Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

I'm Muslim, and I hate terrorism

April 24, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
A woman makes a peace sign gesture at a protest in Los Angeles, California, against religious hatred.
A woman makes a peace sign gesture at a protest in Los Angeles, California, against religious hatred.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah says "despise" is not strong enough to convey how much he hates terrorism
  • He says Islam is being wrongly defined by a tiny group of morally bankrupt terrorists
  • American Muslims have denounced terror over and over, he says, but public hasn't heard
  • Terrorists are motivated by politics, he says. Not one Muslim he knows supports terror

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- I'm an American-Muslim and I despise Islamic terrorists. In fact, despise is not even a strong enough word to convey my true feelings about those who kill innocent people in the name of Islam. I hate them with every fiber of my being.

I'm not going to tell you, "Islam is a religion of peace." Nor will I tell you that Islam is a religion of violence. What I will say is that Islam is a religion that, like Christianity and Judaism, is intended to bring you closer to God. And sadly we have seen people use the name of each of these Abrahamic faiths to wage and justify violence.

The unique problem for Muslims is that our faith is being increasingly defined by the actions of a tiny group of morally bankrupt terrorists. Just to be clear: The people who commit violence in the name of Islam are not Muslims, they are murderers. Their true religion is hatred and inhumanity.

The only people terrorists speak for are themselves and the others involved in their despicable plot. They do not represent me, my family or any other Muslim I know. And believe me, I know a lot of Muslims.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah
'God, don't let it be a Muslim'
Group accused of posting anti-Muslim ads

We hate these terrorists more than non-Muslims do. How can I say that? Because they harm innocent people in the name of our religion and consequently we suffer a backlash because of their acts. It can be anything from a spike in hate crimes to people viewing Muslims as less than fully American because of our faith. We are the ones called to answer for the sins of people we detest.

Since the Boston bombing has renewed for some concerns about Muslims, I wanted to candidly answer three questions I have been asked repeatedly over the years:

1. Why do some Muslims commit terrorism?

I'm not a terrorism expert but I will share the view of those I have spoken to in the Muslim community. There can be no doubt that some Muslims wrongly believe that their terrorist act is sanctioned by Islam. But to us their true motivation is not religious, but rather political.

Islam is simply used by terrorists as a way to recruit support.They then engage in terrorism to bring attention to their grievances or to achieve their political agenda, just as other terror groups have done in the past.

The recent statement of the Islamic militant group in the Caucasus region denying involvement in the Boston bombing makes this very point. They expressly tell us that they have a specific political agenda: "The Caucasian Mujahideen are not fighting against the United States of America. We are at war with Russia, which is not only responsible for the occupation of the Caucasus, but also for heinous crimes against Muslims."

2. Why don't Muslims denounce terrorism?

Just to be clear: American Muslims and U.S. Muslim organizations have unequivocally denounced terror attacks. Not just once, but over and over.

But that doesn't matter if you haven't heard it. And despite our best efforts to get this message out there, what attracts more media attention: A Muslim denouncing terrorism or footage of an explosion?

Does that mean that we will stop denouncing terrorism? Of course not. But we will have to be more creative in our efforts to attract media coverage to make this point to our fellow Americans.

3. Why don't Muslims stop blowing stuff up?

I have never blown up anything, except maybe a model toy tank when I was a kid. Nor has any other Muslims I've met in person or even on Facebook. But still we are charged by many with the task of policing a religion of more than a billion people.

Although this may not change some people's perception, statistically Muslims have not been the ones involved in most terror plots in the United States. In fact, since 1995, 88% of the domestic terrorist plots have been by right-wing groups, ecoterrorists and anarchists, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress. But still, 12% were Muslims.

Believe me, we wish that number were zero. But here's the brutal truth: Neither law enforcement nor the American Muslim community can stop every radical or criminal who happens to be Muslim. A "lone wolf" can devise his or her evil plan in secret, making detection almost impossible.

But we are trying. As L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca testified before Congress in 2011, seven of the past 10 al Qaeda plots in the United States were foiled by tips from the American Muslim community.

And just this past Sunday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that his department has a strong working relationship with the New York City Muslim community.

And it's not only American-Muslims working with law enforcement to stop radicals, but Canadians as well. Just this week we saw an Islamic terror plot prevented because of tips from the Canadian-Muslim community to law enforcement

It is my hope that in time, Muslims will not be defined to my fellow Americans by the handful of terrorists, but by the millions of others who are involved in all aspects of American life. Well-known American Muslims range from former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, TV personality Dr. Oz, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison to police officers, teachers, judges, deli workers, cab drivers and the millions of American Muslims in between.

These people, not the terrorists, are the true Muslims.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 19, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT