By Yasmin Ahmed
November 18, 2014
An Indian Muslim woman feeds a decorated horse, part of a procession to mark Ashoura in Bangalore, India, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Shiites mark Ashoura, the tenth day of the month of Muharram, to commemorate the Battle of Karbala when Imam Hussein, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was killed. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
After 9/11, and the purported responsibility of Islam as the event’s driving ideology, it could have been predicted that there would be anti-Muslim sentiments. However, one could have never guessed that 13 years later Muslims would be viewed far worse than in those first few months.
In fact, Islamophobia has seen a drastic increase in correlation to other global events — ironically, even when Muslims themselves are the victims. A recent example is the hanging of Reyhanah Jebbariin Iran and the convoluted reaction against Muslims that resulted.
Yet such reactions have extended past verbal abuse and now encompass an institutionalised practice of sweeping generalisations in favour of vilifying Muslims and Islam and an absurd lack of regard to individualism within human nature. It’s reminiscent of justifications used for previous disasters and an ironic reflection of what “terror” groups themselves teach, and forces Muslim-response campaigns which under any absence of such embarrassing double standards would not be necessary.
The fact of the matter is that Muslims have always spoken out against groups like ISIS. Yet it is worth noting that after these extremist groups act, Muslims across the globe (and in particular the Western world) are left stranded in the centre of an imperial dichotomy which labels them according to “fundamentalist” and “moderate” Muslims.
It is relatively clear that innocent people are being targeted in retaliation to events which are on all accounts disconnected from them; for instance, the Lee Rigby incident on the 22 May 2013 saw the immediate rise of Islamophobic attacks.
Now, ISIS have invited a barrage of daily mishaps against all kinds of Muslims (or even those that appear to be Muslim). Most prominently, Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students Officer was faced with immense insults over her vote against a potentially Islamophobic motion. The entire body of the National Union of Students voted, nonetheless this young woman was singled out due to her religion and dragged through the mud (so to speak) in the tabloid press and on social media. The vote against the motion itself was justified and made clear that it was not a refusal to condemn ISIS (a falsehood encouraged by sensationalist journalism), but rather a problem with a particular resolution within that motion.
It should be clarified that the notion of religious responsibility actually excuses the perpetrator in favour of demonising an entire religion. You are, quite literally, focusing your judgement, disapproval, and abuse at innocents while the guilty walks you by. It is the worse kind of conviction as it completely vindicates the transgressor.
Condemning the individual(s) responsible is surely more just.
The irony of these incidents, especially in the case of ISIS, is that Muslims themselves are being targeted more than any other group; Sunni and Shia Muslims are being killed and enslaved in thousands in Iraq and Syria. More than anyone else, Muslims are the victims of these extremist groups — both in the sense of their direct impact (death toll in Iraq), and indirect impact (targeted abroad due with Islamophobic attacks in reaction to groups like ISIS).
The main implications of frequent hate crimes, including the recent murder of a Saudi Arabian woman in Colchester whom was stabbed 13 times and an Afghan boy shot in Australia, are ignored. Beyond this, there are hundreds of other cases of extreme violence against Muslims (simply because they are Muslim) in the UK alone, thousands in Europe, and tens of thousands in the US.
Arson, bombing, desecration, and vandalism of mosques, religious centres, schools, and Muslim homes have grown to thousands of reported incidents in any given year. Muslim women and men are spat at, screamed upon, beaten, and subjected to daily harassment in public. Instances of cyber-abuse are now completely normal.
The extent of such victimisation is so severe, in fact, that Fox News suggested a few weeks ago that Islam is the enemy and as such all Muslims should be profiled, legally identified, then separated from society — exactly what Jews suffered under the Nuremberg Laws implemented in 1935 by Hitler. For a global-reaching media outlet with an average of more than two million viewers to be allowed such statements on air is preposterous.
Considering all this, it is ridiculous to promote the idea that Muslims “must” speak up against ISIS. Muslims are relentlessly put in the position to defend their faith from irrelevant external influences which predominantly go against the most basic Islamic teachings followed by more than 1.5 billion Muslims across the planet. How is it that a mere 0.1% minority have been allowed to subject over a billion others to the label of “other Muslims?”
It is not religion which controls a person’s personality. There are good, and bad people. Human nature is based on free will. If you are a good person, your religion will bring out the best in you. If you are a bad person, you will use religion to justify your actions and garner support from those of a similar nature.
Even if there was no religion, those with a twisted agenda would fabricate some other basis for their actions and pursue them anyway.
The danger of blanketing a religion, a group of people, with such labels of “evil” is that these were the same assertions used to instigate all previous genocides of a certain group in recorded history. For instance, Nazis believed Jews were out to control the world, and so launched the holocaust- the same criteria was used in Rwanda, and Yugoslavia by Hutus/Tutsis, and Serbians/Bosnians.
In fact, this predominant focus of Muslims as “the nemesis” which is the reason for growing Islamophobia reflects exactly what ISIS teach themselves. Their justification is “us” and “them;” so for this to be perpetuated in the West too — is falling right into ISIS plans. To alienate and marginalise Muslims to the point where every other word from their mouth must be a defence for their faith and livelihood is what garners the ideology and narrative ISIS is based on, and the same one ISIS will enjoy to further their reach.
Should Muslims really be compelled to apologise for and defend their faith day in and day out? The rise of ISIS in the Middle East and the spread of extremism around the world has unusually led even more liberal figures to condemn Islam as violent and intolerant.
This shows that these groups appear to be hijacking the name of Islam — would a reaction from Muslims constantly justifying their faith not only reinforce the strength and grasp these militants have on the religion?
Recently, the “Not In My Name” campaign launched mass support in favour of Muslims. Though well-envisioned and the aim admirable, it exposed a sad reality. It is unfortunate that Muslims have been forced to feel such actions are necessary. That they must dedicate a portion of their lives simply to justifying their existence and distancing themselves from those that are using their religion as a name for evil.
There seems to be two sets of categories perpetuated that a Muslim must now fall into: fundamentalist or moderate, sympathiser or extremist-condemner.
This article is a proud declaration that such labels do not exist. Radicalisation does not exist. The moment you start forming ideals on how best to behead another human being, you are not “radicalised,” you have already left Islam.
You are either Muslim, or you are not; and within that right is the same right to remain silent about ISIS should you wish to, and lead a peaceful life nevertheless. The same right every other religion has when their adherents (KKK and the Protestants, LRA in Uganda etc.) choose to act in a barbaric manner and the world isolates the actions to those individuals.
Having said that, I will condemn ISIS but not because I am a Muslim. I will condemn ISIS just like I condemn the Holocaust, the Yom Kippur war, the genocides in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. I will condemn ISIS, but not because I am Muslim.
I will condemn ISIS because I am human.