Following in the wake of the recent terrorist attack perpetuated by radicalized Islamic extremists (it doesn’t matter when you’re reading this; it’s the unfortunate reality of the world today that this sentence is perpetually relevant), there are those who will point out that not all Muslims are terrorists.
This is problematic.
No one with even a minimum amount of sense actually thinks that all Muslims are terrorists. So saying #NotAllMuslims is, at best, stating the obvious, and contributes nothing to the discussion. Yes, the sky is blue, water is wet, and people are still dying.
This is an even bigger problem if you are, yourself, Muslim.
It’s perfectly understandable that in the wake of the horrors of a terrorist attack, and with emotions running high, it will be important to someone who is Muslim to clarify that not all Muslims are terrorists. The problematic part is if this is the only thing they do; and if moving to be defensive of their faith is the first step, and especially if it’s the last.
For starters, there is the issue of perception: by bringing up a defense of Islam when clearly the perpetrator was a deranged lunatic who happened to have the same faith, it just further solidifies the link between the two.
But that’s optics. The real problem is underneath that: Islamic terrorism is by far the most common breed of terrorism in the world:
To say it has nothing to do with Islam is, at worst, naive.
It’s also an increasing problem:
The other fact is that the vast majority of victims of radicalized Islamic terrorism are other Muslims.
Radicalized Muslim terrorists are people from the Islamic community, who are radicalized within the Islamic community, who then stage attacks which primarily affect the Islamic community. This is clearly a problem within the Muslim community, both worldwide and within individual countries.
When Islamic terrorism strikes in the West, it gets more attention in Western media because it’s a spill-over of something that’s going on in the Muslim community, and is affecting Westerners who are otherwise not involved in the problem. (For example, in Iraq, despite the US invasion in 2003, over 82% of the victims of terrorism are Muslim and Iraqi).
What are Muslims, therefore, doing to tackle this problem within their community? Therein lies the problem:
Of course Britain is not the world, but we can see a clear problem. At least in the western world, we rely on the community to help prevent violent crime. In any other group, the number of people who would report to the police any potential terrorist is in the high 90s. This is how the police do their job in a free society, in a society that respects people’s rights to privacy, that doesn’t snoop on people’s religious practices, and doesn’t interfere in people’s private activities. They trust that the people will call the police when they see activity that might harm them or others.
I understand that this might be a bit of an alien concept for people who are immigrating form totalitarian countries with secret police who are more interested in affirming the power of the country’s dictator than the security of the people. But most Muslims in the west are not, in fact, immigrants; they grew up in a democratic society, where the police act on the principles of democracy.
However, Muslims are slow to challenge and denounce religious leaders who perpetuate hatred of non-Muslims. They accept the narrative that they are victimized, and must resist government “intrusion” in the form of terrorism prevention by not reporting people who are becoming radicalized.
Saying #NotAllMuslims is a way to wash one’s hands of responsibility to better the community, to weed out potential terrorists who – remember – target other Muslims to a greater degree. Some Muslims take the next step of publicly denouncing terrorists acts once they happen – but because of the timing, for many it seems more in an effort to avoid backlash than a sincere sentiment. Especially after standing up for members of the community who, it turns out, were complicit in the radicalization of others.
The solution to Islamic terrorism is not in the West: it’s in the Muslim communities around the world. How exactly those communities can be convinced to weed out the terrorism in their midst is another question; but the status quo is certainly unsustainable. In the face of increasing radical Muslim attacks, anti-Islam sentiment will only grow, and the reciprocating defensiveness of the Muslim community will likely solidify.
Muslims have the means to put an end to radicalization within their community; it is their responsibility to take the lead here.