Muslim Americans are often challenged to defend their religion in ways that followers of other faiths are not, and as a 19-year-old Muslim teen, Heraa Hashmi had known that to be true.
Recently in one of her classes, Hashmi was confronted by another student who asked why Muslims did not condemn violence when perpetrators committed such acts in the name of Islam. Of course we do, she responded, but the conversation kept going in circles, leaving the both of them equally frustrated.
So Hashmi decided that she had had enough. At home, she dug deep into the corners of the internet and created an extensive, painstakingly organized list of Muslim figures who condemned violent acts committed in the name of Islam.
Hashmi told A Plus that her decision to create the spreadsheet stemmed from the "buildup of quite a few things," including the that the Muslim community has long been held to a different standard, one that placed accountability on them as a whole for the actions of a few people.
"When people ask, why don't Muslims condemn things, it paints a faith of 1.6 billion people with the same brush. Any sane human condemns violence and such awful attacks," she said. Hashmi's list was made not just for her classmate, but for anyone who felt compelled to ask the same question. "Just because they don't see something doesn't mean it's not there," she continued. "Muslim and Islamic organizations are often the first to release press statements following attacks, and [we] encourage our communities to donate and volunteer our time to help.
She posted screenshots of the document on Twitter, and shared the link to the list on Google Docs with her followers.
Hashmi's list was a hit on social media. Her initial tweet about it was shared more than 13,000 times; two other Twitter users even created a website based on her spreadsheet, www.muslimscondemn.com.
Hashmi said that she was shocked at the overwhelmingly positive response. "I tweeted it out at the urging of a friend and we discussed how it would be a good resource for the public," she added, but acknowledged that it was so resonant because it has "given them a tool to use in situations similar to the one I was in."
Her long list may not be deter the more unwavering of biases, but Hashmi's message is clear.
"Muslims strive to be a strong community that contributes to our society and wishes the best for everyone regardless of the things that make us different," she said. "We mourn with you, we celebrate with you, and we want to do our part to build bridges and acceptance."