Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Why aren’t Muslim countries condemning terrorist attacks en masse?

All people condemn terrorist attacks, but there is no reason why Muslims should be expected to be more vocal in this than anyone else, writes
Azza Radwan

Al-Ahram Weekly

Belgian film and theatre director Ismaël Saidi is a Muslim of Moroccan descent. His son, on his way to school, narrowly escaped death in Brussels as he exited the subway just one stop before the deadly explosion.

Saidi directed a comedy titled “Djihad”, which coincidentally created a plot that mirrored real life during the Brussels attacks. The play — more today than before — strikes a strong cord among its audience, as reality goes beyond fiction.

In the hopes of explaining Islam and getting the audience to understand it, Saidi has been touring Belgium with his play, taking it to schools and other venues. After the show, he discusses not only the play but Islam with the audience. One question that often comes up is “Why don’t you go back where you came from?” to which he responds, “Where to? I was born here. I don’t know of another place to go to.”

Saidi also answers the question, “Why aren’t Muslims condemning terrorist attacks en masse?” His comments are meant to be light-hearted but they resonate deeply, nonetheless. Here are a few of his reasons:

— Because we’re driving the taxis that have been taking the population home for free since yesterday ...
— Because we’re caring for the wounded in hospitals ...
— Because we’re driving the ambulances that are racing through the streets like shooting stars to try to save what life remains in us ...
— Because we’re still looking for criminals in our police, investigator, and magistrate outfits ...
— Because we’re crying for our dead, too ...
— Because we are no more spared than anyone else ...
— Because we are doubly, triply bruised ...
— Because the same faith produced the executioner and the victim ...
— Because we’re groggy, lost, and we’re trying to understand ...
— Because we spent the night on our doorstep waiting for a person who won’t come back again ...
— Because we’re counting our dead ...
— Because we’re in mourning ...

But the notion that Muslims and Muslim countries at large have to apologise for the happenings in Brussels or Paris is disconcerting and disturbing. After every crisis, Muslims are expected to explicitly say, “I am a Muslim, and I denounce the horrendous act that happened today.”

So today we ask: should Muslims and Muslim countries condemn terrorist attacks en masse?

First, Muslim countries have indeed condemned all terrorist attacks on Western soil, be it in Paris or Brussels, or anywhere else. Muslim countries are as horrified as all countries when they watch deadly explosives detonate amidst children and passersby. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned the attacks that hit Brussels, and the ministry sent the condolences of Egypt, “the government and the people,” to the Belgian government and the families of the victims. All countries followed suit.

After the Charles Hebdo massacre, King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were at the Hebdo rally. Egypt’s pyramids lit up with the flags of France, Lebanon and Russia after deadly events occurred in each country. Lebanon lit up the Pigeon Rocks, Rouche, with the Belgian flag. And examples of similar shows of solidarity take place in Muslims countries all the time.

Second, I question the question itself. Why should Muslim countries be asked to condemn the attacks more resoundingly than the rest of the world? This while they, as Muslims, are getting the brunt of hatred from the Islamic State (IS) group and its affiliates. According to CNN, since June 2014, IS conducted or inspired nearly 75 attacks on 20 countries other than Iraq and Syria, including the Muslim countries of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Kuwait, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Tunisia was the target in March and June of 2015: IS attacked a museum in downtown Tunis and a resort in coastal Souse killing 19 and 37 respectively.

The suicide bomber attack at an Iraqi football match only a few days back killed at least 31 young spectators and players. The explosion at a park in Lahore left dozens, many children, dead and hundreds injured. And today, as the Syrian army takes back Palmyra and officials gauge the damage inflicted on the invaluable ruins of the city, Syrians continue to flee their country in spades, only to face even more hardships elsewhere.

Egypt, too, has suffered similar attacks, be it on its armed forces or its civilians. In Libya, 21 young men, Egyptian Copts, were beheaded, their bodies dumped into the Mediterranean.

All these Muslims countries, despite their own ordeals, have empathised with Western victims and condemned attacks on Western soil. However, they shouldn’t be expected to condemn such attacks more than other countries, merely because they happen to be Muslim countries.

If asked to do just that, it would mean they are being painted with the same brush as the terrorists, simply because they are Muslims, and this is an unfair assumption on the part of the Western world, and if anything it will create even further indignation and rift. In all fairness, this is bigotry loud and clear.

Now let’s flip the coin and look at it from the perspective of Muslim countries. Did the world stand still when the young and innocent Pakistanis met their death in Lahore? How much coverage took place after the bombing of the football game in Iraq? Was the Eiffel Tower lit up with the Egyptian flag when 21 Egyptians were beheaded in Libya?

The bottom line is that deep in the hearts of Westerners Muslims should take some of the blame and responsibility by the simple fact that they are Muslims. Donald Trump, the US Republican presidential candidate, said that if elected he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database or have them carry special identification cards that note their faith.

Ted Cruz, the other Republican candidate, suggested law enforcement patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods. Trump and Cruz would go as far as having Muslims wear an “M” on all their clothing. Better yet, they should mark the homes of Muslims with an M, as IS did when it marked Christian homes with an “N” meaning “Nasrani” — “Christian” in Arabic. From this perspective, both think in IS fashion.

To expect Muslims to specifically denounce such acts is Islamophobic. The world is in this together, whether Muslim or otherwise. Muslims are ordinary people. They, too, hate and reject terrorism, so they don’t need to announce it after every crisis. In fact, Muslims are as terrified of the terrorists at their doorsteps as everyone else.

As Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders said, “We must demonstrate with Charlie Hebdo without forgetting all the world’s other Charlies.”

The writer is a political analyst.

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