On Tuesday, three terrorists opened fire at Istanbul's Ataturk airport and then detonated suicide vests after a shootout with police. They killed at least 41 people and injured more than 230 others.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, the Turkish prime minister has been hesitant to link the attack to the Islamic State, and no organization has taken responsibility for the violence. Kurdish separatists have also been responsible for recent bombings in Turkey.
But, as is typical after an attack like this, several people in the United States and abroad have been quick to point a finger at Islam. For many, a terrorist attack like this — which Islamic extremists often claim to be doing in the name of Islam — is immediately and inextricably linked a diverse and global religious community. But yesterday, author and Arab Spring activist Iyad El-Baghdadi explained just how absurd that characterization was in a series of tweets.
In just one tweet, El-Baghdadi nailed exactly what so many Islamophobes in the United States are missing: "We are the first and biggest victims of ISIS, always." By recognizing the extremist group's claims that it represents an entire religion through homegrown bigotry, he added, we make them stronger and surer in their purpose.
After the activist's tweets quickly garnered a lot of attention, the Turkish press office sent out a thank you with photos of each of his messages attached.
Though the religious affiliation of people who died due to terrorist attacks is often hard to determine, one of the most sweeping reports — done by The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center — found that when the religious affiliation of victims could be determined, Muslims suffered 82 to 97 percent of the attacks.
The BBC investigated this report in 2015 and noted that the proportion of terrorist attacks in which the victims' religion was known was unclear, but several experts the news organization spoke to said 82 to 97 percent was probably in the ballpark of the real number. A 2009 report by the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point declared that seven times more Muslims had been killed by Al Qaeda than non-Muslims.
In the context of these numbers, Baghdadi's comments are an important reminder: though terrorists have killed people of all creeds, the Muslim communities they have targeted need our love and support just as much.
Our thoughts are with the people of Istanbul.
Cover image via Shutterstock.