Islam has been blamed for violence, intolerance and persecution. But are those making these accusations committing the same sin?
By Christopher Udemans
”Let them starve.” These three words, in any context, should appeal to one’s sense of humanity. This short statement is loaded with significance. It makes one wonder who “they” are and under what circumstance would we wish this upon another human being.
On another level it manages to encapsulate the state of society. Have we, as the human race, stooped to a level that allows us to decide who is worthy to live and who should be cast aside and left to die?
The statement in question was directed at the Guantanamo Bay detainees who have resorted to starving themselves while others attempt suicide.
To understand this verbal attack in context, one needs to attempt to answer a few simple questions. Firstly, have the detainees been tried before a judge and jury? Secondly, did the detainment of these men occur under legal circumstances? And thirdly, should every person not have the right to be seen as innocent until proven guilty?
You may be thinking, “Why should I care? It is an isolated incident”. Let me put it in context.
In the past few years there have been a gross number of “let them starve” moments in both the United States and Europe.
Since late 2010, a number of states in America have either been successful in banning the Islamic Sharia law or have attempted to do so. To date, thirteen states in the country have shown an interest in preventing Sharia law from being practiced.
On the 11th April 2011, the French government passed a law that made wearing a burka in public illegal. According to an Amnesty International report, anti-Islamic sentiments are rising in the area. Political parties that promote this form of discourse are gaining popularity. The French National Front’s following has risen from 0.2% to 17% in the past twenty years.
Later in 2011, Anders Breivik, a Norwegian Christian fundamentalist, killed seventy-seven and injured three hundred and nineteen people in reaction to the “islamification” of Europe. He euphemistically describes his ideology as being “an indigenous rights movement”.
In July 2012, The Innocence of Muslims was uploaded to YouTube. The pernicious video was created by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian born American Christian. The video depicts hordes of blood thirsty Muslims slaughtering Christians in a manic rage.
Earlier this year the Tsarnaev brothers, who are of Chechen descent, were captured by officials for killing three and injuring over a hundred others at the Boston Marathon.
Word got out that the brothers were Muslim. Predictably, the American mass media had a field day. They claimed that it was definitely an incident of radical Islam. However, there were a number of crucial details that were left out.
Firstly, the number of times Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had attended mosque in his lifetime could be counted on the fingers of his left hand. Secondly, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been kicked out of the mosque and practiced what only can be described as YouTube Islam.
The media managed to reduce the alleged perpetrators motives down to radical Islam despite evidence of dire living conditions, social alienation, loneliness and a resulting sense of detachment.
Essentialism at its best.
Even more disturbing is that fact that this distorted view managed to penetrate the pages of The Wall Street Journal thanks to the aged journalist, Judith Miller.
In her article, How to Stop Terrorists Before they Kill, Miller filled a number of pages with conservative propaganda, all the while framing the Tsarnaev bothers as Muslim fundamentalists.
Orientalism at its best.
Ironically, a recent study done by the Gallup Centre has shown that American Muslims are the most adverse to violence in relation to other religious denominations.
The results also showed that 92% of American Muslims believe that those sharing their religion are completely unsympathetic to Al Qaeda.
As human beings we have the right to freedom of expression, to live free from fear and free from racial and cultural discrimination. No human being should have to abandon his or her cultural roots for fear of legal repercussions. No human should be restricted from practicing the ethical code of their chosen religion.
Read the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, it says a lot more on the topic.
However evidence suggests that many are willing to sacrifice universal human rights for discriminatory legislation and acrimonious social practices.
One needs to understand that it is not religion that breeds radicalisation. It is society. It is a reaction,a response to violence, social hostility and discrimination. Stripping individuals of their cultural identity only exacerbates the problem.
In his book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James makes that the statement that “piety is the mask”. This may have been so in the past but more recently, it can be said that piety is the scapegoat.
Welcome to the age of fear. Say hello to the new McCarthyism. When in doubt, blame Islam.