Every month all over the world, barbaric Islamist terror claims the lives of individuals or groups perceived by these terrorists as an obstacle to Dar Al-Islam (i.e. state under Islamic rule, or literally: “the home of Islam”). Monday’s attack at Manchester Arena was the worst terrorist attack in the UK since the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, in which 56 people were killed. Yesterday afternoon, the Islamic State claimed responsibility and IS supporters celebrated the attack on social media. Apparently, this is one form of hate speech that Facebook has not cracked down on. The massacre took place on the anniversary of Lee Rigby’s murder, a soldier hacked to death on a London street on May 22, 2013. ISIS said on its Telegram channel Tuesday that a “soldier of the caliphate” was able to “plant explosive devices” at the arena, according to a US counter-terrorism agency.
If past responses to terrorism in the West are any indication, then we can expect to be told that the real victims of this attack are not the 8-year-old British girl, nor the 21 other teenage music fans who were killed, nor any of the other fifty-nine people undergoing treatment for horrific injuries at hospitals around Manchester. The true victims of this attack, and every other terrorist attack, are “Muslims” as a group. The real threat to our way of life are the “Islamophobes,” the racists, the far right, and the insidious evil fascists who lurk around every corner, threatening to take over not only Britain, but Europe itself. These evil Westerners conjure up images of 1930’s Germany, a history that we must be constantly vigilant not to repeat. Ever since 9/11, this refrain has played over and over ad nauseum. “Muslims,” we are reminded by our sanctimonious guardians of virtue, “will be unfairly regarded with suspicion.” Cue mental images of Jews under Nazi Germany.
Terrorism, after all, is just the wages of sin, an understandable response to legitimate grievances over Western foreign policy. We – not Islamist ideology and its fanatical adherents – are the root cause of the terrorist attack in Manchester.
All references to anything specifically “Islamic” must be whitewashed from news reports, and generic terms like “hate” or “nihilism” substituted. Islamic terror is flattened out, its religious specificity expunged. After all, terror is something that the IRA, or the mentally ill, have also done. The ideological motive for targeting a female singer who is a popular role model for your girls and who is unashamed of her sexuality will be ignored. This is not an attack on the West’s values or its culture (the West doesn’t have a culture, remember?). The dozens of terrorist attacks by suicide bombers who just happen, by some weird coincidence, to be Muslim are just acts of arbitrary cowardice and violence by madmen, not religious fundamentalists.
All this propaganda only serves to normalise Islamist terror, to desensitise us to its victims, and to perpetuate the obnoxious idea that victims are guilty for their own suffering- a peculiarly religious idea to resurrect in a Europe that has not been under Catholic governance since the middle of the 16th century. What this well-worn script ignores is that it is not Westerners but Islamists who routinely represent Islamism as normative Islam. It is not Westerners but Islamists who have been responsible for misrepresenting legitimate criticism of Islamism as an assault on “Muslims” simpliciter. This conflation of Salafi-Wahhabism and “Muslims” is not an invention of ignorant Westerners, but of Islamists themselves.
Western liberal secularists have no interest in maintaining this fiction. Islamists are the ones who benefit from it. When Islamism becomes the object of well-deserved anger, Islamists and their Western parrots chirp that “Muslims” are being attacked, thus allowing Islamists to hide behind the people they are subjugating and silencing. Ex-Salafist Ahmad Mansour explains how Islamism and jihadism are global problems that have reached Europe as well, and that while Europe didn’t do anything in particular to create the problem, it is exacerbating it by inaction. In Germany, for example, where efforts to integrate Muslim immigrants into European society “are often undermined by the German government and by the dominant forces in Germany society who sideline liberal Muslims and cooperate with Islamists instead.” When Muslims who wish to distance themselves from Islamist manipulators praise Islam as “a religion of peace”, the extremists seize representative status for this glorious religion whose image has been sanitised by their Muslim opponents. Western leaders from Obama to David Cameron have repeated this line, as if to repair a broken Trojan Horse that is starting to reveal its murderous contents. Every time we recite these lines we support Islamism, not “Muslims”.
We do not have to generalise about all Muslims in order to acknowledge that Islamism is an aggressive, intolerant political ideology whose followers are mass murdering innocent people (both Western and Oriental, Muslim and non-Muslim) all over the globe in terror attacks. Perhaps when we hear the word ‘fascism’ in the future, a different image ought to spring to mind. Perhaps we should listen to the Muslims who have some expertise in the matter and who have risked their lives (because fascists don’t tolerate dissent well) to explain that we’ve got it backwards. As Pakistani journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid has said:
“Modern-day jihadism breeds on two ideas, neither of [which]is vocally refuted by us Muslims. First, that West is to blame for Muslim world’s volatility. Second, that Islam is a superlative doctrine, and ideologically self-sufficient to govern the world.”
Instead of fearing that society will be divided, we should welcome a society that divides Islamists from the rest of the British population, marginalising them with the same energy with which we have marginalised the British far right, which by comparison has only very rarely used murder as a political tool. There is something quite odd about the fear of social division when there is already so much social division working in favour of Islamist terror groups and the British far right.
Terri (PhD) is an author, blogger, and has taught philosophy and film studies in Secondary and Adult Education for over ten years