Not a sum of their parts
Only vaguely do I recall the dread that encumbered me while viewing BBC’s live coverage of a terrorist onslaught on the Labour Party in Norway back in 2011. Fearing another diabolical deed of ‘Islamic’ terrorists, I breathed a sigh of relief as the perpetrator turned out to be a non-Muslim (Anders Behring Breivik) who was in fact Islamophobic. The loss of precious lives was not forgotten, but at least this incident had left Islam largely unscathed. The usual procession of condemnations, resolutions and memorial services followed as the world got together in mourning the victims. Rightfully branded a lone-wolf terrorist attack, the attacks slipped out of newsrooms soon enough. No state-of-emergency was declared in Norway, no city was locked down and no additional security precautions were taken worldwide. Anders was sentenced to preventative imprisonment, and all was done and dusted.
Fast forward four years, and Paris was ravaged by coordinated attacks. The assailants being Muslims, the global response was overwhelming. A three-month state-of emergency was declared in France, suspending public Christmas celebrations. Brussels was locked down, and supplementary security plans were enacted in the US and elsewhere. Greater military cooperation against ISIL was sought, one of the many changes in national policies following the attacks. Paris was showered with wreaths, candles and other memorial trinkets; so much that they had to be removed as the city resembled a cemetery. The whole international community (including Muslim countries) got together in mourning and denunciation of the atrocious act.
Despite the passage of several months, the attacks refuse to slip from public memory. An undesirable concomitant has been the marginalisation of Muslims in the west. Hate crimes against Muslims have been rampant, increasing three-fold in London in the week following the Paris attacks (76 reports in that week, up from 24 in the preceding week). The San Bernardino massacre by a Muslim couple had a similar effect in the US. A clip showing a Muslim woman in hijab being pushed onto an incoming train in London epitomises the magnitude of these anti-Muslim sentiments. Two incidents, similar in nature and gravity, resulted in antipodal public responses only due to the religion of the attackers. Why so?
‘Islamic’ terrorism, as it is conventionally termed, is more than the sum of its parts, being backed by radical ideology with the potential to damage democratic social structures around the world (even though crimes influenced by extremist ideology of any kind make up a microscopic portion of the crime incidents in the west). It’s a bane that curtails social freedom — people are petrified to the extent that a normal lifestyle is inconceivable — and enforces a rigid set of laws through persecution and retaliatory punishment. Governments recognise this threat and thus change policy. However, they inadvertently cater to the needs of emerging politicians and religious figures who feed on Islamophobia to command support. The recent demands of enforcing border controls in the EU and banning Muslim entry into the US are a blatant case of this phenomenon. Hatred against Muslims has spiralled to match the degree of anti-semitism in the first half of the 20th century as people frequently (and wrongfully) associate Islamic teachings with extremism. What follows is an attempt to enunciate the fraudulent scheme of ‘Islamic’ terrorism.
Extremist organisations mostly benefit from the prevalent poverty and/or staunch religious atmosphere in their backyards, concocting illusions of enslavement, thus posing as freedom fighters freeing Muslims from the ‘exploitation by infidels’. In relatively educated and developed regions, they convince individuals using similar tactics, urging them to “raise the sword” and capitalise on their superior education and financial situation. The brainwashing takes years, and without the presence of any moderate approach to life, it takes hold irreversibly. Either way, these groups seek political, commercial or social ascendancy by employing this illusion. Beneath this facade of religious fervour lie these sinister motives.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s consider two similarly terrorising entities, one fictitious and the other alive and kicking. First up is Bane, the throat-crushing arch-villain from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. A member of the League of Shadows, he makes Gotham a hostage citing the city’s degradation into corruption and crime, whereas he is hell-bent on wrecking the city. He concealed that motive, feigning concern for the common Gothamite using the illusion that the upper class ruled the city, living off their sweat and blood of the ordinary citizen. The use of a popular theme provided him self-assumed legitimacy to imprison the city despite miniscule support. Bane himself summarises this theme quite neatly here:
“We take Gotham from the corrupt. The oppressors of generations who’ve kept you down with myths of opportunity. And we give it back to you… the people. The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests and cast out into the cold world that we all know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. Blood will be shed. This great city…it will endure. Gotham will survive!”
Now let’s move to the real, more boring world. In an audiotape posted by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during Ramadan 2014, he encouraged Muslim operatives to support the Caliphate, join jihadi ranks in Iraq and Syria, and wage war leading to ‘Islamic’ takeover. Furthermore, he called upon all Muslims to support their ‘Islamic’ Caliphate to save themselves from the servitude of the unbelievers who filched their resources, denied them rights and conquered their lands following the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924.
The question is: are Muslim countries being misappropriated of their resources by the west? And the simple answer is: no, at least until they keep their own houses in order. We thus see two equally infernal individuals feigning understanding of the situation of a group to win support for their own cause: to damage these very people. This is the ugly facet of ‘Islamic’ terrorism, and it has done more damage to Islamic countries than elsewhere. Playing the religion card for its political motivations, ISIL had directly killed 24,015 civilians in the eight months of 2014 following the proclamation of its caliphate in Iraq alone (this figure doesn’t include casualties from related causes for example lack of basic food, water, medicine and other necessities, being trapped in ISIL-held regions, etc. Compare this with casualties in the Paris attacks, Charlie Hebdo attacks, etc, and it becomes clear that most of the victims of ISIL are Muslims themselves. In fact, the IRA did much more damage in the UK than ISIL has done in the entire non-Muslim world. The usage of the term ‘Islamic’ terrorism implies that these individuals follow Islamic principles, whereas the Quran forbids killing except by legal right, in the case crime and/or attacks on Islam (6:151). In reality, these folks are as Islamic as any other criminal.
Islam is being hijacked by these criminals, as is substantiated by these words of the self-proclaimed caliph of the ISIL:
“Islam was never the religion of peace. It is the religion of fighting.”
Being a Muslim, what does one feel upon listening to this? Hijacked… helplessly hijacked, as if someone broke into our Facebook account and posted all sorts of malicious remarks to destroy our friends list.
This is not a denial of the potential dangers of ‘Islamic’ terrorism, rather an attempt at analysing its roots. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were followed by an escalation of terrorist activity in most Muslim countries, which have borne the greatest portion of terrorism’s punch ever since. Military intervention legitimised the illusion of enslavement so that terrorist groups grew exponentially. The western powers joined the fray themselves and now incriminate Muslims as a community, which is an aspersion on Islam.
People must differentiate between the hijackers of the faith and its true believers. Hate crimes must end.