On ABC's This Week, Two Muslim Leaders Debunk Conservative Myths About Muslims

CAIR's Nihad Awad And Congressman Andre Carson Explain That Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Leads To Backlash Against The Muslim Community

From the December 13 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The San Bernardino massacre and the debate stirred up by Donald Trump has focused attention and new threats on America's Muslim community. There you see a mosque in California victimized by arson, one of dozens of mosques targeted this year. And two offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations had to be evacuated this week after suspicious powders were sent to their offices. Here to talk about these threats and what America's Muslim community can do to combat the radicalization of young Muslims is Nihad Awad, the executive director of CAIR and Indiana Congressman Andre Carson, one of two Muslim members of Congress. Welcome to you both.


What has been the fallout in your community since San Bernardino, since the comments of Donald Trump

NIHAD AWAD: Good morning, George. As you can tell, the Muslim community is extremely concerned about the violent backlash against its members, against its institutions. As you have seen just a moment ago, the mosque that was firebombed last Friday. Quite few violent attacks have been taken place against individual Muslims. Hate messages, death threats, like our two offices were evacuated, the one in Washington, D.C., and in Santa Clara, because of suspicious powder that we received with a death threat on it. And luckily, everyone is safe and the matter is being investigated by the FBI. So, yes, there is a sense of anxiety and this comes, you know, in the background of the anti-Muslim sentiment that has been unfortunately fueled by Donald Trump and his likes from his platform.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Congressman Carson, you heard Senator Rubio this week, in the wake of Donald Trump's comments, saying there's no widespread discrimination against American Muslims.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): That's untrue. We live in an age where politicians are awarded for saying provocative things. You've seen cross tabs, you've seen poll numbers. When these politicians make these inflammatory remarks, they're rewarded by higher polling results. The facts are clear. Muslims have been a part of this country since the inception of this country. They're in our law enforcement community. I come from -- I think I'm the only member of Congress who has ever worked in an intelligence fusion center. There are judges. My father-in-law is the first Muslim judge. There are engineers. Go to any major hospital, you'll find a Muslim physician. The facts are clear, George. There are over eight million Muslims in this country who are making contributions to our society. And anyone who wants to be the commander in chief has to know that and accept this reality.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There's a real fear out there right now. What do you say to Americans? A majority in polls show that a majority of Americans believe that Islam is inconsistent with American values. They have an unfavorable view of Islam. What do those people need to know in your view?

CARSON: They need to know that there are numerous terrorist attempts that are thwarted, weekly almost. And they're thwarted because Muslims are working behind the scenes, helping to keep Americans safe. Look at our job numbers, there are Muslim businessmen and women who are starting businessed. And guess what George? They're putting Americans back to work. Americans should know that not only Islam are a religion of peace, but Muslims are here and a valuable part of our society.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Question Mr. Awad though is what do you do about the problem of radicalization in your community? George Washington University put out a report called “ISIS in America.” And it says that, “ISIS-related mobilization in the United States has been unprecedented. As of the fall of 2015, U.S. authorities speak of some 250 Americans who have targeted or attempted to travel to Syria/Iraq to Join the Islamic State and 900 active investigations against ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states.” And the number of young men who have been arrested on ISIS-related charges has doubled in the last year.

AWAD: As Congressman Carson has said, there are eight million Muslims in the United States. American Muslims are not the problem. Forty percent of the terrorist plots were thwarted by the contribution and involvement of the American-Muslim families and members. Also, let's look at the bigger picture. ISIS wants us to be afraid. ISIS wants to divide us. ISIS wants us to be afraid of one another.And unfortunately, the bigger picture is the fact that we have 355 mass shootings in 2015 alone, and we see disproportionate media and political attention given to the acts of few thugs related to ISIS in the United States. But not the 350 mass shootings which means, more than one mass shooting per day happened in the United States, mainly happened at the hands of people who are not of the Islamic faith. But unfortunately, we're giving a lot of credit to ISIS and to their recruited individuals, who are very few in the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Carson.

CARSON: I totally agree with Nihad. I just saw a report where the white supremacist group Stormfront -- this has been a call to action, the rhetoric that we're seeing, it concerns me. I think that most of our largest domestic threat comes from racial supremacist groups. I worked in counterterrorism, I know this to be a fact. What we have to understand is that we're living in a time where there's a restoration movement taking place. People want to take us back to some mythological good old days. And there are elected officials who are capitalizing on this sentiment. We will see next year the American people who are very intelligent, they will push back on this kind of rhetoric because it's very dangerous. Mr. Trump -- I've met Mr. Trump. I've read most of his books. He's smart man, which is why his rhetoric is that much more dangerous and we have to push back, George.