For over a decade, Muslims have been conditioned to condemn and apologise for crimes committed as a result of western foreign policy, writes Dilly Hussain.
Since 9/11 and the subsequent terrorist attacks which have taken place in the West, Muslims have been entrapped in a vicious circus show called “Not in my name”. This circus show entails guilt by association of faith, and the never-ending apologies and condemnations that Muslims are forced to make for crimes allegedly committed in the name of Islam.
This pressure on Muslims to bend over backwards in distancing themselves from crimes committed by their co-religionists comes in many forms: the war on terror rhetoric our government uses when talking about ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’, the media’s demonisation of Islam linking it to every crime under the sun from sexual grooming, domestic violence to terrorism, and TV/radio presenters’ aggressive methods of interviewing. The sight of prominent Muslim figures and organisations tripping over themselves when they race to condemn on national TV, you can’t help but think, how different it is when let’s say white Britons or Americans commit similar crimes, or Christians or any other ethnic, racial or religious group – this apologetic syndrome has affected Muslims exclusively.
When the Madrid and London 7/7 bombings happened, Muslims in the West felt cornered as their governments and the media targeted their religion. Whilst the perpetrators of these attacks were Muslim, you would be naive to think that Islam was the catalyst behind the attacks, totally ignoring the West’s unequivocal support for Israel and its brutal occupation of Palestinian territories, propping oppressive dictators in the Arab world like Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadaffi, Ben Ali and the petrol rich sheikhdoms of the Gulf, as well as the illegal war against Iraq.
The murder of British soldier, Lee Rigby in Woolwich last year, resulted in numerous ‘Muslim leaders’ rushing to apologise for a crime which was explicitly linked to foreign policy as Michael Adebolajo clearly stated. Groups like the Muslim Council of Britain held huge press conferences rightly condemning the crime but failing to address foreign policy. PM David Cameron, Mayor Boris Johnson, Middle East ‘Peace Convoy’ Tony Blair all jumped on the bandwagon in holding Islam responsible for Woolwich, as opposed to Britain’s foreign policy which is drenched in the blood of Muslims.
Let’s forget foreign policy for a moment, and look at a domestic problem that Islam was also blamed for. During high profile sexual grooming cases involving Asian Muslims in 2012-2013, the mainstream media and politicians pointed fingers at Pakistani Muslims’ perception of white women.
The values that sexual predators hold have absolutely no link to any mainstream organised religion, rather it’s clear they are the by-products of a ‘culturally pornified‘ society, where women are marketed as sex objects to sell anything from chocolates to pet food. How did Muslims respond to this barrage of intimidation? Instead of addressing the moral decadence of the society they live in, the focus remained on the criminals’ religion as national anti-grooming sermons were delivered at Friday prayers.
More recently, Muslims find themselves under immense pressure after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) declared a Caliphate on 29th June. The concept and obligation to work for a unified and borderless Islamic polity, which rules by Shariah law is a mainstream belief in normative Islam whether you’re Sunni or Shia. As a result of ISIS’ treatment of religious minorities and the beheading of American journalist James Foley earlier this week, Muslims are once again pressured to condemn and distance themselves from any association to the term Caliphate, as if the default position (or assumption) is that Muslims support ISIS unless they condemn them.
Take Channel 4 News anchor, Matt Frei as an example, who couldn’t help himself but ask Asim Qureshi, the director of advocacy group CAGE whether he supported ISIS – and Mr Qureshi’s response was a befitting one – “Did you ask me that because I’m Muslim?” What relevance did Mr Qureshi’s position on ISIS have on the discussion of whether the UK should intervene in Iraq? Was it because Mr Qureshi linked the British government’s disastrous foreign policy as the cause of radicalisation at home?
Similarly, I found myself hounded upon by a BBC radio presenter last week when I was invited to speak on the topic of ‘Should British Muslims support a Caliphate‘. The discussion went from my personal views on the Caliphate to whether I acknowledged that Yazidis were being persecuted and if I condemned it. Furthermore, the presenter was hell-bent in his condescending style of ‘ impartiality’, imposing signature orientalist questions of analysing the Caliphate from the prism of secular liberal democracies as a bench mark to measure its viability in the modern era.
The irony is that whilst majority of Muslim groups, institutions and leaders worldwide have rejected ISIS’ Caliphate, it’s only western governments, media outlets and analysts that keep referring to it as the “Islamic State”, in theory legitimising its credibility. But this was expected as I argued on the show, that the West, namely the U.S. has worked tirelessly to prevent such a state from emerging and Muslims’ desire for it is downplayed by continuously comparing it to the primitive claim of ISIS.
If there can be a level of consistency when Muslims are expected to condemn, maybe we can begin to move forward. If white Christian Americans/Britons/Europeans are willing to condemn and apologise for centuries of colonialism, the actions of G.W.Bush, Tony Blair over Iraq and Afghanistan; Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay prisons; extra judicial murder and illegal renditions; white sexual groomers; paedophilic Church leaders; Jimmy Saville and sex rings involving the British political elite; politicians who swindle expenses and taxes; Israeli aggression and occupation; support for oppressive ‘pseudo-democratic’ regimes in the Muslim world; then maybe Muslims will comfortably come forward to say “not in my name, not in my religion”.
Until then, let’s take a long hard look in the mirror before we expect Muslims to condemn, because none of the aforementioned injustices were committed by ‘Islamic states’, rather secular liberal democracies that claim to be the beacon of tolerance, transparency and freedom
This article was first published in the Huffington Post.