By now we have all had time to reflect on the fact that the most romantic city in the world recently withstood its most violent attack for over 2 generations. One of the many talking points emerging from this chaotic tragedy is that of condemnation: should all Muslims everywhere condemn the attacks carried out in Paris in the name of Islam?
Whilst I have already blogged about this issue of condemning before, I feel it is important to perhaps say a few words regarding recent events. Therefore here are my reasons as to why the vast majority of Muslims should not be forced into issuing condemnations for such atrocious acts of wanton destruction…
1) ISIS are so not Islamic.
Yes, I have already blogged about this before, but here is a quote from Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and one of the most respected Muslim scholars alive today, describing his views on ISIS:
My message to everyone is not to fall in the trap which these terrorists want us to fall in. That is to say they want actually to provoke a clash of civilisations. They want to turn the western governments against their Muslim populations, and they want also to provoke the Muslim populations against their governments. So I believe here we should stay united altogether against terrorism, against ISIS, because ISIS belongs to no religion. Although they use Islam but their religion is terror. So let’s not fall in the trap that these people represent Islam. We know that there are 1.5 billion Muslims around the world who denounce ISIS, who are against its ideology…These people do not belong to Islam, do not belong to religion, have no ethics at all, have fallen into this trap of barbarity. – Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi, from an interview with CNN, 18 Nov 2015
Add to this the following quote from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf:
The idea that this has something to do with normative Islam is not acceptable. But as you know we are living at a time when Islam is whatever anybody who wants to says it is. This is the kind of nominalist attitude that a lot of modern people have. I don’t think we can say completely that it has nothing to do with Islam. Obviously these people are motivated by scripture, which is clear in their publications and things like that. But again it’s a type of Protestantism, and I am not talking about modern Protestantism, I am talking about when the Protestants revolted against Catholic tradition. This created the religious wars of the 17th and 18th centuries. We have a lot of people opening the Qur’an, finding verses in there that can be decontextualized or completely misunderstood, just like you can in the Bible. And these are unfortunately the realities of the age that we are living in. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from an interview with Al Jazeera
2) And anyway, what do you mean by ‘Muslim’?
What do you mean by the very generic groupist generalisation of ‘Muslims’? There are literally hundreds of millions of us around the world. We cover all nationalities, races, cultures, creeds. We cut across all time zones. We are not something that can easily be grouped together.
Muslims do not form a united, homogenous entity…Is it not blindingly obvious that it smacks of bigotry to blame an entire group of people numbering in their multi-millions for the actions of a misguided minority who falsely claim some kind of religious purity? – Roy Greenslade, from an article entitled Why It’s Wrong To Demand That Muslims Condemn Isis
3) What’s the point in Muslims condemning ISIS when many prominent non-Muslims still hold on to such horrible views about Islam and Muslims?
Nowhere is this more prominent than when you consider the current batch of Republican Presidential hopefuls, such as Ben Carson who has compared refugees to “rabid dogs”, and Jeb Bush who said that we should only accept refugees who can “prove” they are Christian (how you do that, Holy Ghost only knows).
But none of this compares with Republican front runner Donald Trump who has said that he would: approve waterboarding “in a heartbeat”, continues to claim he saw thousands of Muslims in Jersey cheering during 9/11 (he also said that after 9/11 “worldwide, Muslims were going wild”), failed to correct a questioner who said Obama was a Muslim, said he will know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah “when it’s appropriate”, has called for mass surveillance of mosques, and has called for the tracking of Muslims in the US through special ID’s and a Muslim database (isn’t that similar to what the Nazis did in the late 1930’s with Jews in Germany?).
You then have the Sun newspaper falsely claiming that 1 in 5 Muslims in Britain (that’s some 600,000 people) support ISIS.
Never mind all that, I just can’t get my mind around this…
Two racist mums who urinated in front of a Muslim family as they prayed in a park have walked free from court. Drunken friends Natalie Richardson, 32, and Claire Farrell, 36, pulled down their underwear and squatted within metres of the Syrians while shouting racist abuse. The shocking incident happened in front of the Muslim family’s son and daughter, aged eight and ten, and six children who were with the racism mums. Richardson even pushed a bystander in the chest when he tried to intervene in the incident on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Despite describing their behaviour as “disgusting”, a judge imposed only suspended sentences on the pair at Plymouth Crown Court in Devon. – from metro.co.uk, 29 Nov 2015
Another reason why it may be pointless to ask majority mainstream Muslims to speak up about ISIS is summed up so poignantly in a tweet by Kash Ali:
I don’t understand why non-Muslims think we British Muslims can stop Isis, mate I can’t even get a text back from the girl I like and you expect me to stop a terrorist organization ffs. – Kash Ali
Add to this the fact that people just don’t want to listen to Muslims when we do actually condemn:
…some will still say they don’t hear these condemnations. I don’t doubt those people. The mainstream media is about ratings, meaning that bloodshed will be covered 24/7 while denunciations by Muslims will get little to no press. – Dean Obeidallah
4) Muslims are not just the perpetrators, they are also victims, they are also heroes.
Yes, the killers claimed to be Muslim, but this is a doubtful claim at best. But one certainty is that the vast majority of the victims of ISIS atrocities around the world are indeed Muslims, and Paris also saw its share of innocent Muslim blood, such as sisters Houda and Halima Saadi, Djamila Houd, Moroccan architect Mohamed Amine Ibnolmobarak, Kheireddine Sahbi, and Asta Diakité, the cousin of the French footballer Lassana Diarra who was playing in the friendly against Germany on that frightful Friday night.
Paris also saw a Muslim hero. Security guard Salim Toorabally, a 42-year-old Mauritian immigrant and devout Muslim, stopped suicide bomber Bilal Hadfi from entering the Stade de France, saving potentially dozens of lives. A French policeman said later that “It might just be that you have saved France.”
5) ISIS is not just a Muslim problem.
ISIS have a specific aim in mind, to get non-Muslims to hate Muslims so much that Muslims feel compelled to hate back, Muslims feel they have no choice but to join ISIS, a point made by Newsweek journalist Dean Obeidallah:
…we can’t allow ISIS to achieve its goal of framing this as a fight pitting Islam against the West. It’s not. It’s all of us versus ISIS. – Dean Obeidallah
Author Karen Armstrong adds further weight to the argument:
We cannot afford to allow our grief and outrage to segue into self-righteousness. This is not just the “Middle East problem”; it is our problem, too. Our colonial arrangements, the inherent instability of the states we created and our support of authoritarian leaders have all contributed to the terrifying disintegration of social order in the region today. Many of the western leaders (including our own Prime Minister) who marched for liberté in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo massacre were heads of countries that, for decades, have backed regimes in Muslim-majority countries that denied their subjects any freedom of expression – often with disastrous results. – Karen Armstrong, from the New Statesman
6) Are only us Muslims to blame?
Is it just only our fault? Do any non-Muslims not think that they should take some of the blame? Here’s a somewhat relevant point from Karen Armstrong, again from the New Statesman:
Western governments must understand that their nations bear considerable responsibility for the present crisis – Isis is, after all, the product of the ill-considered Iraq War. And, as long as we mourn only our own dead, we cannot escape the accusation – frequently heard in the developing world – that the West has created a global hierarchy in which some lives are more valuable than others. – Karen Armstrong, from the New Statesman
This concept of double standards is also self-evident in the following two quotes:
Quite apart from our mournful Afghan adventure and our utterly illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, our aircraft have been bombing Libya, Iraq and Syria along with the aircraft of various local pseudo-democracies for so long that this state of affairs has become routine, almost normal, scarcely worthy of a front-page headline. The Saudis are bombing Iraq and Syria and Yemen. The Jordanians are bombing Syria. The Emiratis are bombing Yemen. And now the French are bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa even more than they bombed the Syrian city of Raqqa two months ago – when President François Hollande did not tell us that France was “at war”. The point, of course, is that we had grown so used to attacking Arab lands – France had become so inured to sending its soldiers and air crews to Africa and the Middle East to shoot and bomb those whom it regarded as its enemies – that only when Muslims began attacking our capital cities did we suddenly announce that we were “at war”. – Robert Fisk, from the Independent, 19 Nov 2015
While the West has been living lavishly for sixty years, consuming with such ferocity that the trajectory of the planet’s biosphere has been forever altered, the rest of the world has become angry, sick of it all and willing to do whatever it takes to produce a better way of life for themselves. Because after all of the promises made and broken by the World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations, the rest of the world has lost its patience. The Islamic State is but a beginning of the kinds of self-organizing that will occur once the latest round of pacifist, neo-political activism fails. The West is bloated, soft and decadent. This decadence will not last; it never has and never will. – from adbusters.org, 11 Nov 2015
7) The numbers, when put in perspective, suggest we shouldn’t have to.
Remember, one out every four people on this planet…is a Muslim. We represent 1.6 billion people, and rising. You cannot take these statistically insignificant numbers out there and extrapolate from that that somehow Islam is an evil religion. The Ku Klux Klan at point had over 5 million members. The Ku Klux Klan was a Christian terrorist organisation in the United States that terrorised African Americans. So people need to put things in perspective, and I really think people fail to put these things in perspective. – Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, from an interview with Al Jazeera
Another scary thing to put into some perspective is this: White supremacists are a bigger threat to the US than radical Islam.
8) Faisal Kutty has written a brilliant article where he says…
- Muslims have roundly condemned these vile criminal acts and terrorism in general
- Terrorists represent Islam no more than the KKK represents Christianity or other fringe groups represent their respective traditions
- Islam unambiguously opposes terror tactics — terrorism is not a religious ritual but a military strategy
- Muslims are the main victims of terrorists
- Terrorism is not a ‘Muslim thing’
Two days after the Paris attack, Gare du Nord railway station in central Paris was briefly evacuated at around midday after a minor explosion. News eventually emerged that the “large bang and apparent flash of light” was actually caused by a pigeon electrocuting itself on a power line. Which led to this comment from Independent reader Dost Khan:
Have other pigeons condemned it?
10) Muslims such as Foday Darboe do not think that ISIS speaks for them.
ISIS does not speak for me nor do I share any iota of their twisted beliefs. ISIS poses a direct challenge to the principle and vision of Islam and a threat to humanity. To say ISIS is un-Islamic is an understatement. In essence, ISIS is an international band of thugs using religion and terror to rape, kill, and extort money. Arguably, ISIS and their sympathizers are willfully and pridefully ignorant. Of course, cognitive dissonance is difficult to overcome. The sad part is that ISIS followers truly believe they have the right interpretation of Islam. Thus, they have created some delusional reality where they ignore tolerance, acceptance, inclusion and coexistence—the core principles of the religion. – Foday Darboe
11) Finally, never forget what ISIS really are, and thus why Muslims should never feel compelled to have to condemn them…