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
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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

  • Avinash

    coz there is a problem with ISsam and its the responsibility of those following the religion to stand as its ambassadors otherwise the hatred guys take all the narrative and we non-muslims tend to view islam as something negative.
    hard facts but i speak from my heart.
    normal people should come out more and more so that non-muslims see the normalcy in the religion rather than the crazies who get air-time and media attention. negative publicityRecommend

  • 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

  • wb

    “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.”

    Typical to blame others for their failures

    Our blood boils too when we see the unspeakable violence Recommend

  • wb

    “More recently, these interests are seen to exploit the sectarian splits in Islam for their own benefit.”

    stop blaming west for all the faults
    Recommend

  • J S

    Because –
    The conservative Spectator magazine reacted to the London Bridge attack by publishing an article discussing the proposition that the UK could do with “less Islam”. The article’s author, Douglas Murray, had recently made a short film that argued: “Countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have very little Islam and very little Islamic terror. By contrast, France has a great amount of Islam and a great amount of Islamic terror.” And he said that while he supported the attempts of some in the British Muslim community to counter extremist thinking, he was not confident they would succeed. “In the history of Islam there have been many reformers and most of the time they have ended up being the ones on the brunt of the violence and the ones being killed,” he said.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Wow! Rahul, your mentor and Pir Amit Shah of BJP will give you little
    extra this time. A bonus. Your Rs.14:50. Plus a commission of Rs. 2:30
    That should be enough to wipe your hunger pains for two days.
    Pretty sure Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena and Keshav Baliram Hedgewar
    of RSS would be doing cartwheels and somersaults at your brave diatribe.
    Unfortunately, they are no more,
    In the West they love beef. Cow meat. And they cook it a hundred ways
    So be sure to tell the hindu brothers and sisters that if they are invited by
    their neighbor for a barbecue,.big thick juicy beef steaks will be served.
    Cooked right under their noses. Unfortunately nobody cares for ‘vegetarian’ barbecue. So there, be aware.
    Oh! by the way, stop aping Western Culture. No need to dress your wives, sisters, daughters in western style. Like they just hopped of a
    bus from Hollywood. [make that an auto rickshaw]. They simply do not
    pass for an an American. Never will. So bikinis on hindus,,…er…poooh!
    Besides, the Indo Pak Culture is one of the best in the world. Do not be ashamed of it. Nothing compares to it.
    A hindu can leave Hindustan, but Hindustan will never leave a hindu….see?
    And Rahul don’t hide behind juvenile, ridiculous arguments, when it comes
    to Bharati Occupied Kashmir, Where United Nations claim Israelis practices
    “apartheid”. Just like they dId in South Africa. Where your great Mahatma
    Gandhiji came from. Do you see? You follow? Nope. not at all.
    Now start thinking about your next comment….You need to pay the rent.Recommend

  • Patwari

    The Banarsi Mullah comes with a fresh onslaught of gibberish.
    By the way a country that lets it’s army tie civilians to their jeeps
    as human shields [ and gives them medal, for doing so] is not a
    civilized nation.
    It has descended into an abyss.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    Let us suppose, a certain book is made compulsory in Kindergartens, schools and colleges, in which the word “SEX” is repeated hundreds of times! What psychological impact would this word have on the consciousness and subconsciousness of the readers and on the society as a whole???
    In view of my standpoint, look around what is going on in the Pakistani society from many decades? People are KILLING people! 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

  • Patwari

    Somy,do not worry about this blog. These concepts are not easy for you
    to conceptualize. 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

  • Patwari

    Comment mangled by ET ‘s moderators.
    Recommend

  • gp65

    “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. ”

    Sure. But how does this explain when a resident of London kills fellow Londoners who had nothing to do with Western interventions? When some Muslim refugees in Europe feel no loyalty to the countries that gave them protection and only feel loyalty to ummah, why do you expect that there will be no resentment from those that welcomed them?

    “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) ”

    IS it against any law to question Armenian massacre? Which law and where? Questioning the holocaust is also not illegal in US and you can find plenty of youtube videos that do precisely that. Yes, it is illegal in Germany where the holocaust happened so as to prevent recurrence. It is like Pakistan having a law mass murder and rapes of Bengalis in 1971. Also you refer to ‘alleged’ Armenian massacre and hence are implicitly questioning it. This is perfectly legal but it makes me question your Ph.D.

    “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.”

    Relevance?

    “Muslim women gathered on Westminster Bridge in a show of solidarity with the victims of Wednesday’s terror attack.”

    Most of these are Ahmadis. So do you agree that they are Muslim?

    “Binary choices of the type – if you are not with us you are against us – required from Muslims are basically unfair.”
    Why unfair? Why is it unreasonable to expect Muslims to respect the law of the land that they live in and respect the religious beliefs of others instead of pushing initiatives like Shariah4UK?Recommend

  • seriously?

    IF the west was Islamophobic, would it welcome millions of Muslim refugees with open arms? Certainly Saudi Arabia and UAE seem to have not done that.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

  • Patwari

    This blog is a meandering, ridiculous assumption of things by the author.
    Piddling, to be exact. But you fell for it. In your super Vermilion
    covered Saffron zeal, and Hindutva outrage. How dare a Muslim
    make a feeble attempt to defend. Then YOU started inventing.facts.
    “if you are not with us then you are against us.” was a phrase
    used by “Dubya” Bush. Meaning junior Bush. Who won his
    presidency, under a severe cloud of suspicion and through
    the intervention of SCOTUS. Just like Trump.
    Junior Bush used it so all senators and congressmen would vote
    to support his Declaration of War.. IT IS NOT A LAW. just a diatribe.
    Obama refused, voted no. Hillary voted yes.
    So then, what law? Get your facts first. Don’t invent.
    All these women on London Bridge are NOT Ahmadis. You just
    invented another Fake Fact.
    This blog is not about Ahmadis or Untouchables or Dalits or Brahmins
    etc etc or Hindustan being the rape capital of the World.. Or cows are
    more important then women…you see?….. You follow at all? Nope.
    How do you feel about Yogi Adityanath, a Chief Minister, wanting
    a statue of Rama in every mosque? Next he will say in every church
    too? Or in every Buddhist temple too?
    So before you start throwing rocks like a IOK Kasmiri….think…..
    May Lord Rama shower ya’ll with his benedictions.Recommend

  • peter pan

    All of what you say is correct. But does this mean that are also murderers? Would a devout Hindu Sadhu need to declare very time an anti Muslim attack occurs in India that he does not believe in such attacks? Would you blame Mahatama Gandhi for the communal violence that followed partition? Surely not . Just being a devout Muslim, Jew or Christion or a Hindu does not automatically imply that they also violent propagators of their ideas and idealogy!Recommend

  • peter pan

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

  • COLVINOD

    Be a devout Hindu, Muslim or Christian but please do not 24×7 keep pushing your religion on everybody’s face. Religion is personal and keep it that way. Be a part of the community where you live and let your children, family interact with all. Neither keep drumming your family that people of every other religion/ culture are to be guarded against, their culture is immoral and keep dressing as if you are living in your own country all the time.Recommend

  • COLVINOD

    Please stay in your country and never go to west.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    That’s perhaps because the community and the parents bear equal responsibility for the indoctrination that occurs when these terrorists were children. This sort of thing does not happen in a vacuum. I am surprised that apart from a surfeit of conspiracy theories, no sort of introspection is taking place within the community.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali has the answers to the exact questions raised in this piece.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    An outsider can only widen the fissures that exist in my community. They can’t create it. The Shia-Sunni conflict is as old as the religion itself. It is this kind of disinformation that takes away the credibility of their arguments.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    A slight “bending of the truth” is almost a required ingredient in any defense of the community. Denials and shifting of blame are optional, if not mandatory. In the end, the conclusion is always the same. The community is squeaky clean and is the victim of tyranny from the rest of the world.Recommend

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SajjeevAntony/about/p/pub Sajjeev Antony

    Dr . Hashim, you are seeking answer in the wrong place. The answer lies a hardwired aspect of human nature. Tribalism. Whether black, white,brown, Christian, Muslim or Hindu, we all look for external VISUAL signs of tribal unity. This tendency is very much subdued when peace and prosperity prevails. But when we feel threatened, or when facing economic downturns, our first instinct will be to seek comfort within our culture.

    Let us look at the photo with your article: look at the Muslims who denounce terrorism. They will make little impact on the White tribals. Why? What the white tribals will notice will be the protestor’s Islamic attire, and will say, “If they are protesting against terrorism why are they dressed like terrorists?”

    You and I know those Muslims are not dressed as terrorists. We can give many convincing arguments, but white mind has been made up at gut level — they have already decided that Muslims are displaying “enemy tribe” flag.

    But then, Muslims are also doing the same mistake. Without realizing it they are flaunting their tribal unity. This is why Islamic attire has become more popular in the West nowadays. Not because Muslims have become more devout, but because they feel threatened and thus are seeking security at gut level, in external visual symbols of unity.

    But that is a very dangerous thing to do. Muslims are minorities. Nothing can stop white tribal violence once triggered, which can be unspeakably brutal and relentless. And their governments will join them, not stop them.

    This calls for Muslims to adopt intelligent behavior. They must start dressing like Europeans do. They must behave like Europeans. They must not clamour for prayer breaks during work hours or special treatment in Ramadan. All this may make them FEEL insecure at gut level. But they will be less threatening for the majority so their real security will increase. Tough medicine but that is the only solution to the problem you have posed.

    Muslims in the West can always go back to their hijabs and beards once things settle down. But I can assure you that once they feel less threatened, European Muslims will have little interest in tribal symbolism. Study the history of Muslims at least in the last 100 years, and you will see I am right.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