My heart sank this morning as I heard the news: Police arrested two men, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo in connection with the Washington, D.C. sniper investigation. I was not upset that the men were caught; that was an answer to my prayers. I was upset that one of the men has a Muslim name, and many Muslims across the country (including the author) said to themselves, "Here we go again."

Now, I am not one to barrage the media for its "bias," but it seems to me that the media is fixated on mentioning that John Allen Muhammad--formerly John Allen Williams--changed his name after converting to Islam a few years back. Why is that material to the case? Would he have been any less evil if he was Christian or Jewish? Yet every news report I have read about the arrest mentions his conversion to Islam. Who cares? The apparent religion of a criminal (or terrorist) should never matter. A criminal is a criminal. Sadly, however, professed religious belief always seems to matter when it comes to Muslims.

Why am I concerned about this? Because the Muslim community will inevitably feel a violent backlash. After September 11, over 2000 incidents of anti-Muslim backlash were reported, and already a mosque in Maryland has been threatened. Of course, feelings of fear and anger are quite natural when there is a ruthless sniper at large indiscriminately killing innocent people. But when it turns out that this monster is a Muslim, this fear is translated into anger, hatred, and frequently violence against ordinary American Muslims, who probably have never heard of John Allen Muhammad before in their lives. This is wrong and serves to highlight the still-prevalent perception of American Muslims as the "other." That is why so many Muslims prayed to God for two things: (1) the sniper's capture, and (2) for the sniper not to be Muslim.

Nevertheless, all indications point to John Allen Muhammad being the vicious Washington D.C.-area sniper, and I am so very thankful to God he was caught. All I can say is the American Muslim community should not be blamed for the actions of individual Muslims. That will only make a tragic situation even worse.

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