New Delhi,Nirmalya Dutta: Every time there’s a terrorist attack, particularly in a developed part of the world, there’s a backlash against Muslims. They are targeted, attacked and forced to apologise for something they’ve not done. Similarly, after the Paris attack, a lot of Muslims took to Twitter to express their condemnation with variants of “I am a Muslim. I condemn the Paris attack. Over 1.5 billion Muslims do.”
This led a well-known Arab Spring activist Iyad el-Baghdadi to write on Twitter:
But why don’t we humanise this. Considering that we live in a country with 130 million Muslims, it’s almost impossible not to know someone who follows the faith. So think about the man or woman you know who follows Islam and ask yourself — is he or she a terrorist? The chances are he or she’s not and then ask yourself if you’re doing something that might push them to become one. Because that’s exactly what the ISIS and its allies want.
No more Gray Zone
The aim is to eliminate what the ISIS call the Gray Zone. According to this chilling ISIS editorial in Dabiq, the terror outfit’s English magazine, the plan is to get rid of the moderates. The ISIS believes that the world was irreparably splintered by the events of September 11, 2001, which would lead mankind to choose either between a camp of Islam (ISIS’ version of it) or a camp of Kufr (non-believers). It echoes George Bush’s post 9/11 address: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”
The author of this piece claims that the Gray Zone is narrowing which made the Paris attack (Charlie Hebdo) more effective because of the international atmosphere of terror we live in, which ISIS takes credit for.
The Guardian’s South Asian correspondent Jason Burke observed in his book The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militancy, “The aims of terrorist violence are threefold. The first is to terrorise enemies, and thus, through the functioning of democracy, to force the leaders of those democracies to make decisions that they would not otherwise have made. The second is to mobilise supporters by inspiring them into action. The third aim is perhaps the most important. Here, the violence is addressed to the uncommitted, the swing voters in the global struggle between right and wrong, belief and unbelief. “
He adds: “These are the people within a terrorist’s own community, or a particular constituency of significance in their campaign, who need to be convinced of the righteousness of a cause, the efficacy of a strategy, and the ability or vision of a leader. But they are also those who have so far resisted the urge to hate, to retaliate, to use violence themselves among the community which is being targeted. The aim, then, is to polarise.”
It is this polarisation that we must all fight against. Terror comes in all shapes and sizes, sometimes in the garb of religion, sometimes without it. From Hitler to Mussolini to Stalin, dictators have used ridiculous reasons to justify their tyranny. Religion is just one of them.
By blaming Muslims, the world is just helping the ISIS and their reprehensible allies win. Lest we forget, it’s the Muslim community which is bearing the maximum brunt of Islamic terrorism. A few days ago, a wave of car bombs struck a Shiite-majority area in Baghdad killing at least 18 people. More recently, 43 people were killed by the Islamic State in a crowded residential area in Beirut. In both cases, the victims were Shiite Muslims.
So let us stop blaming Muslims for things they are not responsible for, and not let the terrorists win. This is what they want, to divide us into groups based on our faiths or lack of it. Let us not let them set the agenda.
As for those who claim that the Koran condones violence, the same argument could be made for all such texts including the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita. In 2011, a public prosecutor filed case against a Russian edition of the Bhagavad Gita (with commentary by ISKCON founder Swami Prabhupada) in a local Russian court, interpreting that the book promoted religious extremism and social and racial intolerance. This led Jug Suraiya to write a lovely column titled ‘Kurukshetra Now’ in which he wrote out an imaginary conversation between Arjun and Krishna:
“Krishna: Kurukshetra is wherever there is ignorance. And this time the ignorance is in a place called Siberia, where a law court wants to ban us as we appear in the Gita because they say it’s an ‘extremist’ text which preaches war.
Arjuna: Holy moly. Preach war? Me? Don’t those guys know that I’m a conscientious objector, the original peacenik, the ‘him’ in the middle of ahimsa? Boy, talk about ignorance. How much more ig can anyone’s norance get.
Krishna: That’s the thing about ignorance. There are no limits to it, no end.”
We cannot allow the ignorance to divide the world, irrespective of our religious choices or lack of it. The entire world needs to send out the message that no matter what, we will not be divided by these brutes who think they represent a particular religion.
We might never have the utopia that John Lennon dreamt of when he sang: “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, imagine all the people, living life in peace”, but we sure as hell can live in a world where we stop killing each other for it.
PS: This article should not be taken as support for the atrocities that are carried out in the name of religion from homophobia to crushing basic rights, but that’s a debate for another day.