By Hariz Aftab
As stated by PEW Research Center (an American think tank which conducts public opinion polling, demographic research and other empirical social science research) Muslims made 24.1% of the global population in 2015, that proximately is 1.8 billion.
The information onstream, accessible by computer pertinent to “Islamic Terrorism” or “Designated Terrorist Groups” and the draft of “Foreign Terrorist Organisations” regulated by U.S Department of State number the radicalized militant organisations roughly around fifty wherein a few are the sprouts of a parent organisation. A presumption of 2,000 active combatants for each group yields one hundred thousand fighters globally who make up just 0.005% of the global Muslim population. A common-sensical question that follows is the nonengagement of the rest of Muslims in the face of claim (Islam is an inspiration for terrorism) and the meaning of the term “Islamic terrorism” itself.
Unfair Tagging and Coverage
Swami Laxmi Shankaracharya in his book entitled “Islam represents Terror or Ideal?” writes, “A perception was developed that if anywhere in the world (including India), any blast occurs wherefrom someone or a few persons were killed, and if by chance if any Muslim was involved in it, then it is immediately termed as Islamic Terrorism. Some forces including the media, for some vested interests would term these events as Islamic terrorism.” The excerpt of Swami Laxmi Shankaracharya creates an impression of a conspiracy theory beyond doubt, but, labeling of convicted RSS members in Ajmer Shrine Bombing Case as ‘members’ and ‘activists’ in the national media headlines validates his words.
A study carried out at University of Alabama lead by Dr. Erin Kearns with her associates Allison Betus and Anthony Lemieux, published in Justice Quarterly Issue 6 Volume 36 looks at all the terror attacks in the United States between 2006 unto 2015 and divulges that the religion of perpetrators among other factors as well is the highest factor to influence the news coverage. The study points out that attacks carried out by Muslim extremists receive a whopping 357% more media coverage than those committed by other groups. This accounts for 105 headlines for the former and 15 for the later.
Studying Muslims’ Attitudes
Different international organisations invest time in studying Muslims’ attitudes concerning terrorism. The surveys, however, tend to ignore minute inaccuracies they commit like asking questions with no mention of circumstances or general amalgamation of different categories and we have, at the end, millions of Muslims in the results supporting terrorism. Similar enthusiasm is missing nor an attempt is made to trace the roots of radicalization in case of right wing terrorism while according to Global Terrorism Index of 2019, deaths by right wing terrorism have increased by 320% over the past five years and on the other side deaths due to terrorism in general are lessening each year from the peak in 2014 unto 2018. If 9/11 is the first, Oklahoma bombing yet retains the position of second deadliest terrorist attack in the history of United States.
John Esposito employing poll data in 2008 from Gallup writes that Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject violence unleashed upon civilians. A later 2011 Gallup Poll suggested that “in MENA, those who reject military and individual attacks on civilians are more likely to say religion is an important part of their daily life.” This outrightly rejects any possibility of inspiration for terrorism advancing from the Islamic religion.
Is it Coming from Islam?
Had Islam been the prime motivation of extremists, Taliban and the Islamic state would have been hand in glove with each other. Had Islam been the prime motivation of extremists, nearly 80% of the victims of terrorism would not have been Muslims according to a research in November 2019 by Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, chair of the French Terror Victims Association. Religion primarily acts only as a tool to achieve the strategic goals.
Professor Robert A. Pape, an American political scientist and terrorism expert in his book “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” studies every single case of suicide bombing (315 attacks) from 1980 – 2003 in which at least one terrorist killed himself to kill others. He says, “The data shows that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any of the world’s religions… rather, what nearly all suicide attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organisations in recruiting and in other efforts in service of their strategic objective.” The reflections of Pape’s findings are witnessed in the videotape statement of Mohammad Sidique khan one of the homegrown suicide bombers of 7/7 London bombing that aired on Al Jazeera on 01 September 2005. Sidique says, “Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger. Your democratically-elected governments perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world and your support of them makes you directly responsible just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.”
Why don’t We Condemn?
The global dominance of divisive media is the only barrier that plays an important part in creation of the disappointment people in general have with Muslim community. Shortly after an attack happens, people often protest with a question, “Why don’t Muslims leaders condemn terrorism?” A teenager Herra Hashmi took it upon her shoulders back in 2017 to prove that the leaders of Muslim community do condemn terrorism when her classmate repeated the exact same words of Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, “Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.” Hashmi compiled a 712-page dossier of all instances of Muslims denouncing atrocities committed in the name of Islam from domestic violence to 9/11.
The “Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombing” a 600-page Islamic decree by a renowned Islamic scholar Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri declares terrorism and suicide bombing as unjust, evil, thus un-Islamic. Shaykh Afifi al-Akiti at Oxford Centre for Islamic studies wrote a fatwa against the targeting of civilians.
To damage the reputation of Muslim community by slandering, misrepresentation and misquotation for less than 1% of extremists employing religion to achieve political objectives to the fullest extent is unfair. Muslim leaders and multitudes have frequently been condemning terrorism perpetuated against innocent civilians both in protests and online. Unjust reporting/coverage by media is the highest factor to affect the instreaming of information with regard to the Muslim community.
Hariz Aftab is an independent researcher from Doda, Jammu and Kashmir and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org