On February 11, CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab was a panelist for an event hosted at Purdue University. Approximately 400 people were in attendance to see Rehab discuss the threat ISIS, along with Professor of Islamic Studies Scott Alexander, and author, attorney, and political philosopher Rafia Zakaria.
The Catholic Moment:
Speaker: ISIS is ‘greatest enemy’ of Muslims today
“ISIS is simply the greatest enemy of Muslims and Islam today,” said panelist Ahmed Mahmoud Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago.
Part of Rehab’s work with the Council on American-Islamic Relations is to promote fair, accurate coverage of Islam and Muslims. He has been interviewed by many national and international newspapers, TV networks and radio stations.
Too often, he said, people assume that if a person is Muslim, he understands ISIS and somehow “feeds into” ISIS. In truth, most Muslims consider ISIS an enigma that violates their faith.
Islam treasures education and social justice, Rehab said, but ISIS represents a “bloodthirsty, destructive force” that “smears, dehumanizes and vilifies” Islam.
Although ISIS members are relatively few in number, they are expert at manipulating media to “get into homes” worldwide via TV, social media and YouTube. Videotaped executions play on fears and create greater fears of things to come.
Those fears, and the stereotypes they create, have affected the civil rights and livelihoods of many peaceful, law-abiding Muslims in the United States and elsewhere.
“They (ISIS members) have done nothing — nothing — to benefit Muslims anywhere in the world,” Rehab said.
“We want to stop ISIS because ISIS makes us angry as human beings and as Muslims,” he said. “It is defiling my religion and my very existence.”
The U.S.-led Iraq war and genocide in Syria created chaos that made it easier for ISIS to gain power. ISIS also appeals to those who feel isolated and aggrieved.
Meanwhile, some Islamic religious leaders use anger, imagery, emotion and twisted religious tenets to incite young people to violence. They often use the Internet.
Rehab said that Muslims are working hard to stop ISIS by promoting empowerment and peaceful ways to address grievances.
The greatest tool in the fight against ISIS, he said, is for Muslims to “be who we are” and speak out against all bigotry and discrimination.
Purdue Human and Environmental Rights Organization (HERO):
ISIS and the Islamic State: A Panel Discussion
Mr. Rehab was, personally, my favorite speaker of the night. He was posed the question “What are Muslims doing to stop ISIS?” He was so quotable! So instead of hashing out his speech in my own words, the following are some amazing bits of insight from Mr. Rehab:
“When we say ‘what are Muslims doing,’ who are we picturing? Are we picturing our neighbors, taxi drivers, waiters, teachers, and friends? Or do we picture leading scholars and imams? Is there an expectation on Muslims specifically, or is it up to us all?”
“ISIS is an enigma. ISIS is counter-intuitive. ISIS implements the exact opposite of ‘original Islam.'”
“ISIS is a caricature of a destructive force that is somehow supposed to be a recreation of the true Islamic State.”
“ISIS members are the biggest Islamophobes.”
“They have done nothing. Nothing to benefit the Muslims around the world or the religion of Islam.”
“They all flourish in the middle of chaos and a security vacuum.” This one I will expand on a bit- he wanted to emphasize that the reason ISIS is in the Middle East, and in the middle of deserts because anywhere else, obviously, ISIS would be rejected. So they go and put their stake in the parts of the world where there is chaos and disorder.
“There is a theory, and I subscribe to this theory, that Assad [the president of Syria] did not create ISIS, but he helped it grow and spread to draw attention away from how much of a pariah he is in that area.”
“ISIS is not only not Islam, it is anti-Islam.”
Some good factual information about Islam from Mr. Rehab:
Recruiting is mostly online.
Jihad never meant ‘holy war’ (as ISIS and other extremist groups claim), it means “the goal of getting closer to a more perfect individual.” So, an example: if you want to work out and be healthier, that’s jihad.