Catching terrorists isn't part of my job description. Juggling a home, kids, work and writing can be overwhelming. I've never consciously thought about keeping my eyes and ears open when I walk into my local mosque. "Shoot, the kids are late for Girl Scouts!" or "I forgot to pay the registration fees!" are what's usually on my mind as I'm walking in.
Sunday's debate was disappointing, but I didn't have high expectations. When an audience member asked the candidates how they would counter Islamophobia, I expected what I heard out of Donald Trump. He basically blamed Muslims for Islamophobia by saying that Muslims need to report hate when they see it. What was surprising was Hillary Clinton's response. Though she was much more eloquent and inclusive, she said American Muslims are the eyes and ears in the war against terror. It's a similar message, but packaged better.
The framing of the American Muslim community as a mere tool to combat terrorism puts an undue pressure and expectation upon Muslim citizens in this country. Muslims have a right to live free of discrimination and that right isn't dependent upon radar hearing and laser vision.
As a human, as a Muslim, as an American, if I could, I would prevent any kind of human suffering. Wouldn't any sane human do the same? The burden to report hatred or violence shouldn't fall squarely upon the shoulders of the Muslim American community.
Muslim communities ALREADY work with law enforcement. According to a Muslim Public Affairs Council policy report titled Data on Post 9-11 Terrorism in the United States, "Muslim communities helped U.S. security officials to prevent nearly 2 out of every 5 Al-Qaeda plots threatening the United States since 9/11."
Muslim Americans contribute to our society and are an integral piece of the fabric that makes up this nation. We are the doctors who take care of your children, the engineers who help build this nation, the police officers who keep you safe, the cooks who feed the hungry, and the drivers who keep this country moving.
All Americans should report hate and threatening speech. If a man boasts about sexually assaulting women, I think those listening need to go to the police. Better safe than sorry.
More people need to visit mosques. If they did, they'd know people don't usually talk about their evil plots in the hallways. I've been inside more than 20 mosques throughout my lifetime and never once did I see anything suspicious, and I pray I never do.
What I usually see are people rushing to Friday prayers (the Muslim equivalent of Sunday mass) on their lunch break and grabbing a falafel sandwich on their way out to eat in their car ride back to work. I see senior citizens who come to enjoy dinner with friends and a stimulating conversation about politics. Oy! I hear sermons, encouraging people to respect their parents and help their neighbors. I see kids attending Girl and Boy Scout troops. I see summer camps and weekly lectures. I see communities who are trying to do good for their kids and future generations.
I encourage everyone to go to a mosque. Reach out to your Muslim friend or neighbor and ask for a tour. If you're Muslim invite your friends into your local mosque. Let them see and hear that there's nothing to be afraid of.