As is becoming an all too familiar pattern, many people have responded to the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester with Islamophobia. But don't blame Muslims for the Manchester attack — Muslims are as victimized by acts of terrorism committed by Islamist groups as members of any other religious groups are. And when a wave of Islamophobia follows an attack, it makes things that much worse for people who are already reeling from the violence.
Let's be clear about one important thing: ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack, does not represent Islam. ISIS represents an extremist agenda that claims to have ideological roots in Islam, but in reality, it has distorted its tenets beyond all recognition, in a way that is entirely abhorrent to modern-day Muslims. ISIS, said the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in 2015, "should be treated with no more credibility than any other group of fanatics."
When ISIS carries out a terror attack, its aim is to provoke fear among people as they go about their daily lives. The group's goal is to make people feel unsafe in their homes, their work spaces, their places of worship. Attacking a joyous and celebratory event like a pop concert is meant to inexorably inject fear into joy, and turn mourning into celebration. And guess what — today, that feeling is probably affecting people in Manchester, no matter whether they pray at a church, a mosque, or no place at all.
There are nearly 3 million Muslims in the UK, which amounts to nearly five percent of the population. This terrorist attack was directed at them too, and it will affect them the same way it affects the other 95 percent of the British population. They have committed no crime. And in fact, Muslims actually deserve more sympathy at a time like this, because of the way they're seeing the words of their sacred texts mutilated to serve a dangerous political ideology.
When people react by giving them dirty stares on the street and lashing out on Twitter, by claiming that Islamophobia doesn't exist because it's rational to fear all Muslims, it feeds the terrorists' extremist narrative. Islamophobia is damaging and unfair, and it ignores the messages of compassion and support that so many Muslim groups have sent.
Respond to the Manchester attacks with compassion for the victims and their families, but also for the Muslims everywhere who are now facing misguided hate just because ISIS wrongly claims to speak on their behalf. Islamophobia has no place in a world that wants peace.
Instead, here are some ways to help you can help.