Regina Mustafa: Extremists won’t derail our efforts to find peace

Have you ever had a stranger approach you and hand you their dirty laundry? Did you go ahead and wash it? For years now, I have been doing just that, albeit metaphorically.

Since the rise of the so-called "Islamic" State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), I have been washing and organizing the disgustingly filthy mess they have left behind. Countless local and global Muslims also have been lending a hand at my worn-out washboard, struggling to scrub out the stained spots of Islamic misconceptions.

Recently, the world has witnessed attacks in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, France and now Belgium. ISIS-inspired murderers also took the lives of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.

I have been speaking out against extremists for years and will continue to do so, despite the frustration of having to answer for heinous acts committed by people I have never met nor would ever want to meet. Yes, I find it immensely frustrating that I have been handed, over and over again, a heap of dirt made by a stranger.

But do you know what? I have a type-A personality, and therefore, I prefer my surroundings, as well as myself, to be impeccable, orderly and smelling hung on the clothesline on a sunny day fresh. I will for sure stand up for my religion, tarnished by these killers who dare to claim they speak for the faith I hold so dear. I will continue to be on the front lines, promoting understanding and education about all of our traditions.


I am hardly alone in this struggle for interfaith acceptance. I strongly and openly condemn these acts of terror because they also hinder the peaceful efforts already made by numerous non-Muslims right here in Rochester. Our city is blessed to have members of various faiths and organizations who have stood with their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, refusing to buy into these distortions of Islam. They have helped spread the true, peaceful message of all of our beliefs to their congregants, co-workers and neighbors.

A little more than a week ago, the South East Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers raised funds for a full-page ad in the Post-Bulletin showing solidarity with Minnesota Muslims. Donations came from city officials, business owners, religious groups and individuals. Muslims repeatedly have been welcomed with open arms (and huge Minnesotan-style bear hugs) at various gatherings in order to have a chance to counter stereotypes. How can I even begin to show my gratitude?

So when I speak up, I stand with the people of Belgium and the incredible people of Rochester.

Please remember though, if I don't initiate a bear hug, it has nothing to do with Islam, but more likely to do with the fact that I am from the East Coast.

Regina Mustafa, of Rochester, is the founder of Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam and a member of the Post-Bulletin's Community Editorial Advisory Board.

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