This past Friday, Saudi security forces stopped what could have been a horrific and deadly attack on Islam's most sacred city during the end of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims.
The terrorist was detected prior to the attack and cornered in an apartment, where he blew himself up. Six foreigners and five members of the kingdom's security force were injured in the blast.
According to security forces, the man was planning to attack Mecca's Grand Mosque, which houses the Kaaba, the most revered site in the world for Muslims.
Although it's unclear which terrorist organization the attacker was associated with, the so-called Islamic State (or Daesh) has carried out numerous attacks in the kingdom in the past, including an attack outside the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, leaving four dead, during Ramadan last year.
Muslims are the biggest victims of terrorism
This year's planned attack targeted the holiest site in Islam. Last year's attack targeted the religion's second most revered site, the place where the Prophet Muhammad himself is buried. Both attacks were planned to be carried out during Ramadan.
While many in the West somehow believe that terrorism is associated with Islam, terrorists are actually targeting the religion's most sacred sites and murdering Muslims throughout the world.
During the first few days of Ramadan this year, terrorists carried out attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving well over 100 people – the majority of whom were Muslim – dead, as the holy month was celebrated. And this number just adds to the ever-growing senseless body count throughout the Middle East and the world.
Researchers from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland in the United States have pointed out that Muslims are by far the biggest victims of terrorism in the world. This is particularly true when it comes to terrorist attacks in the Middle East.
"In the Middle East, Muslims are the most likely victims of both terrorism and counterterrorism efforts," START Executive Director William Braniff told ABC News.
Even U.S. President Donald Trump admitted that Muslims suffer the most from terrorism.
"In sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence," Trump said during his May speech in Saudi Arabia.
Yet Muslims are blamed for terrorism
Of course, Trump's words in Saudi Arabia stand in stark contrast to his fiery anti-Muslim rhetoric back home. And sadly, the American president is far from the only Westerner to inaccurately portray Muslims and terrorists as one and the same.
While Muslims continue to die senselessly from the violence of terrorists in the Middle East and North Africa, xenophobic and anti-Muslim individuals and groups terrorize the community in the West. Just during Ramadan, there were numerous attacks on Muslims and their places of worship in Europe and America, perpetrated by Islamophobic individuals who inaccurately associate the religion with global terrorism.
This trend is also on the uptick in the U.S., according to official statistics. Anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 67 percent in 2015, the FBI reported. Relatedly, anti-Muslim hate groups have also surged, tripling in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But Muslims are the problem?
Muslims consistently condemn terrorism
While it is true that numerous terrorist organizations, such as Daesh, claim to be associated with Islam, mainstream Muslims do not accept or respect these groups.
In 2015, 70,000 Islamic clerics from around the world officially condemned Daesh in a fatwa. Following nearly every terrorist incident, Muslim leaders and Muslim nations are among the first to condemn the violence and offer their support to victims.
But despite the overwhelming push from the global Muslim community to disassociate itself from violence, the narrative of Islam and terrorism going hand in hand persists.
Muslims are thus killed by terrorists in one part of the world and then demonized and targeted in another. When will the violence and misunderstandings end?