These days it’s hard to keep up with the number of terrorist attacks carried out by ‘Islamist militants,’ around the world. With the incidents in Pakistan, Nigeria and Kenya taking center stage in world news, it is important to remind those reading these headlines that militants form a very small group amongst majority Muslims who live peacefully across the world.
Over the weekend while sitting amongst friends, I inquired whether anyone had heard of the deadly attack in Nigeria.
“You mean the second attack in Peshawar [Pakistan] in one week? Where 30 odd people were killed?”
“No, the one in a Nigerian dormitory where 50 students were massacred in their sleep,” I said .“Wait, are you talking about the one in Nairobi [Kenya] where a mall was hijacked by crazy militants and people were executed! But that was a week ago. So sad,” another friend said.
Unfortunately, we were all right.
Ironically, on the weekend of World Peace Day (September 21) and the week following it, ‘World Peace’ was dealt blow after blow and more than 250 innocent civilians lost their lives in bomb blasts and shooting incidents. This figure includes the following high profile attacks since September 20.
- September 20: Westgate Mall attack carried out by Somali militant group, al-Shabab, in Nairobi, Kenya. (67 killed)
- September 21: Twin bomb blasts carried out by Pakistan Taliban’s off-shoot organization, Jundullah, outside a church in Peshawar, Pakistan. (80 killed)
- September 27: Bus bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan. (18 killed)
- September 29: Police station attack in Peshawar, Pakistan. (At least 40 killed)
- September 29:Attack on a college in northeast Nigeria by Islamist group, Boko Haram. (50 killed)
Note: Islamist Boko Haram militants killed 159 people in two roadside attacks in northeast Nigeria earlier this month, according to Reuters.
The culprit? Militant Islam or Islamist violence.
While the answer is not as simple as that and those responsible were different groups, expressing their own grievances unique to their respective regions. However, as far as the bigger picture is concerned that is how the headlines are being perceived around the world.
Militant Islam strikes again.
The operational word here being ‘militant’.
A group of fanatic militants have hijacked Islam, which is bound to affect how Islam is perceived in the eyes of those who know little about it or its believers.
These violent Islamists represent a very small percentage of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.
Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, political Editor of The Huffington Post, made the argument for majority Muslims quite aptly (Watch video below).
While speaking at a Oxford Union Society debate in February, Hasan asked why “if Islam is responsible for killing, such a tiny percentage of believers actually participate in violence.
He questioned how it was rational for people in the West to believe that 1.6 billion people were all "followers, promoters and believers in a religion of violence."
Referring to the Quran, he said that he believed in a God who in 113 of the 114 versus in the Holy text, is referred to as merciful and compassionate – not a God of war.
Criticizing officials for blaming Islam for violent attacks around the world, he quoted a study carried out by renowned security expert Dr. Robert Pape. The University of Chicago professor collected a complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004 and concluded that there was ‘little connection’ between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism or any other of the world’s religions.
Islamophobia is fast increasing in the West and according to Muslim organizations in the US such as the Center for Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), it comes in waves.
Following incidents such as the recent killing of a British soldier who was stabbed to death by London jihadists in Woolwich (May 2013) or the building of a mosque near ground-zero in New York City (August 2012), attacks on Muslim populations in Western countries increase.
With the recent wave of terrorist attacks making international headlines this past week, the connection that people in the non-Muslim world make between violent extremists and ordinary Muslims will fuel Islamophobia. It already has.
Last week Fox News host Bob Beckel broadcasted that America should discontinue Muslim student visas and halt the construction of new mosques.
“No Muslim students coming here with visas. No more mosques being built here until you stand up and denounce what's happened in the name of your prophet.”
Countries such as the U.K. and the U.S. have a significant Muslim population and the hatred and fear of Islam will only lead to the persecution and/or discrimination of this group.
As Mehdi put it, believing that Islam is somehow responsible for terrorism only "fuels the arguments of the phobes and bigots and legitimize hate", and people need to instead "trust the Muslims that you know and that you hear."
To hear his full speech made earlier this year, watch the video posted by the Oxford Union below.