Tag Archives: Edina Lekovic

Homegrown Terrorism: The Truth We Don’t Know

Since September 11, 2001, when many Americans hear the word ‘terrorism’, or when they think of a ‘terrorist attack’, they think of an act perpetrated by a foreign entity. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center were perpetrated by 19 foreign-born Arab hijackers recruited by Al-Qaeda, leading some Americans to equate all attacks to Islam, leading to Islamophobia, or a fear of Islam, and a fear of foreigners in general.

“It is important to go back to the definition of terrorism,” said Edina Lekovic, the Director of Policy and Programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, “so that Americans know the United States is talking about all forms of politically-motivated violence that take civilian lives, instead of misunderstanding what terrorism is about.”

In fact, every lethal terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, whether in Fort Hood or Boston or San Bernardino, has been conducted by American citizens or legal permanent residents.

“Terrorism has to have three vital components,” said Erroll Southers, USC’s Director of Homegrown Violent Extremism and Director of International Programs. “It has to have a threat or an act of violence, some legitimizing ideology it’s attached to, and have a civilian, most likely a victim, that’s going to be some political driver to it.”

Media play a huge role in the misconception some Americans have that all terrorism is linked to Muslim perpetrators.

“Today, when there’s an act of violence, if [the media] don’t mention that the person who perpetrated it is Muslim, I know he’s not and that is a code,” Southers said. “It becomes a driver for what the public hears and perceives, and they pick up on that.”

“The media give us ways of thinking about things,” Lekovik said. “When we only get one piece of the overall picture, and that picture is exclusively through the lens of bad news, then we have a fundamental misunderstanding of who a group of people are.”

Last year, 52 people were killed in acts of domestic terrorism, Southers said. An equal number of those 52 were killed by white supremacists as were by Muslims, yet the majority of law enforcement officers’ efforts seem to be against Muslims.

The Department of Homeland Security started the campaign, “See Something, Say Something,” to raise public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement, but Southers argued the campaign is skewed too strongly against foreign threats.

“The government needs to “see something, say something” on all things,” he said, “and that’s not being done equitably. The best approach to handle this is through real community engagement. Communities have to own, and direct, and drive and sustain efforts, so violence doesn’t happen.”

“It’s powerful to model for the public, a way to engage with Muslims, that says ‘we stand together’ in solidarity,” Lekovic said.

She pointed to Los Angeles’ Mayor Garcetti’s 2016 visit to the Islamic Center of Southern California, where he participated in the weekly prayer, and shared a message of unity and support for Muslim-Americans living in Los Angeles.

“Those messages are very powerful, and need to get out to Angelinos and Americans at times like this, when we feel uncertain,” Lekovic said. “When we feel uncertain, we feel fear. When we feel fear, our brains turn off and our hearts turn on and we don’t always make the best decisions in those circumstances.”

Moderator: Alexi Chidbachian

Anchor: Scott Sanders

Producer: Gabrielle Ortega

Social Media Editor: Danielle Pendleton

Reporters: Sophie Ashley, Alexi Chidbachian, Gabrielle Ortega, Danielle Pendleton, Scott Sanders, Joshua Spidel

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Politics of Fear

Millions of Muslims around the world have had their religious faith put on trial because of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and Brussels. Some political analysts and American Muslims fear that the battle for the Republican nomination has prompted controversial rhetoric against their religion, including proposals to register Muslims already living in America, order police to patrol their neighborhoods and mosques, and ban any further immigration.

Islamic leaders and imams in several countries say they are not responsible for terrorist organizations, and that terrorists should be recognized as separate from their religious beliefs.

Muslim Public Affairs Council President Salam al-Marayati, said in a news conference in Los Angeles following the San Bernardino attacks, that the Muslim society will not be divided by ignorant hate.

“In the media landscape, one of the only times there is an opportunity for the Muslim voices to be heard is in the aftermath of a terrorist attack,” said Edina Lekovic, Public Affairs Consultant at the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “It sets up one of the few opportunities for there to be a mainstream Muslim voice, but it’s still in the context of bad news.”

Muslim organizations in America say they have seen unprecedented spikes in hateful episodes after anti-Muslim remarks were said by some presidential hopefuls. There have been many cases of vandalism and threats made towards mosques and those who attend them.

“People are going to have fundamentally, deep and profound disagreements about the highest things, and unless they get a sort of grip over themselves (and) learn to contain themselves, (then) these disagreements will find themselves in violence and political violence,”  CSUN Political Science Professor Nicholas Dungey said.

“Look we’re all concerned about safety,” Lekovic said, “and that’s something that I react to, too. It’s not a Muslim thing, a white thing, a black thing, a Latino thing…At this stage in our country, it’s an American thing.”

Moderator: Ala Errebhi

Anchor: Noemi Barajas

Producer: Ala Errebhi

Social Media Editors: Jamie Perez and Caitlin Pieh

Reporters: Noemi Barajas, Halie Cook, Juaneeq Elliott, Ala Errebhi, Jamie Perez, Caitlin Pieh and Nicholas Seaman
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The Bogeyman Thesis: Islamophobia Examined

Islamophobia is a term meaning prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam and Muslims.  A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in 2010 found that 49 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of Islam, a 39 percent increase from 2002.

Some experts believe that the prejudice against Islam since the September 11, 2001 attacks is partly the result of fear-mongering from politicians and competition for viewers among news media.

“Fear can be utilized to inspire, motivate and influence,” said CSUN Political Science Professor Boris Ricks. “It is certainly a tactic, used to achieve political ends or outcomes.”

“With respect to the media, we cannot demand how they operate,” said CSUN Political Science Professor Kassem Nabulsi. “This is a capitalist society. They are after ratings. They are not anti- Muslims themselves, although some talk shows are absolutely, but [not] the general media. Accusing the general media with a broad brush is the same way they are accusing us as Muslims, with a broad brush.”

But Islamophobia may have real consequences on the public dialogue and on American Muslims.

“If you don’t know any Muslims personally, it’s no wonder you fear them, because when you turn on the TV, it’s nothing but frightening images,” said Edina Lekovik, the Director of Programming and Policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “But treating Muslims like an ‘other’, it’s unhealthy.”

Sixty percent of Muslim Americans say Americans show prejudice towards them, according to a recent Gallup report.

“Everybody accuses everybody,” Nabulsi said. “Terrorism for us, in America as Muslims, it’s our problem like every American…and we need to improve as much as possible our discourse, by first and foremost confronting this issue with our fear.”

The Gallup report also found Muslims are 48 percent more likely than Americans of other major religious groups to say they have experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year.

“What we need to do,” Ricks said, “… is we need to be continually be vigilant, speak truth to power, to ensure stereotypes and phobias are rejected, and see them for what they are: social constructions… collaboration and participation can do that.”

The Center for American Progress published a report entitled “Fear, Inc” in 2011, suggesting that Islamophobia has its roots in a campaign of misinformation from a relatively small group of organizations with an interest in misrepresenting the realities of Islam. According to the report, the resulting fear has had a negative impact on the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution, and it has fueled the belief that the West is at war with Islam and Muslims.

“Phobia – what I call the bogeyman thesis – is not going anywhere,” Ricks said. “It has been a tactic used by elements in society for various reasons and it is a form of behavior modification; if you want to move a country one way or another, you use the element of fear.”

“We can look back on whether this fear has been perpetuated by one group stereotyping another,” Nabulsi said, “but now we’re trying to reverse the trend by creating a different platform for our conversation.”

“I have to be hopeful,” Lekovic said. “I have to look at the future as a better place than today. We need to not move minds, we need to move hearts. Muslims are one of the most integrated communities in the country, and people just need to know us for who we are.”


Moderator: Ashley Goossen

Producer: Nancy Moreira

Anchor: Beau Akers

Reporters: Beau Akers, Samantha Benitz, Ken Harvey and Briseida Holguin

Social Media Editor: Cristal Canedo

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