By JULIA KASSEM, Staff Columnist
Julia Kassem is a staff columnist for the Michigan Journal. Julia’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Journal.
2015 made its grand finale boasting a relentless succession of gun deaths that swept the nation from Chapel Hill to Charleston (and from California, to the New York Island). Many civil rights groups, including Muslim and Arab groups, jumped on these statistics as an opportunity to deflect the spotlight away from them as the short-fused scourges of American society and, rather, place blame on the alternative archetype of the trigger-happy Angry White Male. Out of the 350 or so mass shootings in America, only two were committed by Muslims and/or Arabs.
Efforts to draw attention away from the perceived threat outside of our borders to the danger within the nation were evidently underscored by the scores of inflammatory and characteristically xenophobic rhetoric by politicians. When the atrocities in Syria and Iraq precipitated over to Paris, San Bernadino and, recently, Cologne, opinions often confined to Yahoo News’ comments sections were invited into the mainstream. Affirmed Ted Cruz, (and, in some way or another, the better part of GOP politicians) it IS about “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Many voices from the left continue to divorce Islam from terrorism in response to the increasingly lax attitude today’s political atmosphere holds towards persecuting and scrutinizing another faith and the collateral collective punishment this rhetoric inflicts upon its members as a whole. Even George W. Bush expressed his condolences to the Muslim American community after 9/11, reminding his viewers that Islam is a religion of peace. And maybe his decision to invade and destabilize Muslim countries spoke otherwise, but I digress.
Last year, I published an article titled “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie,” an attempt to both distance myself from the derogatory brand of egalitarianism displayed by the publication as well as the rash extremism of the abjectly un-Islamic militants. While my general convictions remain consistent and my defense of the right to freedom of speech withstanding, I have revisited some of the convictions that I held against the publication as an allegedly tasteless medium of provoking and reinforcing existing social and economic separation between North African natives and French natives in France. Perhaps over the past year, the conversation has shifted from the symptoms to the source. From Beirut to Paris, 2015 has proved that both occident and orient faces a clear and common enemy.
Yet perhaps political correctness, a lingo adapted to attempt to protect those unaffiliated with terrorism, now is proving to hurt Arabs and non-Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims, more than it allegedly protects these groups. Last week, a Guardian article by Gabby Hinsliff urged readers to “Not Shy Away from Asking Questions about the Cologne Attacks.” Whatever role smartphones or New Year’s Celebrations had to play, the consensus stands that “journalism isn’t really journalism when it avoids stories for fear of how some might react.”
For every Rochdale, there’s a Central Park Five, proving the fateful shortcomings in conflating (or refuting at all costs) social preconceptions into an objective analysis or investigation. But asking just why it is Islam that has evidently, and unfortunately, forged an indelible connotation with terrorism in the eyes of many will perhaps be more of a solution than a provocation. We must be clear and direct in questioning on what basis are these beliefs reinforced on both sides.
At this point in time, it’s a hackneyed thing to remind some that thinking of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi or Osama Bin Laden as representatives for Islam is akin to assuming Jeffrey Dahmer is representative of all homosexual males. The similarities in this haphazard comparison are evident; both groups represent victims of the two personalities rather than affiliates for one. Yet the difference is in the relevance political context plays in the faulty classification of the former.
What political correctness does, unfortunately, is obscure the very implications that take place in the society. By de-contextualizing the phenomenon of extremism from the Muslim community that it vehemently infiltrates, we can no longer ask why this is happening, or who the beneficiaries are, and thus are furthered from properly indicting its perpetrators.
The problem is not Islam itself, but the motivations for the politicization and subsequent defacement of Islam. ISIS, along with Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Taliban, can trace their ideological lineage to the puritanical and tyrannical Wahhabi movement in 20th century Saudi Arabia. When the spread of this ideology inextricably tied with the amass of petrodollars by the kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s systematic financing of radicalism across borders that served to protect the kingdom’s political hegemony.
Politics teaches us that extremism is oftentimes the artificial insemination of a winning coalition for power-hungry opportunists. Abdulaziz ibn Saud’s utilization original and long standing utilization of the ideology as a consolidator of political support, power, and influence crossed paths with Britain’s original desire to secure a geopolitical route to the East, and, later, the US’s efforts to push back Soviet influence in Afghanistan and in the Middle East.
A combination of the above efforts, catalyzed by the destabilization of Iraq and the Iraqi military from 2003 onward, have contributed to the global crisis the world faces today. And while this politicized course of events can say nothing of Islam as an ideology, it does warrant questions as to why radicalism disproportionately burdens Islamic communities and countries today.
No trigger warning or censorship of questions will allow us to correct the convictions the public has about Islam. A sense of closure and a humanitarian solution will never come to the forefront if an obvious problem-and is coalescing influence of misunderstanding and ignorance validated by silence and censorship-is never confronted.