22 November 2015
Post Paris terror attack has generated a new venue for politicians, a sensitive and troubling topic for conversation among families, neighbours and friends. Last evening while out to dinner with another couple the discussion after some initial pleasantries soon shifted to ISIS and Islamophobia. We raised the question, what can we do to reduce fear mongering, hatred and discrimination so blatantly gushed by the republican candidates: Donald Trump: Suggested closing American mosques and forcing Muslim Americans to register in a national database. Ben Carson: Compared Syrian refugees — families fleeing the terrible violence of war — to rabid dogs. Jeb Bush: Suggested a religious test for refugees to be allowed to enter the U.S. Non-Christian refugees would be turned away.
Most commonly held view among the Non-Muslims Westerners is that Islam embodies a rigid and inflexible doctrine and that no Muslim can speak against Islam because the Quran says anyone who criticizes Islam is branded a nonbeliever and deserves retributive processes. Islam is all about submitting to the will and plans of the Prophet that include converting everyone to Islam or slaying them. Islam is at war with Western civilization. Of course most of these allegations are untrue. My friend observed, we in the Western world are up against, a non-conventional army, per se; it’s an ideology. While a military response is necessary, it’s not sufficient. An ideology can be suppressed, limited and curtailed militarily, but it cannot be defeated with bombs and tanks. It will shrink into the shadows and resurface in another place, at another time. Furthermore we felt that the defeat of an ingrained ideology can only come about by education and reorientation from within and among its adherents.
If Muslim world are truly perturbed by the likes of the Islamic State group, or ISIS, they must ask themselves who they really are, who they really want to be, how they really want to be perceived and what role they really wish to play in the community of nations. There have been protests and statements by ISNA, ICNA, IMANA, CAIR, and several mosques in the different states but this carries very little weight and has more of a “political correctness” element. Regrettably, too few learned and respected Muslim scholars have spoken out against the current jihadist ideology. Is the fear of reprisal too great? Is the price too high? Where are the brave leaders in the Islamic world, willing to risk it all for the greater good of their own people and world at large? The peaceful Muslims should consider separating completely from the terrorist Muslim bearing contagions of the true Islamic values. It’s a long road but one must embark.
I would end my letter by quoting the following NYT columnist Charles M Blow, Anti-Muslim Is Anti-American:
”Fear is winning out over hope not just evident… in the rhetoric of political candidates. We’re talking about spending billions of dollars to send thousands of soldiers to fight jihadists on their ground. We’re talking about spending billions to build walls and provide guards to keep “the others” out of our privileged enclave. We’ve already spent billions to provide surveillance cameras and armed guards for schools and trained millions of children how to seek cover from “shooters”.
No one running for office suggests we spend money for a Marshall Plan to help Middle East countries torn by war for a generation. No one suggests we provide funds to assist countries that are welcoming refugees. No one suggests that we provide more mental health and counselling funds instead of more cameras, more probing into our emails, and more “good guys with guns”. Fear is winning over hope because fear is based on selfishness and blame and hope is based on compassion and responsibility. Sadly, the politicians who play to our basest instincts seem to have convinced the electorate that their opponents who appeal to our higher angels are “weak”…. and so we are revisiting the darkest parts of human history.”