Following the horrifying attacks in Paris and Beirut last week, the world was once again shocked by brutality done in the name of an extremist and militarized Islam. Whereas many responses to these events – responses from all sides – were predictable, it pays to reflect on them.
We asked ourself the following question: How do the 13/11 attacks in Paris and the 12/11 attacks in Beirut) connect to the following issues?
I’m not going to avoid this touchy subject: the ISIS attacks have everything to do with Islam, but not necessarily in the way you think.
To me, it seems insane to claim that a group who continuously shouts it from the roof that they kill people in the name of their god is not a religiously affiliated group. To say that ISIS isn’t made up of Muslims is usually saying that they are not real Muslims. And here things get complicated. As much of a unsatisfying cliché as it is: the answer to whether or ‘real’ Islam condones the killing of non-believers is a matter of interpretation. There are many verses in the Quran that call upon the believers to fight, but there is always room for interpretation for whom and when and how to fight.
Think of it this way: someone with a degree in Biology who denies evolution is still a real biologist, but certainly not a good example of one.
But the good news is this: the vast majority of Muslims do not support violence in the name of their religion and they do not think that Muslim laws should apply to non-Muslims. Just think about it: there are somewhere around 1,6 billion people (that is: up to 1,600,000,000) who identify themselves as a Muslim. Estimates on the strength of ISIS of range from 20,000 to 250,000, meaning that ISIS represents somewhere between 0.001% or 0,016% of all Muslims.
And if you really want to get an idea of how unpopular ISIS is among Muslims: even Al-Qaida thinks that they are too extreme. As early as the beginning of 2014, Al-Qaida denied any links with ISIS and claimed no responsibility for their actions. ISIS is the closest thing the world has to a common enemy: while Middle-Eastern politics is more complicated than Game of Thrones, there is not a single party in the region that supports them. Even sworn enemies like Iran and the freaking Taliban are teaming up against ISIS.
The refugee crisis…
Short and simple conclusion: the stream of people flowing into Europe are running away from the very terror that we abhor. No, the refugees are not the terrorists. They are also not sneaking into Europe so that they can organize attacks. Saying that we should refuse hundreds of thousands of refugees because some of them might be terrorists is like saying that doctors should stop treating their patients because some of them might be child molesters.
A lot of people are talking about how no one is talking about the almost simultaneous attacks on Beirut. There is a core of truth to this: the attention that the Paris attacks are getting seems out of proportion, but then again, it’s not that weird that Western media pays more attention to events going on in the West, is it? And as some have argued: it may be the fault of the reader rather than the media because there has been plenty of coverage on the Beirut attacks. The story of Adel Termos, a man who heroically died while stopping a second bomber, has also gained much attention on social media.
Our response in the face of terror
Personally, I’m ambivalent about hash-tag movements and other kinds of cyber-activism. I’m even less enthusiastic about painting our FaceBook profile pics in the French tricolere; while the expression of empathy is nice to see, it still doesn’t offer much else than a rather empty gesture.
In the end, the best way to deal with these attacks is by not being divided, and by not letting ourselves get dragged away by our first instincts. While the on-going French bombardments against ISIS are imposing, we must not forget that war against the West is exactly what ISIS wants, an apocalyptic battle with the West is actually part of their core beliefs.
If anything, a world where Muslims are free of prejudice would be the ultimate victory over ISIS.