In my speech — you can watch the unedited version here — I sent not a call to violence, but a call to speak truth to power and to commit to the struggle for racial and economic justice. I was speaking to an all-Muslim audience; as an American, I should be free to share and discuss scripture and teachings of my beloved Prophet. My statements were clear, and my activism track record is even clearer: My work has always been rooted in nonviolence as espoused by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Most disturbing about this recent defamation campaign is how it is focused on demonizing the legitimate yet widely misunderstood Islamic term I used, “jihad,” which to majority of Muslims and according to religious scholars means “struggle” or “to strive for.” This term has been hijacked by Muslim extremists and right-wing extremists alike, leaving ordinary Muslims to defend our faith and in some cases silenced. It sets a dangerous precedent when people of faith are policed and when practicing their religion peacefully comes with consequences.
Nevertheless, the attacks from xenophobes and the conservative media have continued. It saddens me deeply that my three children are frightened. It angers me that I have to think about securing my physical safety even while walking through the neighborhoods of Brooklyn.