hope that those who see me walking confidently on the streets of Philadelphia with the sun in my face, as the gentle breeze kisses my flowing hijab in the wind, know that I am an American and that I condemn acts of violence. If they took the time to get to know their Muslim colleagues, school peers and neighbors, they would know that already. If they observed the character and everyday comings and goings of the Muslims they come into contact with on a daily basis, they would acknowledge and confirm the obvious truth: The word "terrorist" is not a synonym for Muslim.

The official website of the Ku Klux Klan says that its mission is to bring a "message of hope to White Christian America." If you don't hold all Christians accountable for the horrible beliefs, acts and lifestyle of the Ku Klux Klan, how can you justify Muslims being held acountable for the alleged acts of a single or small group of Muslims?

I don't own terrorism. I don't have to prove my American authenticity to anyone. I don't feel the need to go out of my way to prove my allegiance. My allegiance is to Allah (God), and no other diety is worthy of such. And the last time I checked, my American citizenship is not conditioned upon my religion. Didn't the Founding Fathers take care of that already in the First Amendment? Was there a rewrite I didn't know about?

I don't own terrorism. I do not know any jihadist. I don't acknowledge propagandistic phrases like "Islamist." I refuse to feed into the media-manufactured fear of Shariah law taking over America, or Republican rhetoric that basically names Islam as Public Enemy Number One. I'm not falling for it, and I urge my brothers and sisters in Islam not to fall for it, either.

I was born in America. I pay American taxes. And, yes, my name originates from the Arabic language. Yes, I dress different from the average American woman. I believe in one God, not many. I do not celebrate holidays that originate in pagan tradition. I pray five times a day - minimum - and I live my life as if I can see God, and if I don't see him I am sure that he sees me and all of my actions, good or bad.

I'm OK with being different, and differences are to be celebrated, not denigrated.