Every single time a shooting happens, we send our condolences, thoughts and prayers. We order flags to fly at half-staff and visit family members of the deceased and injured. And the cycle keeps repeating. There have been 251 mass shootings this year alone.
In the wake of recent back-to-back mass shootings recently, let’s ask a few questions:
• Were these shootings carried out by ISIS and or al-Qaida operatives?
• Were these shootings carried out by Muslims from banned Muslim countries?
• Were these shootings carried out by any refugees?
• Were these shootings carried out by any immigrants?
The answer to these tough questions is a resounding "no." This is homegrown domestic terrorism, carried out by some misguided and angry white youth born in America who believe in "White America" and not the United States of America. White American supremacy is America's ISIS.
Now the next question is what to do next in an environment of hate, fear and confusion. Here is my recommendation:
• We want our elected officials of both parties to recognize that hate is not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s a human issue — lives are being lost for no reason.
• We demand elected officials pass bipartisan resolutions in each state strongly condemning these attacks as they occur and categorizing them as domestic terrorism.
• We demand elected officials add white supremacists and neo-Nazis to the list of terrorist organizations as Canada did recently.
• We demand elected officials amend existing laws to explicitly allow the federal government to criminally charge these shooters with domestic terrorism. Recently, the FBI’s Michael McGarrity told the House Committee on Homeland Security that the FBI is currently investigating 850 cases of potential domestic terrorism and considers it a serious and persistent threat but can’t prosecute these cases because laws don’t exist.
• Elected officials must act on common-sense gun laws. The time is now.
• Mainstream and social media should take the responsibility of reporting facts and shouldn’t allow social media as a platform for shooters to promote hate agenda.
• The community should be fully engaged and take the responsibility of calling legislators and demanding the above.
• We need to recognize that economic insecurity is becoming a breeding ground for hate and a recruiting tool for hate groups. While unemployment is 3% or less, 40% of Americans are still struggling to decide almost daily which bills they have to pay.
While the above actions, if taken, might force these shooters to think twice before pulling the trigger, we, as a community, should educate these misguided youth about the following:
• Since you are born in this country, you may or may not realize what America offers, particularly if you haven’t lived in other countries. As an immigrant, I do.
• Diversity is our strength and not a weakness. We need to realize that what makes America exceptional and has helped build our great nation is our policy of accepting all people, no matter their origin, color or religion or even political affiliation.
• America promotes unity and not uniformity. People’s diverse opinions are respected.
• There is a difference between freedom speech and hate speech. The former builds the democracy, while the latter destroys it.
• We need to work as hard as we can to keep this country united so that it can continue to remain a role model for other countries to follow.
• We can only keep America safe when we all speak with one voice against those who want to divide or even destroy this country.
Please do not forget that if people can be taught to hate, then can easily learn how to love.
Take your first step today by joining our movement. Together, we can build an inclusive community and a stronger, prosperous America, free of violence and extremism.
God bless America.
Masood Akhtar of Middleton is a Muslim activist and founder of the We Are Many: United Against Hate movement.
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