Muslims in Arizona Shockingly Normal (Video)
Are Muslims the new Mexicans?
Turn on the TV, check out Twitter or make the mistake of listening to AM radio, and you're almost guaranteed to get a red hot blast of Islamophobia. Even folks as enlightened as HBO's Bill Maher are suggesting that there is something intrinsically wrong with Islam, a religion practiced or identified with by 1.6 billion people worldwide.
This recent resurgence of Islamophobia seems a result of paranoia over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, which several nations, including the United States and some Arab countries, are now bombing the heck out of.
Like al-Qaeda, from which it sprang, ISIS is a genuinely evil group, as its actions demonstrate.
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These include mass executions, videotaped beheadings, crucifixions, and the use of rape as a tool of war, among other atrocities. ISIS uses Islam to justify such horror, most of it imposed on their fellow Muslims.
This has opened a door for Islamophobes here in the U.S. to conflate all Muslims with the vicious insanity of the group, and to take ISIS at its word that it is representative of true Islam.
But as videographer Dennis Gilman and I discovered on a recent outing to the Glendale Civic Center, local Muslims really ain't that scary.
We were on hand to observe a religious service attended by hundreds of Valley Muslims honoring Eid al-Adha, "the Feast of the Sacrifice," which commemorates a tale from the Quran about the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in the Old Testament).
According to Islamic teaching, God orders Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, which Ibrahim goes to obey, only to have his son miraculously replaced at the last minute by a ram.
The prayer service in Glendale consisted of women and men, old and young, and many families. As you will see from the resulting video, folks were friendly and not shy about offering their views of Islam, ISIS and the misunderstandings some non-Muslims have about them.
There was even a brief debate about the best high-school football team in the Valley.
"We are U.S. citizens," Shami, an engineer at APS, told me of himself and his fellow Muslims. "We have a vested interest in the security of this country. My kids go to school [here]. I don't want anybody to get hurt."