(RNS) It had been by the end of a religious service in the initial 10 days of Muharram, a few of the holiest days of the entire year for Shia Muslims, that news broke concerning the group of killings of Muslim men in Albuquerque three in the area of fourteen days. Initially suspected to be anti-Muslim violence, it had been now believed that the suspect under arrest was functioning on Shiaphobia discrimination against members of the Shia sect of Islam.
My partner, my daughters and I are Shia Muslims. We, like many members of my community, come to mind in what this attack opportinity for us and our kids. We are a residential area that has always been isolated and targeted, and these killings concur that Shiaphobia is alive and active.
Shia Muslims constitute a minority within the bigger Muslim American community, which itself is about 1% of the U.S. population. Carrying out a different lineage of successors to the Prophet Muhammad compared to the majority Sunni Muslims, we have been a minority aswell on the list of global Muslim community, amounting to about 10% of Muslims worldwide.
It really is difficult enough being Muslim in the usa. But my children along with other Shia Muslims feel isolation, vulnerability and additional loneliness in a global where we often battle to look for a sense of belonging. Our distinct theology, jurisprudence and ethical frameworks are assumed to be incorrect by the masses, adding to a dehumanization of my community. In lots of places, our religious and cultural narrative has virtually been erased.
At NY University, where Im a professor of Islamic law and ethics, my students who know my religious identity have questioned my legitimacy and scholarship, particularly in classroom discussions where I asked them to see beyond what they are taught in regards to a religion of near 2 billion people. Shia Muslims have always been seen as another with regards to discourse around Islam, which alienation has repercussions.
Because the stories arrived of Albuquerque, it proved these dangerous forces resulted in this violence. Authorities say the suspect, who had a brief history of domestic violence charges against his family and harbored Shiaphobia, targeted men locally who have been Shias or perceived to be Shias.
As a freshman in college, I was asked to leave the Muslim prayer space on my university campus by my Muslim peers because I’m Shia. I spent another two . 5 years of my collegiate career praying alone in a stairwell of the library. When I share my experience with young Shia Muslims, a huge selection of them say they will have had similar experiences.
As a chaplain at NY University, I consult with Shia Muslim Americans daily, and everyone I understand who identifies as Shia has experienced physical, verbal or (at least) casual anti-Shia microagression from privileged Muslims among others whose perception of Islam is shaped through negative media stereotypes. Reporting on political turmoil in Iraq and Iran, where Shia Muslims constitute many, often lacks nuance concerning the geopolitics of the center East, instead caricaturing Shia Islam as bad or evil. This skewed orientalist knowledge of Islam, in conjunction with america ties to Sunni majority countries which have long contributed to the genocide of these Shia communities, has allowed for a notion that Shias are less Muslim or less human than others.
The tragic episode in Albuquerque should be a rallying cry to generate avenues that allow Americans of most faiths and backgrounds to understand the important differences in religious practice and expression, their subtleties and also the headlines. Once we have conversations about diversity and inclusivity, it is essential for all of us to acknowledge that religion is really a salient part of identity for thousands of people in the usa. We must figure out how to utilize our differences as a way to obtain strength and growth.
Unfortunately, you can find few models for combating anti-Shia rhetoric in this country. At the Islamic Center at NYU, my colleague Imam Khalid Latif, a Sunni Muslim leader, and I’ve sought to produce a socially pluralistic space that embraces unity, however, not uniformity. We make an effort to create a host where Shia Muslims, Black Muslims along with other minoritized people on our campus can freely express their religious identity and you need to be without the qualifying statements.
There’s still a lot more work to accomplish, but its a part of the proper direction, and in a global filled up with so much darkness, a little incremental step must count for something.
(Sheikh Faiyaz Jaffer may be the associate chaplain at the Islamic Center at NY University and a professor of Islamic law and spirituality at NYUs Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.Follow him on Instagram @faiyazjaffer. The views expressed in this commentary usually do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)