Heraa is a 20-year old student at the University of Colorado studying Molecular Biology and Linguistics. “I try to be very active in the community as I see it as a moral obligation of any person to serve and do good for the betterment of people around them,” she says.
Heraa founded a very interesting website covers hundreds of condemn-messages published by Muslims, after the “Islamist” terrorist attacks. She defines his goal as “changing the narrative of Muslims in the public sphere, as well as alleviate misconceptions to build bridges of mutual respect, even in disagreement.” Today, Heraa will answer our questions.
Salam Heraa. Thanks for accepting our request. How did you get started to that work?
This work was a culmination of repeated encounters with the same question, “why don’t Muslims condemn violence?”. A specific incident in class pushed me to compile resources, and as I begin to save them on my computer, I thought why not to put them all into one document for easy access. It only built from there.
Do you see a similarity or common theme between the statements when listing them?
I want to be clear that as a Muslim, I don’t apologize for the actions of others. No one should have to apologize for things they didn’t do. Most of these statements acknowledge the horrifying, brutal reality of terrorism, and the humanity of condemning them as acts of evil, as anyone should. But they don’t take the responsibility of the evil itself, instead, the statements take the responsibility of further solidifying ties of unity and education.
What was the thing that caught your most attention in the statements?
The majority of statements go back to Islam: what the religion says and views such awful acts. I hope the statements speak for themselves.
It is obvious that these statements do not work if your friend says that “Muslims do not make any statements” despite the hundreds of explanations you have listed. Say what?
This has come up many times since I published the list. People will respond in one of the ways, either “Condemning is not enough, Muslims need to do more,” or, “700 pages is not enough, still a lot of Muslims don’t condemn”. When this happens, I respond that they had a question and I provided them with evidence to counter it. If they are unwilling to see or at least open a conversation, that means they question was never intended to be answered. As they’re already set in their beliefs that they refuse to change. I usually tell them, then, to visit a mosque, or meet a Muslim, as it can vastly change their perceptions.
Do you think that after every terrorist attack, should Muslims take a word and condemn them?
No, I don’t think so. As I said above, we should not be painted with the same brush. We have to apologize for things other people do. However, I do think the long-term solution to fighting Islamophobia is education and breaking through barriers of ignorance. It’s a two-way street, though – we can speak as loud as we want with our voices, but it’s moot if they are systematically silenced or ignored. So people have to be willing to listen as well.
After Trump’s presidency in the US, hatred for Muslims seems to have become more reckless. Are you hopeful as a Muslim woman in the future?
I believe Trump is not the cause of hatred, but a symptom. Islamophobia is a money-making machine that’s been festering in our country long before he was elected, and the fact he was able to get elected despite the things he said proves that. However, just as he validated this kind of hatred, this pushed people to act. I’ve never seen my friends more active, or my community more motivated to do good. This leaves me hopeful for the future, as with every action there is an equal. But I hope more powerful and positive reaction.