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
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1917 GMT (0317 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1359 GMT (2159 HKT)
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0017 GMT (0817 HKT)
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT