On Monday the 15th April 2013, the city of Boston, Massachusetts, was rocked by two explosions during the Boston marathon. There were three casualties and approximately 171 injured. For much of that week we saw continual coverage of the attacks on 24 hour news channels and as headlines on various newspapers.
In spite of the dangers of jumping to conclusions, speculation soon turned to the bombers being Muslim.
When one suspect was shot dead and a manhunt began for the other, both brothers of US nationality and Chechen origin, we witnessed a plethora of anti Islamic rhetoric from various media outlets. The attempts to incriminate their alleged actions to Islam included:
- profiling details of their social networking activities such as their worldview as ‘Islam’;
- their ‘likes’ of Islamic videos on YouTube; ,
- the history of the mosques they attended; and
- naming Islamic speakers they listened to
Sadly, media rhetoric, supported by irresponsible comments from politicians builds a mindset that, although not all Muslims are terrorists, most terrorists are indeed Muslim. However, such perceptions do not stack up when compared to actual numbers of terrorist attacks. Europol published data that showed between 2006 to 2008 99.6% of all terrorist activity in Europe was conducted by non-Muslims. And official FBI records showed 94% of terrorist attacks on American soil from 1980 to 2005 were also perpetrated by non-Muslims.
Such is the false, yet dominant, narrative that perceptions formed from exaggerated media reports trumps actual reality.
A further problem stoked up by the media is collective culpability. This is the idea that when a Muslim is alleged to commit a criminal act the whole Muslim community are collectively to blame. Categorically Islam rejects such acts of violence and the killing of innocent men, women and children as we have seen in the Boston bombings, but how can such acts result in the stigmatising of the entire Muslim ummah, all 1.7 billion of them? . Catholics are not all involved in child abuse just because some priests were found guilty of paedophilia. Not all British people are liars because the British government lied about WMDs in 2003. Consequently, Muslim involvement in a crime, alleged or otherwise, does not criminalise the whole of the Muslim community.
To go beyond the simplistic de-contextualised narrative of Islam against ‘us’; it’s the Muslims with their violent tendencies; ‘they’ don’t like our values; and other notions that build a “them and us” narrative, one needs to understand the underlying cause for political violence. Often this discussion is ignored lest we give the impression of condoning acts of violence or we present an argument which shows the culpability of western governments in causing an environment which fosters such hatred and anger.
Just in the past decade, in a highly charged post 9-11 world, the USA and its allies have committed numerous heinous crimes against Muslims. Whether one looks at the Guantanamo Bay, the deaths of Iraqis on false pretences, the systematic destruction of Afghanistan since 2002, the drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the attack and intervention in Mali, overt support for Israel’s crimes in Palestine, tacit support for India’s crimes in Kashmir, silence and complicity over Russian thuggery in the North Caucasus, the backing of vicious dictators in the Muslim world or the tacit support for Bashar Al-Assad in Syria until recently, one will see genuine causes for grief, anger and emotion.
These are major theme setting issues. Western interference and control runs much deeper, causes widespread disharmony and destruction and breeds resentment on both macro and micro levels. To try and disregard genuine emotions and shift the blame on to the Islamic ideology/theology is disingenuous. Obviously the reaction to such crimes against the Muslims is not to contradict the Shariah by engaging in such random acts of violence. There is no justification for this, but the context behind political violence, where Muslims are involved, is often casually ignored.
Moving further, one must assess the extensive coverage afforded to the atrocity that took place in Boston and contrast it with the atrocities committed by the nation who happened to be the victim this time around. A few days prior to the Boston bombings, a NATO airstrike killed 11 children and one woman in the East of Afghanistan. The death of eleven children is, by all accounts , a worse situation than the deaths of three people. Should the coverage and sympathy not be apportioned accordingly? Or are Muslim children viewed as merely collateral damage?
Where is all this outpouring of emotion and grief when Israel bombs hospitals to kill civilians? Where is this condemnation of violence and sadness at loss of human life when Syrians are mowed down by the forces of Assad? Those mourning the crime of Boston should assess whether they can name one victim of the bombs dropped by their military? Do we sanctify the lives of fellow human beings because they are human or because they happen to belong to the same race, country, language or area as ourselves?
If our answer is the former, as any rational person should be, then why the evident double standards in our sympathies? We should be pained and angered by all unlawful, deliberate, politically motivated murders of humanity across the globe. Evidently we see double standards. There is wall to wall coverage of the deaths of those in the west, but a mere footnote when it comes to deaths and sufferings of those in the Muslim World, who incidentally happen to suffer at the hands of Western governments, in particular the US.
Furthermore, there is a more chilling point regarding the way the West has utilised the bombings in Boston for its political motives. The constant media coverage, the Muslim-bashing before the identification of a suspect, the ‘arrest’ of a Saudi student who happened to be at the scene and the forceful attempts to pin the blame on ‘Islamists’ are all part of a wider picture. Inevitably this tragedy will be callously twisted to further certain foreign policy objectives, legitimise further military spending and exaggerate the threat faced by the US. The graves of those who have passed away will become the stepping stones for America to launch further offensives and advancements against its wanted enemies, exploiting the waves of domestic emotion and sympathy.
These unfortunate events help create the impression of a war-ready, eternally threatened nation. America faced no existential threat when it went into Afghanistan, post 9-11, or from Iraq when it created the false pretext to invade the country. People’s sorrows will be manipulated to advance any desired and calculated objective. This situation may lead to some offensives being undertaken or it may present an opportunity to push through certain strategic shifts. Time will tell what are the tangible manifestations of the bombings in Boston. However, history provides a pretty accurate guide, allowing us to extrapolate their insincere path.
Finally how should Muslims react to these events? Certainly Muslims must be clear that killing innocent people is completely forbidden in Islam and this can never be the response to an aggressive American foreign policy. However this doesn’t mean we remain silent, it is indeed an obligation to expose western aggression against the Muslim Ummah. Similarly we should not allow Islam to remain accused by those who seek to demonise key concepts of Islam such as Shariah law, One Ummah, Jihad or Khilafah. Rather we must articulate the message of Islam to the wider society and to our community, demonstrating how Islam and the Khilafah state are solutions for humanity, exposing the false ideology of capitalism that perpetuates misery and forms a key ideological motivation to exploit and colonise the Muslim world. Furthermore any moves by America or other Western governments to form policies against the Muslims under the guise of fighting terrorism and using the sympathy created in the aftermath of the criminal Boston bombings should be openly resisted and spoken against.
Indeed as a counter to western interference in the Muslim world we should work earnestly for the unity of the Muslims under a Khilafah state which will provide the much needed stability, peace and justice under the banner of Islam.
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain