Our view: ISIS wants to create fear and bigotry in U.S.

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It's looking more and more like the horrid mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, was all or in great part a terrorist act.

According to the New York Times, the FBI is now investigating the assault on civilians and police as terrorism.

The woman involved, Tashfeen Malik, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a Facebook posting right before the attack. Whether Malik and her husband, Syed Farook, actually had ties to ISIS or were self-motivated sympathizers remains to be discovered.

Regardless of whether the couple had any actual ties to the ISIS leadership, that heinous terrorist group no doubt applauds the carnage and chaos the couple brought to San Bernardino.

And ISIS no doubt would like our reaction to the attack to be one of fear, xenophobia, rejection of any refugees from ISIS terror and chaos in Syria, and scapegoating of and discrimination against American Muslims.

American discrimination against U.S. Muslims, whether through governmental measures or private acts of bigotry, would provide ISIS an ideal recruiting tool to radicalize more Westerners, including "lone wolves" who have no formal contact with the group. ISIS wants to nurture an "us versus them" mentality between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West and we need to deny them this satisfaction.

Similarly, not allowing any refugees fleeing from ISIS and the Syrian civil war to resettle in the U.S. further sends a message to the world that America looks down upon Muslims. It also makes us look small-minded and fearful. Sure, investigate these persecuted people thoroughly, monitor them after they arrive, but let's be the America of a big heart that many of us grew up in — let's not give in to fear. Additionally, the unwise invasion of Iraq in 2003 did much to create the conditions that led to ISIS, and we have some responsibility for this metastasizing mess in the Middle East.

The oft-repeated claim that moderate Muslims aren't condeming the violence and hate is false.

After Wednesday's attack the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a press conference and issued a press release condemning the attack.

"We condemn this horrific and revolting attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured," said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. "The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence."

Closer to home, the Facebook page of the Islamic Society of Vermont, located in Colchester, offered a poignant post on Thursday.

"The worst nightmare for American Muslims has come true at the worst time; it's the perfect storm. In this election year, when anti-Muslim rhetoric is already at an all-time high, a disgusting inhuman attack has taken place on American soil and the suspects are so-called Muslims," the post reads.

"So now we, seven million American Muslims, will all be viewed with suspicion in this country that we love and that we call home. We Muslims cannot simply grieve for the victims, like everyone else, but must now live in fear of an Islamophobic backlash; fear for our safety and lives. To my Muslim friends, especially those who dress visibly as Muslims, please be extra safe as you go about your day-to-day lives and try not to walk alone."

The person who wrote the post adds: "To our friends of other faiths, *please* help us inform the public that 99.9999 percent of America's Muslims are not extremists."

Polarization, hysteria, along with discrimination against Muslims and refugees in general make America untrue to its ideals and weak.

These maladies may benefit the haters and political demagogues so present now in our public life but they willl not make us safer.

On the contrary, such reactions play right into the hands of violent extemists, Islamist or otherwise.


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