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Facts about Muslim faith ignored as fear-mongering, fabrications spread

I am scared. They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

What scares me as an American of Syrian descent and Muslim faith is how normal and acceptable it has become to use the same rhetoric against the Muslim community today that's been used against the Jewish community before the Holocaust and Japanese Americans before the internment camps.

I attended last week a talk at one of the leading local political and social clubs in Manatee County, where one of the main speakers, just like some of today's leading candidates and politicians, blanket referenced the Muslim community as a threat.

Have we not learned what has happened in history when an entire group of people are categorized as a threat based on their race or religion?

Prior to the Holocaust, the Nazi propaganda machine spoke about the "Jewish problem" and how allegedly the Jewish community was organized into a diabolical scheme for world domination, and that Jews were liars and could not be trusted or be loyal to the state. Those are verbatim the same arguments that we hear made against Muslims today and which far too many Americans find acceptable.

It is the same hate with a new target. In both cases, masses of otherwise reasonable people were and are misled by leaders to demonize an entire group of people and portray them as a threat. The "threat" is fabricated using outright lies, half-truths, and double standards.

For example, the local speaker last week promoted the conspiracy theory that millions of Muslims are migrating to the West as part of an organized plan to take over because allegedly the Prophet Muhammad also migrated and "picked up the sword, and he conquered the entire Arabic peninsula, driving out all the Christians and Jews."

In reality, the migration we see is a direct result of our failed foreign policy that destabilized the Middle East, such as the illegal invasion of Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the birth of groups like ISIS. They are fleeing persecution, war and destruction to seek freedom, justice and opportunity.

Yes, the Prophet Muhammad also migrated, but that was also to escape the oppression and persecution he and his followers faced at the brutal hands of the powerful of Mecca.

When the Prophet Muhammad called the powerful polytheists to worship One God and that all human beings were equal before God, the elite responded by torturing, killing and abusing the Muslims for disrupting their social order, which made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina to seek freedom of religion and fought several defensive battles while building alliances with Jewish and Christian communities.

However, historical facts are conveniently ignored by politicians and hate profiteers who use fear and hate to gain votes or make a few bucks at the expense of dividing our nation. By understanding how the tactics used today are no different than tactics used to promote unjust policies in the past, and also by learning about the facts of history, we can avoid repeating the horrible mistakes of the past.

Hassan Shibly, is the chief executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida.

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