In the wake of yet another terrorist attack on our homeland, American hearts ache for the 49 lives lost and many others terribly wounded due to the brutal, terrorist violence that was perpetrated two weeks ago in Orlando. We mourn for the souls who were so suddenly and cruelly taken without mercy. We mourn for their families, friends and the LGBT community.
Above all, we share a deep concern for our nation, which is under attack not only by those who use violence to strike fear into our hearts, but also by those who repudiate our most deeply held values through fear-mongering, divisive politics and the rhetoric of hate.
Just in the last few weeks, our nation came together to celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali, who left a legacy that emphasized hard work and the pursuit of peace and justice — a legacy that has inspired millions of people across the globe. He was one of the many Muslim American leaders and role models who were a product of American society, struggled for justice, and also came to fundamentally reshape it for the better.
Muslim Americans are a vital and treasured part of American society. As citizens, they belong to this nation and contribute to our history, success and heritage, as do Americans of many creeds.
Our diversity is our strength, and that diversity is compromised when we allow people to play on popular prejudices and ignorance to exclude or stereotype entire groups of Americans based on color, religion, sexual orientation or national origin.
Here is the reality: terrorism is a threat that has touched every corner of the globe and will challenge us for years to come. Even the names of our beloved cities — New York, Washington, D.C., San Bernardino, Orlando and Boston — are now uttered in a new context.
Not only does terrorism threaten the lives of our citizens, but the fear that comes in its wake can threaten the very soul of our democracy. We must remain vigilant against the fear of terrorism and our impulse to take drastic measures that undermine our cherished civil liberties that set us apart from the world.
Another reality is that while terrorists have often claimed to commit their brutal crimes in the name of Islam, most victims of terrorism are Muslims. In fact, our own National Terrorism Center estimates that between 82 and 97 percent of the victims of terrorism worldwide are Muslim men, women and children. We must never allow the crimes of the few to blind us to the goodness of the many.
Just as Muslims are often the first to be victimized by terrorism, they are also our best allies in fighting it. The best early warning of suspicious activity isn’t government surveillance — it is vigilant citizens, including the Muslim community. We must never judge people based on their religion, but on their individual commitment to a just, lawful and peaceful society.
At this very moment, the overwhelming majority of those who are putting their lives on the line to fight extremist groups like ISIS in Iraq and Syria are Muslim soldiers — from Iraqi, Kurdish, Turkish and American forces. And Muslims are valued members of Congress and our intelligence, military and law enforcement communities.
I am proud to represent one of the most vibrant Muslim American communities in the United States, and I am proud to have Muslim Americans as part of my staff.
I agree with President Obama that alienating our Muslim American community and attempting to use a broad brush to paint Islam as the enemy is strategically unwise, morally reprehensible, and contrary to American values. It is as counterproductive as it is dangerous — not only because we risk inciting terrorism and alienating potential allies, but because we risk compromising our national values of freedom of religion, equality and justice.
Terrorists want us to hate. If we give in to hate, then they win. But Americans are strong, Americans are united, and I fervently believe that American values are human values and will ultimately prevail.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, represents the 46th Congressional District. She is a candidate for U.S. Senate.