Column: Don’t conflate religion with terrorism

Column: Don’t conflate religion with terrorism

The American writer LINDA S. HEARD wrote about linking Islam to terrorism in the western media, and its reflections on the west countries.

US President Barack Obama has come under fire from Republican politicians for his rejection of the term “radical Islamic terrorism” including from Sen. Tom Cotton who says his country needs a commander-in-chief “who calls the enemy by its name.”

On this point, Obama is right because both realistically and figuratively terrorism is the very antithesis of Islam’s core messages. Anyone who blithely slices the head off a 12-year-boy, like members of the US/UK-backed Nour Al-din Al-Zenki rebel group did near Aleppo recently, are acting contrary to Islamic values and principles.

My eyes caught a snippet of the video as I was checking my Facebook newsfeed. I wish they hadn’t. The sight of the pure terror in that poor child’s eyes and the vision of one of the killers gleefully holding high his bloodied decapitated head still haunt me. These are hardened, heartless killers who may refer to themselves as Muslims whereas their actions show that they’ve abandoned their faith.

The same can, of course, be said in relation to those controlled by the false caliph who calls everyone against their bloodthirsty ideology, including Muslims, “apostate.” There is nothing in Islam that condones the beheading, drowning, torching or burying alive of women and children. There is nothing that incites its adherents to indiscriminately bomb crowded places to kill innocent men and women, never mind toddlers and babies in arms.

The facts speak for themselves. Neither Al-Qaeda nor Daesh was born from Islam. Al-Qaeda was spawned in the 1980s when the CIA advertised for fighters to take on the Soviets in Afghanistan. Daesh is rooted in one of its branches, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but those who propelled it into being were former officers in Saddam’s military thrown together at the US-run Camp Bucca.

Testimonies from people held hostage by Daesh or were former members indicate fighters are more politically-driven than religiously. They cynically use and distort religious beliefs as a tool with which to justify their crimes and tempt disposable foot soldiers of limited intelligence to blow up themselves and others with the assurance they’ll be rewarded in the Hereafter. I saw this technique being used in a video where a reluctant, scared suicide bomber was seen being coaxed out of the back of a pick-up to commit the evil deed.

Christianity as a whole has not been condemned because of killings and torture during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazi Holocaust, or due to mass murders carried out by individuals such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik who murdered 77 people and injured hundreds in July, 2011 or supposedly devout Christian Jim David Adkisson who in 2008, deliberately turned his weapon on children in a Knoxville church.

It may surprise you to know that US statistics show that Americans are far more likely to be killed by a non-Muslim mass shooter than a Muslim, yet former US presidential candidate Ted Cruz has stated, “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror”. That’s only true because their gruesome acts are not classed as “terror.”

It’s notable that each time the perpetrator is non-Muslim his crime is characterized by the media as “a mass shooting” and more often than not he is branded as emotionally unstable, severely depressed or insane. You often hear television guest commentators say something along the lines of, “This may be terrorism but we will wait to see whether the killer/killers were Muslims” as though they have the monopoly on acts of terrorism.

Importantly, too, much more Muslims than non-Muslims have been victims of terror but those tragedies don’t attract the same amount of media coverage as similar events in the US or Europe. There were no minute-silences, memorial ceremonies or the lowering of flags for the 28 people slaughtered while eating-out in Dhaka or for the 200 whose lives were robbed in Baghdad earlier this month or even for the hundreds killed in Turkey this year. Does anyone even know their names?

Ironically, the terrorists’ prime targets, their fellow Muslims, are often painted with the same broad brush and to add insult to injury are expected to verbally distance themselves from the most bestial killers who don’t stop to ask someone’s religion before they point and shoot.

Lastly, judging by the profiles of the French and Belgian mass attackers, as well as the Boston Bombers and the Orlando shooter, they were not at all religiously inclined. On the contrary, many were drug dealers and petty criminals. The Tunisian-Born French truck-killer who mowed down and killed 84 Bastille Day revelers in Nice hunted for conquests on dating sites, regularly drank, consumed drugs, didn’t fast during Ramadan and was not known to have ever attended mosque.

Reports that he was radicalized just weeks before his killing spree don’t stack up. What does this mean? He suddenly got religion and promptly planned a killing spree? That should have induced the opposite result. He was recruited, maybe out of political motivations, but radicalized, highly unlikely.

I’m no fan of President Obama but credit where it’s due. He hasn’t tried to make political capital by joining the bash Islam brigade and he’s been careful to use non-inflammatory words. Here’s hoping the same will be said of his successor.

LINDA S. HEARD – Arab News