“I’m not your enemy. I’m your biggest ally.”
Those were the poignant words penned this week by Bilal Rana, a Muslim-American doctor who was reportedly detained by the FBI in November after fellow passengers on a domestic flight from Newark saw him “as a threat.”
In a Monday post for Time.com, Rana describes the horror and humiliation he was forced to endure. He'd arrived in Houston on Nov. 15, he said, when he was suddenly pulled aside by law enforcement:
To those who saw me as a threat: I hope you never know what it feels like to have a group of police officers single you out. I hope you never know what it is like to be frisked while standing in front of a plane full of passengers. I hope you never suffer the embarrassment of watching mothers hold their children tightly as you walk by them.
I hope you never feel the humiliation of having your belongings confiscated out of your hands, or being surrounded by cops who refer to you as “the subject” on their walkie talkies. I hope you never have to, for the first time in your life, sit in the back of a police car.
I hope you get a chance to explain who you are before you are judged. I’m not your enemy. I’m your biggest ally.
Rana, it turns out, is a Houston-based anesthesiologist, a father of five and a volunteer with the Houston Police Academy.
He’s also president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, a long-established organization with more than 5,000 members dedicated to battling Muslim radicalization and counseling at-risk youth. The group was awarded the Presidential Service Award in 2009.
“When it comes to the perceived religious aspect of ISIS and other extremists, we're hard at work to let our Muslim youth know what Islam's true teachings are,” Rana wrote on Reddit this week, responding to questions about his organization’s work. “We've been doing this for decades. Education will destroy extremism.”
Rana's story seems particularly poignant given the conversations among politicians in the West this week regarding the so-called “threat of Islam.”
On Monday, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump made headlines when he called for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
On the other side of the globe, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for “religious revolution” inside Islam in a Wednesday op-ed. “All cultures are not equal,” Abbott declared. Societies, he added, “can't remain in denial about the massive problem within Islam.”
In his Time.com post, Rana reminded readers of the immense diversity in the interpretations and practices of Islam around the world. Rana himself is an Ahmadiyya Muslim; Ahmadiyya believers are considered “infidels” by Wahhabi Muslim groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
“[O]ur mosques are demolished, our books banned, our men are jailed, and our women and children burned to death -- all actions that are driven by the same extremism behind the Paris attacks,” Rana wrote.
In an interview with KTRK-TV this week, the 36-year-old said that he's more determined than ever to help “bridge this gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
“We need to talk to each other,” he said.
Earlier on HuffPost: