by Amina Khan
The term “Islamophobia” and the ostracization of Muslims have cemented a polarized community and scrutinization of a 1400-year-old religion. After every attack claimed under the name of ISIS, the debate once again sparks on whether or not Islam is an oppressive and violent religion. However, the conversation should not levitate towards fear of Islamophobia right after an attack, but rather on discussing terms on denouncing the radicalization and political agenda of so-called Muslims.
It is egocentric and offensive to victimize Muslims after a terrorist attack. Victimization is a weakness and it only reinstates the idea that “radical-Islam” is a religious concept when it is purely political. Therefore, Muslims should not have to apologize or condemn terrorist attacks, ever. Your first thought should be on how to educate people on the differences between a practicing Muslim and that of a psychologically disturbed extremist.
Repeating “not all Muslims are like that” and “Islam is a religion of peace” does nothing to gain friction for the conversation we need to be having. Trying to put a used band-aid on a bloody wound only hinders the discussion on why radical extremists even exist.
Hatred For the West + Extremism
Extremists hide behind the guise of Islam in order enforce their acts of horror sparked by an adamant hate for the West and to pursue a fanatical political agenda. Their hate is conditioned by the West’s historic responsibility for the radicalization of Islam under terms of Zionism, CIA backed coups, colonialism, Balfour, etc; things the West would like to ignore. Their treatment of Muslims as sub humans to be manipulated and exiled has abused a supremacist attitude. Therefore, these extremists are created and classified as psychologically disturbed but do not account for the Muslim community or Islam. Extremists despise modern society, and therefore, modern Muslims.
“Islamic-extremist online recruiters are very good at pulling in people who are mentally vulnerable,” Heather Hurlburt, of the Washington-based think tank New America, said.
“[ISIS] seems to calculate- correctly in my view – that small-scale lone-wolf attacks on symbolic targets will get it outsized attention. So you see these propaganda broadcasts encouraging individuals who may be mentally unstable, who may have had a little or no actual training, to use weapons like knives and cars that will surely lead to the attackers’ capture or death. The propagandists seem to understand the link between certain forms of mental illness and susceptibility to mass violence, even if we don’t,” Hurlburt added.
Unfortunately, people believe practicing Muslims are here to kill or forcibly convert non-Muslims based upon the illogical reasoning of their own interpretations of the Qur’an. Verses in the Qur’an are continually taken out of context by people who abuse the nature of Islam in order to fulfill the needs of a political agenda; whereas, hateful critics of Islam use verses to ‘warn’ the world about an illusion that Islam is destructive. Both sides are inherently similar in the sense they are unquestionably misleading. It is displeasing to see people choose to believe violent-natured evil men who are audacious enough to call themselves Muslim, over authentic and amicable Muslims.
Critics of Islam who seek to find a maleficent ideology behind a 1400-year-old religion use their platform as a scholar to fulfill this heroic perception of ‘uncovering the deep dark secrets of Islam’. It is understandable to be critical of Islam as it is necessary to fully apprehend religion; however, preaching hate and the defamation of religion whilst criminalizing its intentions with failure to fully understand it, is derogatory. Jointly, belittling one religion in order to prove another religion is superior demolishes any sense of tolerance, acceptance, and respect.
Violent verses in Qur’an discuss wars that took place in Meccan society in defensive battle. Nowhere in the Qur’an does it state to incite violence against innocent civilians. Those who do commit violence under the name of religion in modern society cannot be associated with Islam as their actions are misguided. Additionally, there is an entire four-hundred-page fatwah on deeming terrorism and violence as a major violation of the teachings of Islam.
Shari’a law is perpetually debated as scholars dissect and Islamophobes attack with little regard to actually understanding what it means. Creeping Shari’a is a non-existent movement as the set of ideologies is only utilized by practicing Muslims. Any claim that it is to be ‘forced’ onto the Western world is incredibly fallacious as it is stated in the Qur’an that “no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256) is conventional.
A further expansion of the misconceptions of Shari’a and Jihad can be found here.
ISIS’s War Against Muslims
Some scholars of Islam, such as Bassam Tibi, believe that, contrary to their own message, Islamic fundamentalists are not actually traditionalists. He refers to fatwahs issued by fundamentalists such as “every Muslim who pleads for the suspension of the Shari‘a is an apostate and can be killed. The killing of those apostates cannot be prosecuted under Islamic law because this killing is justified” as going beyond, and unsupported by the Qur’an. Tibi confirms, “the command to slay reasoning Muslims is un-Islamic, an invention of Islamic fundamentalists.”
Many are under the illusion that terrorists are going back to the roots of Qur’an and Sunnah which further stems the concept that practicing Muslims don’t realize what their Holy Book teaches. However, Eli Berman argues that radicalism is a movement seen to practice “unprecedented extremism“, thus not qualifying as a return to historic fundamentals.
ISIS kills far more Muslims than non-Muslims because Muslims do not share their invented vision of violence. The top countries that these terrorists attack include Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, India, Somalia, Egypt, and Libya. Unsurprisingly, these countries are Muslim-majority (minus India). Some of these countries hold laws that do not allow the freedom of religion and are strict against people who convert out of religion; however, these laws are not a reflection of Islam but rather cultural values. There are legitimate reasons why many Muslims emigrate to non-Muslim societies and there is no need to tolerate immigrants who resist assimilating into secular democratic societies.
On the other hand, the top terrorist attacks committed in America are by white individuals, not Muslims or foreigners. Despite the popular opinion that refugees and immigrants commit terrorist attacks, all terrorist attacks since 9/11 in America have been citizens or legal residents. Trump’s continuous attempt to propose a Muslim ban will have no effect on terrorist attacks; it only criminalizes innocent and vulnerable people.
Las Vegas Attack v.s. New York Attack + Media’s Role in Detecting “Terrorism”
Choosing to politicize one event and ignore the other is villainous and disgusting, but it’s not shocking in the American landscape.
The Las Vegas attack and the New York attack are two different issues (gun control versus political extremism) so both should be attacked from different angles, but attacked nevertheless. Though expected, it is still irritating to digest the rhetoric behind Trump’s reaction to the Vegas attack and Sutherland Spring attack compared to the New York attack. It is calculable that Trump would push forward his own political agenda over providing solutions towards the safety of Americans. Despite the fact gun violence is an issue that needs to be discussed, it is understandable to respect the second amendment right. However, those who want Muslims banned from the country should realize that this proposal violates several parts of the American Constitution including the very first amendment. Do not preach you are a true American aiming to ‘protect the country’ if you cherry-pick American values and cannot handle any critique of a flawed country.
Nevertheless, the argument should not be on whether or not mass shootings are more important than political terrorism, vice-versa. Labelling one person as a terrorist does not deduce the other individual as not a terrorist. Terrorism is defined under the FBI as: “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”. Yet, arguing over why the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs attack were not called terrorism is irrelevant and foolish. The word “terrorism” has lost its meaning as media has credulously granted ownership of the term to ISIS and radical jihadists, therefore terminology at this point is ineffective.
Media is responsible for deprecating the West’s view of Muslims through their strategic and systematic news broadcasting and creation of shows like Homeland. America is infatuated with the idea of maintaining a heroic and flawless identity which is maintained by labeling foreign countries as threats, specifically Muslim-majority countries.
Mistreatment of Middle-Easterners and Arabs
The New York attacker was labeled as ‘Middle-Eastern’ even though Uzbekistan is not located in the Middle East. The geographical misjudgment has demonized Middle-Easterners, Arabs, and Muslims. This aberration was an issue even before 9/11 in the Oklahoma bombing in 1995 where 168 people, including 19 children, were brutally murdered. The media had stated the FBI was looking for Middle-Eastern looking men, an analysis compelled by anti-Arab bias in Western culture. The suspect ended up being a white-American ex-Army soldier, Timothy McVeigh.
“To speak of people with dark Middle East complexions as authors of the terror even as the F.B.I. was issuing warrants for the arrests of white Americans is an act of terror, too,” said Abdelbari Atwan, editor of Al Quds, an Arab daily in London.
The credibility of facts is devoured by bias and opinion in a dangerous manner. Similarly, the recent New York attacker yelled “Allahu Akbar” before plowing into victims, a term that has unfortunately been used under negative circumstances but does not account for what it means. Practicing Muslims say “Allahu Akbar” several times throughout the day through prayer and if an enlightening event occurs. Imam Omar Suleiman has given an exceptional definition of the term; it is insulting to praise God and then commit murder.
The negative connotation of the Arabic language has forced society to be critical of Arab people. The Western conception of the Arab world has mustered up stereotypical standards like labeling the mistreatment and oppression of women an ‘Arab’ concern. Mistakenly, this conception fuels the notion that Islam is responsible for the oppression and abuse of women. It is ludicrous that people are not able to differentiate culture from religion. Islam has given more rights and respect to women way before modern Western culture, on matters like economic rights, equality to men, encouragement to work, etc.
Broadcasting the Muslim Narrative + Modernization of Society
Showing the community what a ‘normal’ Muslim is like, is not ‘breaking the stereotype’, rather it capitalizes a truth which people fail to notice due to ignorance and lack of knowledge. Many believe Islam is not compatible with Western culture, which is false. Yet, assimilating into Western society does not mean one should have to sacrifice their Muslim identity; however, not every Muslim holds the same set of beliefs and actions. Ultimately, the goal of radicals is confusing the two concepts of conventional Islamic teachings compared to extreme and misguided teachings. The aim for us is to modernize flawed societies that do oppress under the name of Islam and narrate Muslims in an enlightening and legitimate manner.