“Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” said the then US President George W. Bush, post 9/11. Despite the “moral stance” that he took soon after the attacks; this statement gravely altered the way the West would interact with the Muzzlims. As soon as it was made out in the reports that the Al Qaeda, apparently a Muslim terrorist organization, brought down the twin towers; many people jumped on the bandwagon of the idea that all Muslims were terrorists. Media houses fed off of the garbage. A new political and personal equation was put in place in the American society. As if, George W. Bush’s words were some kind of a divinely ordained litmus test. As if people were not mentally equipped enough to think for themselves. As if drawing one’s own conclusions was not a thing, back in 2001.
Islamophobia did exist prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 because of the evident stereotyping of the Islamic faith and its followers by the Media, but it has gained considerable momentum ever since. Hate crimes against Muslims are the order of the day in the US and around the globe. However research has shown “that the U.S. identified more than 160 Muslim-American terrorist suspects and perpetrators in the decade since 9/11, just a percentage of the thousands of acts of violence that occur in the United States each year.” According to data compiled by Mother Jones magazine, which looked at mass shootings in the United States since 1982, white people — almost exclusively white men — committed some 64% of the shootings.
But, who cares what the goddamn facts are? And we cannot afford to customize the problem to American-only. Contexts might differ but the essence remains largely the same, whether it’s Britain, India or France. A terrorist attack is usually followed by a tendency to extract an apology or a condemnation from the so-called mainstream moderate Muslim population testifying that the violence has got nothing to do with the Islamic faith; that the Quraán condemns the killing of innocent human beings; that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda and the ISIL are just pseudo-Islamic groups that cherry-pick verses from the Holy Quraán that deal exclusively with wartime situations; and use them as cover to justify their bloodlust and an urge to destroy. I mean yes, I know I am a believer and representative of a faith whose name itself is derived from the root word ‘Peace’, whose most revered Prophet not only taught mankind but also taught himself to respond to evil with good; a religion that is against wastage of water even if one were at a running stream, let alone talk of recklessly spilling human blood. But, do all these facts need to be repeated each time, the lunatic fringe that claims to be Islamic goes out and shoots down innocent civilians? Am I supposed to necessarily go out and shout out loud enough to let people know that this is ‘unislamic’ so as to make sure my religion and the vast majority of its followers (over a million people) are spared from being tainted as Fifth Columnists? Have we reversed the most basic principle of Natural Justice, “Innocent until proven guilty” to “Guilty until proven innocent”, in the heat of this blame-game? It’s rather amusing that we have zeroed-in on a tiny minority that has perverted interpretations of Islam instead of studying the vast majority of Muslims that denounce terrorism (and yes, DO NOT conspire to destroy America), in order to understand Islam.
Mehdi Hasan, political editor of The Huffington Post, fairly argues that by claiming that there is only one interpretation of Islam, the critics in fact empower the radical version and give them the legitimacy they do not deserve. I mean I do not hold all Christians responsible for the Crusades, or all Jews for the Palestinian invasion, or all Communists for the mass killings presided over by Joseph Stalin, or all Hindus for the Godhra riots and large-scale massacres. So, what’s the deal with Donald Trump’s foot-in-mouth statements on the “Muslim Problem” or Ben Carson’s crazy rhetoric? What’s with the abusing of headscarf or calling the guy in the street a “Paki-terrorist” or “Osama Bin Laden” just because he looks Muslim, or giving away unwelcome glances at a co-passenger because he or she is wearing a certain Islamic symbol? Interestingly, hate crimes have also been reported against Sikhs in the West who sometimes get mistaken as Muslims because of the turban.
Perhaps the bigots want to be convinced that mainstream Islam is a falsity and the radicals are the representatives of the religion so that they can justify their hatred and bigotry, the Iraq invasion, the Afghanistan war, the so-called ‘War on Terror’, those pre-emptive attacks that turned whole civilizations to dust. The multi-million weapons industry obviously needs hate-mongers in order to thrive. And hence, the Islamophobic writers, the slanted headlines, the skewed vision of Islam, the labeling of Muslims as the “other contingent”…
Putting things in perspective and not justifying the same, I argue that unless State terrorism is kept in check, guerillas will continue to run riot and will keep using one religion or another to justify their wrath. And all of us, not just the 22% of us, but indeed all of us, are awfully caught up!