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
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT