President Obama was right in not referring to ISIS by its chosen name of Islamic State, for it is neither Islamic nor a state. Unfortunately, the western press is not just providing ISIS with a semblance of legitimacy by referring to them as the Islamic State, but by so doing also disseminating a total misperception of Islam around the world.
(Daily Times, 2 October 2014)
As Australia joins the war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and Australian media is saturated with reports about the ISIS threat, police in Sydney has termed as a hoax text messages making the rounds claiming that members of ISIS are knocking on people’s doors and marking Christian houses.
A few days ago, an Australian navy officer claimed that he was assaulted by two men of “Middle Eastern appearance” who threatened to cut his throat while he was standing in uniform in front of his home in Sydney. It was reported so widely that, after police found the allegation to be false, Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin saw it fit to apologise “to the Middle Eastern community for any angst the allegations caused” them.
Fox News presenters in the US ridiculed as “boobs on the ground” the Arab female pilot from the UAE who had taken part in a bombing mission of ISIS targets in Syria. While burqas and niqabs attract much commentary in some quarters in the West, the fact of a female Arab combat pilot invites sexist and racist jokes.
As ISIS goes on a rampage in parts of Iraq and Syria, Islamophobes in the West are on a rampage of their own. No matter that the total number of Muslim youth from the Western countries fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria would be miniscule relative to the number of White supremacists, skinheads, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members in these countries, the media is creating the impression of a West under siege by ISIS.
The truth is, ISIS is more of an actual threat to Muslims than to anyone else, and in more ways than one.
On the one hand, it is Muslims who are bearing the brunt of ISIS atrocities: Sunni Kurds, Shia Arabs, Sunnis who support the governments in Baghdad or Damascus and anyone who does not agree with them. Muslim shrines have been destroyed or desecrated by ISIS vandals.
On the other hand, Muslims everywhere, from Sydney to Stockholm and from Melbourne to Montreal, have been put on the defensive. They have to clarify that they or their religion have nothing to do with the ISIS. And no matter how frequently and passionately they clarify, it does not suffice.
Islamophobes and many well-meaning non-Muslims often ask: where are the moderate Muslims, why do they not speak out against Islamic extremism as represented by Al-Qaeda and ISIS? Well, they always have, but their voices do not carry the same newsworthiness as the beheading of an innocent western journalist by an Islamist extremist.
For the record, in August Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz, the highest religious authority in the country, said that ISIS and Al Qaeda were “enemy number one of Islam” and not in any way part of the faith. This is not the first time that an Arab king, president, sheikh or mufti has condemned these groups by name.
“Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisation, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims,” the Saudi Sheikh said in his latest statement.
As recently as last week, 126 Muslim scholars from around the world signed an open letter to the “fighters and followers” of the so-called “Islamic State”, denouncing them as un-Islamic.
Quoting chapter and verse from the Quran and Hadith, the 18-page letter released on September 24 blasts the ISIS ideology point-by-point and concludes: “As can be seen from everything mentioned, you have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder. As elucidated, this is a great wrong and an offence to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world”.
The signatories of the letter are a virtual who’s who of the Islamic world, muftis, sheikhs, imams, professors and researchers from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America.
President Barack Obama was right in not referring to ISIS by its chosen name of Islamic State, for it is neither Islamic nor a state. Unfortunately, the western press is not just providing ISIS with a semblance of legitimacy by referring to them as the Islamic State, but by so doing also disseminating a total misperception of Islam around the world.
It is hardly surprising that hundreds or even a few thousand Muslim youth from Muslim as well as Western countries have joined ISIS. Those who are serious about understanding this phenomenon will not have much difficulty in doing so. And those who merely wish to use these developments to whip up an anti-Muslim frenzy or to reinforce their own Islamophobia will find it easy to blame Islam for this nihilistic enterprise of some angry Muslim youth.
It is not just Muslims who see the continued Israeli atrocities against Palestinian Muslims as one of the greatest ongoing injustices of the last century. That this is only possible due to the unstinted support of the US for Israel does not escape anyone’s notice.
And it was the US, in cahoots with the UK, which launched the most unjustified, illegal and immoral war of recent times, against Iraq, another Muslim country. The number of people killed and maimed from that war runs into the hundreds of thousands.
Islamophobes may have erased from their memory the countless massacres, atrocities and indignities inflicted on Muslim countries by the US, UK, France, Israel and their Christian Lebanese allies over the last half century or so, but the victims, their descendants and sympathisers have not, particularly since the atrocities continue. Abu Ghraib is not too old, and the rubbles of thousands of Palestinian homes in Gaza bear witness to the most recent atrocities.
Who will deny that the ISIS phenomenon is a direct result of the Iraq invasion and the indirect and cumulative consequence of the numerous atrocities and indignities heaped on Muslim countries by the West and Israel. The fact that the West (and even Israel) can count some autocratic Arab regimes as their allies and friends does not lessen the injustice but exacerbates it.
By Razi Azmi
Razi if I didn’t know you were a tea totaler, I would have said this rant was caused by alcohol. A few years ago I was having dinner with a senior Chinese politician who was having an anti Japanese rant rather similar to the diatribe above. I accepted that the Japanese had been awful to the Chinese and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese in WW2. I then made the point that the Chinese had killed more Chinese than the Japs ever did.
And of course the same applies in the Middle East where the Arabs are as busy butchering their fellow Arabs today as they have ever been. If the current situation in the Middle East is because of the invasion of Iraq a decade ago, what caused the centuries of slaughter between the various Arab tribes before the invasion. Did the Sunni Shia split come out of the downfall of Sadam? To blame the West for all these ills or indeed any of the problems of the Middle East is simply a gross oversimplification. The Arabs have been engaging in tribal warfare for centuries. The reason why the Palestinians can’t get themselves out of the shit is because the rest of the Arab world hates them more than they hate the Jews. The Saudis hate the Iranians. The Iranians killed a million Iraqis who in turn, invaded the Emirates and so it goes. Show me one long standing alliance in the Arab world based on moral principles. Are you seriously blaming the ills of the Arab world on the West?
The decline of the Arab world is a tragedy but the cause is not to be found in the West any more than Pakistan’s pathetic situation is due to the deplorable haste with which the British departed. Why is India capable of sending a satellite to Mars while the Islamic world can’t even build a motor car unless the Japanese show them how to do it?
Tony, knowing you I could have been tempted to think that your rant is caused by alcohol, but I would say the cause of your diatribe is Islamophobia. I suppose the points you raise here merit a full article, although you have said these things before and I have dealt with them previously.
For the time being, a response to one of your “new” comments, which is shocking in its naivety, for lack of a better word:
You say: “The Japanese had been awful to the Chinese and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese in WW2. (But) the Chinese had killed more Chinese than the Japs ever did”. You then criticize the Arabs on the same account.
Obviously, there is a failure on your part not just to understand the Arabs but also the Chinese (and Koreans, Africans, indigenous Americans and Australian aborigines, etc). A complete failure also to understand the nature of nationalism, tribalism and of conflicts and atrocities, of the “us-vs-them” condition.
As an Anglo-Australian, you probably will never understand what it is to be a colony or worse. Ask an African, an Indian, an Afro-American, an American-Indian or an Australian aboriginal person. Which is why the Palestinian struggle and the plight of Gaza enjoys such sympathy in the “Third World”.
Modern Europeans, and that includes your forefathers, had it really good for the last few centuries and don’t know what it means to have one’s land stolen, homes violated and dignity trampled by foreigners. A woman who has not been raped does not easily understand the mental trauma of a woman who has been raped.
I strongly recommend you and others to revisit some of the photos from Abu Ghraib, pretty recent stuff and so abominable as to make one want to vomit.
Interesting article that throws light on the bigotry of the west.
Sir, It was disappointing to see your article. But the fact is that a majority of Muslims in West are not enraged but “baffled” about what do to with their lives. Indeed there are alot of challenges but rather than choosing to take the responsibility of meeting the challenges a majority heap scorn and abuse at they very societies that have welcomed them.
They donot know how to make their mark in life so they chose the method that is the worst of all options.
There is a Pashto saying about such people that there lived in a village a man who wanted to be famous so he went to the village mosque and defecated there.
Incredibly insightful article detailing the recent uprise in Islamophobia.