As veterans, mostly of the U.S. military, we extend our sympathy to the family and friends of those killed and injured recently by bombings in Brussels, Belgium, in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey, in Lahore, Pakistan and dozens of other places around the world since the November 13th attack in Paris. Many of us know all too well what it means to have people close to us killed. There is never any justification for such acts of violence.
As veterans who have come together to challenge Islamophobia, we call on politicians and all of us here in the United States and around the world not to blame Muslims for the actions of a few people who say they practice the faith of Islam. Indeed, the majority of terrorist attacks since the attack in Paris have been in majority Muslim countries killing many Muslims. Further, calls to blame Muslims are a call to blame some of us who are Muslim-American veterans of the U.S. military. Many of us have also served in Muslim countries of the Middle East and have gotten to know Muslims personally. We know firsthand that the vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding and productive citizens.
We came together recently to issue our call against Islamophobia specifically because of our concern about our country's reaction to events like these bombings. We have a long history in this country of using violence when we are afraid—against Native Americans, against African-Americans, against Chinese and Japanese-Americans, against Latin-Americans and now increasingly against Muslim-Americans. We know this history because we ourselves are veterans who come from all these different ethnic backgrounds.
Perhaps most concretely, blaming Muslims plays into the hands of our enemy. ISIL tries to convince Muslims around the world that the West, led by the U.S., hates them. Using the Internet, ISIL presents itself as the only way to defend their religion. Every bit of anti-Muslim hate speech, every attack on a Muslim-American, gives credibility to their recruitment propaganda. By playing into ISIL's strategy, hate speech and acts of violence make it more likely that young men and women from the United States will fight and die in an unnecessary war.
We ask every other veteran who has risked his or her life in service to our country to join us in Veterans Challenge Islamophobia.
Veterans Challenge Islamophobia (www.VeteransChallengeIslamophobia.org) is a broad outreach campaign, initiated and coordinated by Veterans For Peace (VFP). All veterans who agree that bigotry and religious intolerance must be challenged are welcome. Veterans do not have to join VFP or agree with VFP on other issues to participate.