When a white “terrorist” is awarded a privilege 1.8 billion Muslims are denied
If the world can largely agree on one thing, it is the need to defeat terrorism. However, the frequency of unity seen when condemning terror does not echo beyond that, for every state of the world is employing its own methods (or lack thereof) of tackling this daunting, multi-faceted predicament, and hence achieving varying degrees of success.
The first and probably most pivotal step in the fight against terrorism is to clearly define what constitutes as terror and who is actually a terrorist. Failure to reach a singular consensus on this starting point will invariably lead to utter confusion amongst the public, something that would further embolden the extremists, and provide a vacuum to take advantage of. Similarly, nothing hurts a nation’s fight against terrorism more than selective hypocrisy when deciding whom to label a terrorist and whom to call a lone-wolf.
Take Pakistan, for example. Initially, after 9/11, we were failing miserably in the war against terror, a war we had imported from Afghanistan. The main reason, amongst others, was that our society was divided about the very problem it was trying to confront. The fault lines were drawn, with a substantive chunk of the population sincerely believing that fighting them should be the very last resort, and instead we would be better off seeking dialogue and negotiation with the terrorists, in order to reach an amicable consensus and coexist peacefully with them.
The other drawback in Pakistan’s approach was that our people were confused between misguided notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists. Unfortunately, all the main players in this fight – the politicians, the military, the media, as well as the theologians – were to blame for muddling the waters and creating this bipolarity in the minds of the citizens. The lack of strong leadership and a confused and scared populace both led to a loud, evasive silence, which ultimately fanned the flames for this plague to spread all over the country. Had we unequivocally and unanimously spoken out against this from day one, we would possibly have been successful in nipping it in the bud.
Nevertheless, there is no point in crying over spilled milk, though woefully, what was spilled was the blood of thousands of innocent Pakistani men, women and children.
The moment we, as a nation, categorically decided to treat all terrorists as the same – irrespective of their backgrounds, motivations or justifications – we won the psychological fight. The clouds of guilt and confusion felt earlier were now replaced with a clear understanding of what was to be done moving forward. Granted, even now we are not entirely safe, but we are the only nation in the world that has successfully destroyed the network of the terrorists from our soil.
The United States initiated this war on terror, but from day one, its policies against terrorism have reeked of hypocrisy. First, the US refused to accept its share of the blame for this universal conundrum, and betrayed the world, and its own people, by pointing fingers elsewhere. During the cold war, the US, along with Ziaul Haq, had deliberately inculcated the youth of Afghanistan and Pakistan with the doctrine of jihad and created the ‘mujahideen’, calling them saviours against communism. America trained them, equipped them with weapons and financed them, and then once the war was over, they left the region without even looking back to see the mess they had created. The foundation for the Taliban was thus laid by the US.
In the same vein, when the US, along with its western allies, invaded Iraq on the pretext of destroying weapons of mass destruction, it ultimately set the foundation for the creation of the Islamic State (IS). How can one sovereign state invade another without good reason, and then simply say sorry and act as if nothing happened? Could the US be so naive as to think that there would be no consequences for its illegal and unlawful actions? The IS was the “gift” from America to the world – a consequence of the Iraq war.
“How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?” – Howard Zinn
Another indicator of America’s double standards is revealed in how it deals with domestic terrorism. The events of the last few months alone suffice to prove this point. It seems that whenever a ‘Muslim’ commits an act of terror, certain segments in America immediately jump on the bandwagon of Islamophobia and start blaming all the followers of Islam, equating Islam with terrorism and Muslims with being terrorists. It is unfortunate that despite being the leader of the free world, the US president is the first to act in this extremely hypocritical and vile manner.
Hypocritical, because when the attacker turns out to be white, which has happened quite often as of late, the reaction of that same group of people is completely the opposite. Now they start calling for “thoughts and prayers”, and the need to stick together and be united. They urge others who try to highlight their hypocrisy to stop “politicising” the incident and take the time to “heal”. Where is this wonderful advice when the act of terror is not committed by a white man? Why is it that in those cases their thoughts and prayers turn into Muslim bans?
In the last month, there have been two incidents that have highlighted these double standards. In New York, when an Uzbek man ploughed his car onto pedestrians, Trump was quick to denounce it as terrorism, and his right-wing, racist supporters soon followed suit with tirades against Islam. However, on November 5th, when a white man carried out a shooting in a church, killing at least 26 people and causing the largest mass shooting in Texas’s history, not once did Trump use the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” when denouncing the man’s actions. He has called the culprit mentally unstable and other fancy innuendos to side-track from calling the shooter what he truly is – a terrorist who killed innocent people in a place of worship!
This similar criminal and immoral fumbling of the US president was also witnessed when the deadliest shooting ever in America was deemed to be horrible enough to be labelled a terrorist attack. The whole world was shocked and disgusted at America’s leadership and what is very clearly a discriminatory and racist perspective on something as black and white as terrorism.
If America is indeed serious in its efforts to fight terror, it should take heed from Pakistan’s example and realise that a nation divided cannot win an ideological war of this magnitude. And to achieve this unison amongst its people, America has to shun its hypocritical approach towards terrorism, both internationally and nationally. Only then may it actually win the war on terror it has dragged us all into.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.