Since 9/11, the Muslim community have been distancing themselves from the actions of militant Islamist groups and terrorists. They are dismissed as isolated groups who are acting on their own agenda or own interpretation of Islam, and it is always claimed they are not representative of Islam.
It’s clear that today, there are several different interpretations of Islam amongst its own followers. There are moderate Muslims, Muslims who say Islam is a religion of peace, militant Muslims, Jihadists… amongst others. All pray to Allah but all choose to focus on a different emphasis.
And likewise, there are any number of terrorist organisations and networks each acting in the name of Islam but addressing their own issue. Whether that’s Western education, British or US foreign policy or the war in Gaza…and probably more. We don’t know how many more there are. But it’s becoming obvious that this minority are creeping forward to become more than just a few.
Whilst the West needs to continue its response, it’s so vital that the Muslim community addresses where these radicalised individuals continue to come from- without saying they are nothing to do with Muslims or Islam. They are coming from within their ranks. The next generation of Muslims are watching wide-eyed as their religion and identity is being dragged through the mud by the likes of offensive cartoons. And the daily diet of news stories like the ongoing killing of Muslims in Gaza. What’s causing young Muslim men and women to become radicalised? Are they simply disillusioned, disaffected individuals as the press like to say; or is it Israel’s treatment of Palestinians? Is it Britain and the US aligning themselves with Israel? How about the current backlash against extremism?
Are you really Charlie?
And let’s just talk for a moment about the current backlash- Western Europe’s response to last week’s attacks. There is a lot of blatant hypocrisy going on. Yes it is right and imperative to condemn the attacks. It was a brutal, positively barbaric and unnecessary act.
But declaring “Je Suis Charlie” was one step further. Really? You are a racist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, homophobic, (plus other labels- there are too many minority groups that they’ve offended) publication?
It started as support for freedom of speech. But in the eyes of many, consciously or not, this has been an aligning with Islamaphobia. Indeed today Medhi Hasan political director of the Huffington Post UK, himself a Muslim, said he didn’t want to ‘be’ Charlie- given what it stands for.
Sadly though, the terms have been set. Alliances have been drawn and it’s been like an open statement to the Muslim world: we are with Charlie.
How will Muslims respond?
We can only watch and see what the true cost of all this will be. Will this response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and France in its declaration that they are Charlie Hebdo, become another Israel- another perceived enemy of Islam and Muslims?
It’s important that the Muslim community don’t make it into one. The Muslim response at this time needs to be measured and carefully worded. They must deal carefully with vulnerable ears that are listening to an older generation, potentially speaking hatred towards Western Europe. The anti-Israel sentiment is already there. I don’t believe they can afford to further stoke those fires by adding another “enemy” of Islam.