Fainting in Coyles An occasional letter from the
Heart of Euroville
Sunday, September 05, 2004
A tale of two articles. Both written by the courageous Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, managing editor of the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. One is from a couple of years ago and in plain, the other is today and in italic. Finally the reality of what is happening is beginning to sink in. Applaud this man, support people like them.
Generalising the Islamic Label Muslims are in a difficult position because of the inability of others to distinguish the difference between various Muslim groups.
Approximately one sixth of the world population lives in 40 Muslim countries. The total Muslim population is estimated at one billion. It would not be accurate to classify all these people simply as Muslim or Islamic. Despite their ethnic diversity, differing nationalities and languages as well as geographical distance, Muslims are wrongly seen as one and the same entity.
Omar Abdul Rahman and his followers in the United States, the Algerian butchers, Abu Hamza and Shankarah, Bin Laden, the Dagestan fighters, six groups of Afghan fighters, warring groups in Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Central Asia are all called Muslim or Islamic groups.
The hostage-takers of children in Beslan, North Ossetia, were Muslims. The other hostage-takers and subsequent murderers of the Nepalese chefs and workers in Iraq were also Muslims. Those involved in rape and murder in Darfur, Sudan, are Muslims, with other Muslims chosen to be their victims.
Those responsible for the attacks on residential towers in Riyadh and Khobar were Muslims. The two women who crashed two airliners last week were also Muslims.
Bin Laden is a Muslim. The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses and buildings, all over the world, were Muslim.
The world is full of struggles, clashes and disputes. These occur in countries where the Muslim population is the majority just as in countries where the majority are Christian or Buddhist. The violence in Muslim countries is related to internal problems; their struggles are not over any religious issue. In Dagestan, the fighters are being called Muslim rebels though they are not fighting for an Islamic issue. In Afghanistan there are at least six groups fighting for control of the country. Their fighting has nothing to do with Islam; they fight among themselves because they are hostile to one another but still, they are portrayed as fighters for Islam.
What a pathetic record. What an abominable "achievement". Does all this tell us anything about ourselves, our societies and our culture?
One wonders why in other countries where the involved parties are Christian, Buddhist or Hindu, the fighters are not identified by a religious label. The fighters in Ireland are not called Christian though those who are involved in the dispute are all Christian. Nor do we view the struggles in Ethiopia or Korea from a religious base. On the other hand, if the fighter or issue is related to a country with a Muslim majority or a group containing Muslims, they will be identified as Islamic or Muslim. This is bad for the image of Islam and gives an incorrect idea of the religion. Earlier the term 'Islamist' was used to describe certain partisans of the Iranian revolution. Eventually the term was extended to mean anything related to Muslim countries. Later, unfortunately, the word Muslim itself began to be associated in the Western media with kidnapping, bloodshed and terrorism.
We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women.
When Afghans began to fight the Soviets who were occupying their country, the word regained its positive connotation to some extent. Later when areas of rebellious activities increased in Muslim countries, the label was fixed on all such negative activities in these countries. When the war broke out in Bosnia six years ago, Bosnians were called Muslims in the media though Croats and Serbs were not called Christians.
We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image.
The use of religious labels in a pejorative sense for all the people in Muslim countries is unjust and inaccurate. Most disputes in Muslim countries, just as in non-Muslim ones, have their origins in territorial or political disagreements. The people of Dagestan demand their own independent country for themselves. Instead of calling them freedom fighters, they are called Muslim rebels while the Basque in Spain who struggle for a separate country are never called Christian rebels. The indiscriminate use of the word Islam contorts the image of Muslims and because of such use, the word has unfortunately become synonymous with violence and bloodshed.
We cannot redeem our extremist youths, who commit all these heinous crimes, without confronting the Sheikhs who thought it ennobling to re-invent themselves as revolutionary ideologues, sending other people's sons and daughters to certain death, while sending their own children to European and American schools and colleges.