In the event of a terrorist attack, why are Muslims in the West forced to assure the world that they are “good” Muslims?

Published: June 5, 2017

Muslim women gathered on Westminster Bridge in a show of solidarity with the victims of Wednesday's terror attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

We witnessed yet another terrible and senseless attack against innocent people in London, in which seven people were been killed and some 50 injured. And it was only a week back when a suicide bomber of Libyan origin killed 23 innocent people at a concert in Manchester.

Muslims from the local community are equally outraged and several joined hands with the local community to help. Muslim doctors at local hospitals worked side by side with other colleagues for long hours to assist incoming casualties.

However, this is not enough.

Whenever a terrorist strikes anywhere, but more so in a western capital, Muslims all over the world are asked to make a declaration of faith in support of western democracy, freedom of speech, and other values espoused by the modern world and against violence in any type or form. They are forced to assure the world that they are ‘good’ Muslims who do not subscribe to these kinds of acts and quote verses from the Holy Quran attesting to this fact.

Binary choices of the type – if you are not with us you are against us – required from Muslims are basically unfair.

The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris is condemnable by Muslims, not because it was against the so-called western value of freedom of speech, which is applied rather selectively (try questioning the Holocaust or the alleged Armenian massacre) but because it goes against the basic teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who has shown repeatedly that he would not be provoked by insults and personal attacks. A binary choice does not bring out this fact. It is more like expecting a yes/no answer to the question,

“Have you stopped beating your wife?”

Nevertheless, since most of these acts of violence target innocent peoplewomen and children, they need to be condemned unambiguously. What do these statements achieve?

The short answer is that they help in increasing security and encourage the cooperation of the Muslim communities with law enforcement authorities in order to identify potential threats.

All this is necessary, but is it sufficient?

The implicit assumption when Muslims are required to make these binary choices is that no matter what happens to you, you will not resort to these acts of violence, that is, you will not take the law in your own hands.

This construct works in national settings – in most cases – where there is an effective machinery to enforce the law. However, this does not work in an international setting where the corresponding machinery is ineffective in the face of other super power political and nationalist considerations.

When a resident of Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus, Beirut, Gaza, Tripoli or Kabul sees the destruction in the wake of western intervention and remembers those that were killed and maimed, his blood boils and he looks for revenge against whomsoever he thinks is responsible. He also sees that there is no effective international forum to bring the perpetrators of these massacres to justice. The decks are stacked against him. This is where the problem arises. He is desperate and irrational. He does not see that the actions of western governments cannot be directly linked to the common man/woman.

Since these trouble spots have a strong international presence, it is easy for him or her to place the blame on a western power instead of the local dictator, be it Saddam HusseinBashar al Assad or the Taliban who may be the primary reason for destabilising the status quo.

He seeks revenge by planning and executing attacks against western targets, which also kill indiscriminately.

If we look at the number of incidents from 1970 to the present, as included in the international terrorism database, we see a pattern. In the earlier years, the terrorist attacks were primarily against Israel and its interests. This was a time when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was centre stage.

In later years, post Iraq War I and Iraq War II, Afghanistan, Baghdad and Syria, the attacks spread to western capitals and began targeting the west.

In light of this, one would think the easiest way to limit these terror attacks would be if the ‘well-meaning’ western powers leave these Muslim countries to their own designs and not interfere. If the locals cannot overthrow a Saddam or an Assad, so be it. The destruction caused by ‘well-meaning’ western intervention in favour of so-called popular movements is often times much more than that caused by the reign of terror by the local dictator.

In addition, the United Nations (UN) system needs to be strengthened so that it can respond to cases of utter humanitarian crises and international aggression such as that seen by Saddam in Iraq and Israel in Palestine. In these cases, international intervention needs to be restricted.

Muslims, on the other hand, need to realise that western powers only act in their own interests and not primarily in the interest of the locals.

These interests could be purely material such as oil and minerals or they can be related to their respective strategic spheres of influence. They can be couched in terms of democratic values versus dictatorial oppression, or they can use the theme of God versus God-less communism. More recently, these interests are seen to exploit the sectarian splits in Islam for their own benefit.

Why can we not see that somebody like President Donald Trump does not know and more importantly, does not care about the difference between a Shia or a Sunni and would probably not be able to tell a Hindu from a Buddhist.

Witness the transition of US policy under Ronald Reagan which called the jihadis “soldiers of God” when they were fighting to throw out the God-less Soviet Union, to “terrorists” when these same people turned against the West. More recently, notice the U-turns in policy from being pro-Saudi Arabia to pro-Iran and back again to pro-Saudi Arabia. Why can we not see that they switch sides at a moment’s notice if the alignment of their interests requires it?

Dr Ali Hashim

Dr Ali Hashim

Dr Ali Hashim retired recently from the World Bank. He has extensive experience in Public Sector Management and has a PhD from the Imperial college of Science and Tech.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ramesh Nakhwa

    othersise there will be a backlash of promortions not known to MuslimsRecommend

  • Hameed

    Most of the people ion the above picture are Ahmadi Muslims. Where are the rest?Recommend

  • GKA

    So according to the author the blood of a British Muslim in Birmingham will boil if a muslim is killed in Kabul, but will not boil if Muslims kill British and Canadians in London. They will just shrug thier shoulders and say that they are not muslim.
    This article is two nation theory by another name. Should be published in the west. People should know that muslims are muslim first, then Pakistani or Iraqi second (even if they do not hold that passport), and maybe, for the sake of residence and commerce and other economic reasons, British and American third.Recommend

  • Rahul

    That is because Muslims stick out like sore thumbs wherever they go. In the west nobody cares about your religion but if you are constantly pushing your religion in everybody’s face, of course they will remember you when a bad incident happens. Here are a few tips. Stop using the company conference room for your prayers 5 times a day. Pull your weight during Ramadan, just because you are fasting does not mean your colleagues have to do your work. Stop dressing your wives and daughters as if you still live in the middle-ages and the middle-east. Stop coming to work with the Sunnah beard and the Fez hat. If your neighbor invites you to barbecue, the meat is probably not halal and yes they cook pork on the same grill. Stop saying that Islam is a religion of peace because if you do, you will be reminded after a terrorism incident and the perpetrator most likely turns out to be Muslim. Stop justifying each incident by saying they are not real Muslims or Israel and India are doing worse things in Palestine and Kashmir so the world deserves the killing of random people in random places. Keep your politics and religion to yourself.Recommend

  • Sami

    The article is full of mish mash. From world war to events around the world. I did not see outright condemnation of terror events in the West anywhere in the above article.

    This is the same attitude that is alienating the Muslims in the West. We are not simply condemning, rather givng thousands of examples to somehow circumvent the topic of introspection.

    It seems all is well with us. We cannot do any wrong. The problem lies with the West only.? This is the conclusion that can be derived from your article.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Better question!
    In the event of terrorist attack, why do a very large percentage of Muslims subscribe to conspiracy theory Denialism, blaming the attack on India/RAW/Israel/Mossad/CIA/MI6/BurgerKing/ToothFairy etc since a Muslim couldn’t possibly be responsible???Recommend

  • KP

    in all over the world the last thing people will ask you about your religion & in the muslim dominated places the first thing they will ask you is your RELIGIONRecommend

  • Ulllu

    Bcos they keep quite when radicalization happens in mosques Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Note how the author curiously refers to “alleged Armenian Massacre”!
    All can search for “Armenian Genocide” on Wikipedia to read a 15,000 plus word description of the slaughter, along with pictures, witness accounts, detailed maps and more than 300 supporting references!
    Dear Author, did the Armenian Genocide ever take place????Recommend

  • Dessie Deratta

    No mystery surely?

    We in the West are Islamophobes, more or less.

    While Islamic Isis-type maniac beliefs are clearly daft and evil…the fact that the even more evil and murderous Western slaughter of Muslims throughout the Middle East since the end of WW2 is what gave wings to Isis and others is denied with the desperation of the damned.

    Not looking good, frankly….Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    Simple, if something is done in the name of Religion then people adhering to that religion should either agree or disagree. Silence means partially agreeing.Recommend

  • peter pan

    Sure it will just as that of any body else.Recommend

  • peter pan

    Agree to most of what you say!Recommend

  • Anaya

    Why are non Muslims in Muslim country forced to live under threat EVERY WAKING MOMENT OF THEIR LIVES?
    Ever wondered that?Recommend