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OPINION

Terrorism In Islam: Myth Or Reality?

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Al Shabaab terrorists

After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 9/11, a lot of non-Muslims could not hold back their emotions but to declare that Islam was a violent religion that propagates terrorism. This assumption received worldwide media coverage as some pundits concluded that the event of 9/11 was the manifestation of Huntington’s clash of civilization written in the 1990s. You will recall that the notion of a clash of civilisations was understood then that the world after the fall of socialism will not necessarily be peaceful, but will be stressed with conflicts of an ideological nature. The Danish cartoon controversy in mid-2000, again brought Islam to the hotspot and created an imagery of an imminent cultural clash between the West and Islam. In reaction, Western newspapers and television widely debated the assumed contradiction between the West and the world of Islam: human rights and freedom of expression versus religious orthodoxy and intolerance. However, most of these discourses were mere reaction to a presumed threat Islam poses to the West and not to understand whether there was a limit to freedom of expression. The consequence is that restrictions on Muslim immigration is being discussed openly in most European countries. Even President Donald Trump was bold to openly advocate Muslim ban in the USA, a supposed champion of freedom and liberal democracy. At this juncture, it is expedient to ask whether Islam in anyway linked to terrorism.

This question has become necessary because each time there is a terrorist attack especially in the Western world and the terrorist is found to be a Muslim, the media is quick to talk about ‘Islamist extremists’, ‘religious fundamentalists’, ‘Muslim terrorists’ and other catchy phrase that conveniently convey a message linking Islam to the incident. They are never concerned whether the person is psychologically sick, a drug addict or pervert. What matters to the media is that the person is an Islamist extremist even if he may never have entered the Mosque in years. The same treatment is not meted to other terrorists from other religions or ideologies. For example, the white nationalist groups have been known to have committed several acts of violence in the USA killing numerous innocent people. The case of Dylann Roof quickly comes to mind who killed nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The entire white Americans have not been labelled terrorist because of this singular act of Dylann Roof. The recurring outbreaks of gun violence in the USA is not a normal behaviour and it has not caused the rest of the world to profile the entire Western people as terrorist. If it were the other way round, how would the media interpret these? Your guess is as good as mine.

People are inclined to believe in messages and narratives from the media. When presumed reputable media outfits like CNN repeatedly broadcast a message about an entire religion, you can only imagine the effect on the public perception. Nonstop coverage after an event by the media only help to scale-up curiosity and create a climate of fear. Media is therefore the tool used by terrorists to convey their message. The true message is that the media invariably highlights that Islam is fundamentally at odds with the ideals of Western societies. This in turn affects policies and actions relating to Muslims. For instance, populism is sweeping through Europe and it’s changing the political conversation, especially when it comes to Muslim immigration. In some cases these populist movements are fueling extremist violence against immigrants. In Greece, refugee centers have been firebombed. BREXIT has emboldened white supremacists in the UK, Finland forcing many Muslim migrants to return back to the Middle East where they face violence and persecution.

I have even hard some European friends of mine saying “what are they coming here to do when they cannot live peacefully in their own country”? No one have bothered to ask the cause of the conflicts in their respective countries that has prompted the migration in the first place. The reaction of everyone is that they are Muslims and therefore they are terrorists. However, when we take our minds back to the 1980s and remember that a USA President (Ragan) ones called the Taliban of Afghanistan the “moral equivalent of the founding fathers of the USA”, then we can appreciate that most of these events are politically motivated and that gives the basis for further interrogation of these crises. The instability in the Middle East, affecting Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, among others with batches of Western humanitarian groups providing support for a calamity caused by them is a mere façade. The behind boardroom politics is shielded from us while the media coverage show us what we need to know-stigmatization of Islam and the Muslim world in order to mobilize support from non-Muslims.

 

– Mamud is an expert on security issues

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