Reach Out To Muslims

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From top: Chair Of The Irish Muslim Peace and Intergration Council Shaykh Dr Umar Al Qadri addressing an Anti-racism rally at the GPO last year; Dr Julien Mercille

It’s time reach out to Muslims in constructive and peaceful ways to counteract ISIS propaganda.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

And here we go again. Another terrorist attack on Europe claimed by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), on Brussels this time. This post explains the strategy that ISIS employs and two types of reactions in the media and commentary.

The first, and dominant, response puts oil on the fire. It is xenophobic and Islamophobic. And in fact, it plays into the hands of ISIS because it is exactly what the terrorists want: a divided people.

The second type of response, in a minority unfortunately, is to react by rejecting the black and white view that ISIS seeks to propagate and to reach out to Muslims.

The strategy employed by ISIS is simple:

1. Create chaos where there is calm (for example, by hitting unsuspecting targets in cities like Paris and Brussels).

2. Use vicious methods to polarise populations. Most Muslims live happily in secular societies. They live in what ISIS calls the “grey zone”. The objective is to drive them toward extremism either by attracting them through displays of power or by instilling fear in them or by scaring non-Muslims into taking revenge on them: in short, the “grey zone” needs to be transformed into a black and white world of “Good” versus “Evil”.

We can react in two ways to ISIS attacks and propaganda: either we support their Machiavellian plans, or we counteract them.

The first option is to fall into their trap and put more oil on the fire and thereby help ISIS spread chaos and boost their recruiting drive.

That’s what politicians like Donald Trump are doing by claiming that there is some sort of divide between the “fanatical Muslim world” and the “reasonable Western world”.

In the wake of the Brussels bombings, Trump said: “I would close up our borders” to prevent dangerous Muslims from getting into the US. Previously, after the Paris attacks, he had called for a temporary ban on all Muslims who wish to enter the US. He also promised to use waterboarding and even go beyond that when interrogating terrorists.

Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister who was a strong ally of George W. Bush in the invasion of Iraq, is also of that mindset.

He wrote an article this weekend in which he declared that. “We are at war with Islamist extremism” and need to be, “preparing for a conflict that is longer than anything we have seen in modern times”.

Because what we face are extremist Muslims of which there are, “many millions… across the globe”.

Blair says that we need to be ready to send Western military troops on the ground in the Middle East. In short, we must “rediscover our muscularity”.

And we must also use our allies.

But who are they?

Blair says: “Saudi Arabia is our ally” and “Israel is also our ally”.

The fact that Israel and Saudi Arabia are two extremist forces spreading chaos in the Middle East is irrelevant for Blair.

In Ireland, some commentators seem also to have fallen into ISIS’s trap.

For example, Carol Hunt, who is running for the Seanad for the NUI panel, wrote in the Sunday Independent that we shouldn’t be scared of criticising Islam and all its problems.

After all, we have “to protect Western values” of openness and plurality against the bad Muslims. She asks suggestively: “Can we be unambiguous in our belief that some cultures are indeed superior to others”?

And: “Can we admit that a culture which espouses universal human rights is indeed superior to one which treats some individuals as lesser beings because of gender, sexual orientation or religious belief?

In short, Western culture is superior to Muslim culture.

However, this assertion works only if you remove the part that there is a big culture of militarism in the West in which a lot of people are cheering on their militaries to invade other countries; and if you remove the fact that Western governments don’t care about “universal human rights”; etc.

But there is a second option: reach out to Muslims in constructive and peaceful ways to counteract ISIS propaganda.

For example, Juan Cole, the professor of history who specialises in religion and Islam, wrote an excellent piece in which he made the following remarks on how to react to the tragedy in Brussels:

1. “Stop suggesting that there is something wrong with Muslims that they keep producing terrorists. All the major world faiths produce violent people. In the Rwanda genocide of the 1990s, Christian Hutus murdered between 500,000 and 1 million other people, and the Christian churches were deeply involved in enabling this slaughter.”

2. “Muslims are a sixth of humankind and hail from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities, and languages. There are 40 million Chinese Muslims. There are 23 million Russian ones. Ethiopian Muslims and Senegalese Muslims have little in common despite being African, and neither has much in common with Bangladeshi Muslims. To tag all of them with the actions of some violent Brussels slum-dwellers of North African heritage is weird. It is exactly like assuming that all American Christians want to kill Tutsis, just because Hutu Christians did.”

3. “Show your Muslim neighbour some love. ISIS does these horrible things to get people of Christian heritage to be beastly to the Muslims in their midst, spreading hatred and anger and a sense of victimization. ISIS is hoping to use *you* to drive other Muslims into their arms. They want to make you a recruitment officer. They want you to hate and they want you to fear. There is only one way to combat this tactic of sharpening contradictions. Refuse to hate and refuse to be afraid. Bend over backwards to be nice to Muslims.”

So we must choose: Do we want to be on the side of ISIS by supporting Islamophobia and throwing oil on the fire?

Or are we ready not to fall into their trap and reject their ridiculous black and white view of the world?

Julien Mercille specialises in US foreign policy and terrorism and is a lecturer at University College Dublin. Follow him on Twitter: @JulienMercille

 

55 thoughts on “Reach Out To Muslims

  1. Painkiller

    I must comment before Moyes. Like him, I have feck all better to be doing and am ready for my next frenzy.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Thanks for not charging me rent for my stay in your head. Obviously with having nothing better to do, I can’t afford any.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          One of our resident emotionally fragile types made up a new username to follow me around for the morning.

          1. MoistWithExcrement

            Nah, that was my usual username but you inspired me…

            Looking forward to reading your next moist discharge.

  2. Painkiller

    You can get more frenzied than that. You disappoint. What about the Muslims? Isn’t it awful sad..

    Come on, one more frenzy before you have your hard earned lunch.

  3. newsjustin

    “In short, Western Culture is superior to Muslim Culture.”

    Well look, it is, to be fair. Just look at pretty much any metric of human development.

  4. Clampers Outside!

    “Do we want to be on the side of ISIS by supporting Islamophobia and throwing oil on the fire?
    Or are we ready not to fall into their trap and reject their ridiculous black and white view of the world?”

    So Julien doesn’t want a black and white world, yet calls for a need for a “good” v “evil” approach…..

    …..eh what now? Same same but different?

  5. Twunt

    A large minority of Muslims live in a grey zone where killing non Muslims is not frowned upon.

    A majority of Muslims live in a black/white zone where women are less than men.

  6. Victoria X

    Julian,
    I’m all for moving beyond over-simplified black-and-white reactions to violent acts committed by muslims. However, without having actually read Carol Hunt’s article, the lines you quoted from it do not seem problematic to me. Did she say anything ‘worse’ than that? If not, I’m confused why you singled her out for criticism. It’s not as if there’s a shortage of spluttering anti-islam rants to choose from.

  7. Owen C

    I think what Julien is trying to say is that if we ignore the rather obvious problems which much (note: not all, not even a majority, but certainly not some tiny minority) of modern Islam has with democracy, peaceful co-existence with other religions, women’s rights, science/technology and freedom of speech, and how these ultimately intermix with Islamic-inspired terrorism over the last 35 years or so, and replace all of that with hugs and kisses, then all these bombings would surely just stop.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      If I react to the condescending tone in your post with my own, will you cry like a little toddler about it?

      1. Owen C

        It depends. Will your reaction be your standard toddler-like snark? Cos, you know, that stuff never gets old.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          That’ll be a no then. As for toddler like snark, I think you have a monopoly on that; “and replace all of that with hugs and kisses,”

          1. Owen C

            Its a direct play on Julien’s “Show your Muslim neighbour some love” suggestion. Poetic licence, but certainly not invented out of thin air.

            Also, re “that’ll be a no then”. So you don’t think i’ll cry like a toddler now? That was a fast and underwhelming climb down for you.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            So are you actually saying you weren’t being condescending then? I just want to get a handle on the minds I’m dealing with here.

          3. Owen C

            Of course there was an element of condescension. Julien’s “show them love” solution deserved no less of a response.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            So you’re ok with me using a bit of condescension in a post addressing you then, right? Great! Your hilarious lack of understanding of how the human mind, or indeed, anything, works is in full bloom. Quite a lot of Muslim terrorists think they’re reacting to Western hatred for their culture. If a Muslim has a good job and a healthy social life and feels accepted by other people, it’s quite unlikely he’s going to feel anger towards The West and/or feel the need to leave his life behind. We can *help*, as in not 100% solve, this situation by simply being nice to Muslims. Or, to translate it for someone of your “intellect” ‘Waaaah, liberal commie pinko, waaaah’.

          5. Owen C

            ” If a Muslim has a good job and a healthy social life and feels accepted by other people, it’s quite unlikely he’s going to feel anger towards The West and/or feel the need to leave his life behind.”

            Look at the leaders of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Most of them were well educated and middle class. How does gaining a good job or having a healthy social life become the problem of the West? Isn’t that something which Islamic politics and culture need to address, and kinda what i was getting at above?

          6. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Most of them were well educated and middle class.”

            Again, “We can *help*, as in not 100% solve,”. Also, I said, “Quite a lot of Muslim terrorists think..”. Note, ‘quite a lot’ is not ‘all.’

            “How does gaining a good job or having a healthy social life become the problem of the West? Isn’t that something which Islamic politics and culture need to address, and kinda what i was getting at above?”

            You realise he’s talking about Muslims IN IRELAND, right? You see, this is why I pick on you. You condescend, decide the post author is wrong before you’ve even read the post, and then show that you’ve actually completely misunderstood the post. Nothing wrong with getting something wrong but when you try and belittle the author first, you need to reminded that you’re an idiot.

          7. Owen C

            Given that he’s quoting a US author commenting on a bombing in Belgium, i think its fair to say he’s talking about Muslims in our midst generally. Like Jihadi John i assume, a Kuwaiti national who was brought up and privately schooled in the UK, gained a degree in science at the University of Westminster, and became a computer salesperson back in Kuwait, being described as “the best employee we ever had”. I mean, its obvious that such a ostracised and impoverished upbringing is exactly what creates terrorists. If only he’d been given a good social life and a job.

          8. MoyestWithExcitement

            Oh so you’re aware he was talking about Muslims in Ireland then. (I’ll assume you’re just about bright enough to work out young Julian isn’t asking us to bring nice to Muslims in America) Why do you think it’s up to governments in the middle east to provide jobs or anything to Irish Muslims in south Dublin?

          9. Owen C

            You keep bringing up the jobs thing, not me. I think Middle East governments, and Islamic society in general, needs to figure out why they are churning out so many angry, trigger-happy people, both domestically in their own countries, but also via the diaspora of Muslims in Europe and wider afield. Islam is far more of an enjoined ‘community’ across multiple countries and continents than Christianity is, and so Muslims in different countries seem able to impact on the perceptions of Muslims in other countries. There is no “easy” solution to this, but i think Islam itself holds a lot more of the answers than Irish/Belgian/British society does. As an example, perhaps not looking at other religions as somehow abohorrent may impact on how they deal with those other religions – apostasy is still a crime, often involving capital punishment, in most of the middle East, North Africa and Asian Muslim-dominated countries.

          10. MoyestWithExcitement

            So the French guys that shot up Paris. Iran is responsible for them is it? It sounds like all you’re interested in is blaming someone.

          11. Owen C

            Are you actually incapable of reading? I didn’t suggest individual Muslim countries, but Islamic culture/society itself. It has fostered an environment where violent reaction or inflammatory rhetoric is considered justifiable in many political, judicial or cultural situations (ie using your Iran example – the death fatwa on Salman Rushdie, for example). That radicalised or impressionable individuals take this to another level via mass murder is a somewhat predictable consequence.

            But enough of what I think on this issue, perhaps you can give us your opinion on why people of an Islamic background have ended up in so many grizzly bombings and mass murders?

          12. MoyestWithExcitement

            Firstly, why don’t you take a second there to list the countries they’ve bombed and see if you can think of anything that ties them together. Take your time.

          13. f_lawless

            @ Owen C “.. Islamic culture/society itself. It has fostered an environment where violent reaction or inflammatory rhetoric is considered justifiable in many political, judicial or cultural situations…I think Middle East governments, and Islamic society in general, needs to figure out why they are churning out so many angry, trigger-happy people, both domestically in their own countries ”
            You seem to be unaware or unwilling to accept of the role the West has played historically (an continues to play) in fomenting Islamic extremism in the Middle East for which it must take some responsibility. Take Iran – it had a democratic, progressive and secular government before the West knocked things off course and orchestrated a coup d’etat by installing a dictator (the Shah). The Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979 was the resulting reaction to living under those extreme circumstances.
            Then of of course you have the Arab dictatorships propped up by the West for several decades (the list is long) such as in Saudi Arabia who have spent billions exporting their own version of Islamic extremism (wahhabism) throughout the Arab world.
            Is it any wonder that a brutalisation of people and a hatred of the West exists among some in those countries who justifiably see the West as pillagers of their lands’ resources?
            Until these factors are addressed, I don’t think a solution to Islamic terrorism will be found.
            Here’s a more comprehensive article(note: title is a bit inflammatory!) sethfrantzman.com/2014/09/05/how-the-west-is-responsible-for-all-the-problems-in-the-middle-east/

          14. f_lawless

            of course the question is also “does the Western war machine actually want to find a lasting solution to Islamic terrorism?” I don’t believe so… It suits an agenda. You have to a bogeman to justify imperialist actions.

      2. MoistWithExcrement

        Moyest = Heavy, heavy ass-gravy

        Subtext: lay off with your verbal diarreah or go elsewhere.

      3. MoistWithExcrement

        “Owen was being facetious”

        Only one medal for being a condescending ass, and you’ve no competition Moisty.

        Ps: HOWS my spelling?

        1. MoistWithExcrement

          PPS: it’s technically grammar, but you knew that.
          You plan to start with grammar corrections once everyone gets their spelling in order.

          1. MoistWithExcrement

            Note the block caps for emphasis. A little trap. You’re an easy fecker to excite.

  8. shitferbrains

    Funnily enough Juan Cole doesn’t fit Mercilles stigmatising of Israel as ” spreading chaos in the Middle East ” As for Iraq :-
    ” On the day of the U.S. invasion Cole wrote that “for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides.”

    But there again in Ireland and the rest of academias’ english speaking world you’ll never go wrong with a few cheap shots at Israel and America.

    1. Mickey Twopints

      Oh, look! Quick! Quick! Over here!
      Something even obliqely critical of Israel and shitferbrains appears from his cave!

  9. Peter Dempsey

    As with so many of these articles, there’s no sympathy expressed for the innocent victims.

    Instead it seems that JC’s main concern is a largely mythical backlash against Muslims.

  10. some old queen

    Rory is missing one crucial point and it is not religious it is cultural. Western culture does not accept polygamy nor does it now accept violence against homosexuals. There is a general unease at a respect of difference when it may not respect you.

    Credit us Irish with some cop on, including those of Muslim faith, and Jews, and vegetarians etc. We will all get along just fine… but only when people are no longer forced to sleep on the steps of the GPO.

    Change begins from within, including Irish Muslims. Focus.

  11. John John Burke

    Regressive left Canidiot. Who prays at the alter of his King Chomsky and to a lesser extent Prince Grennwald , “its all the wests fault yadda yadda yadda”. It gets pretty boring.

  12. Pardon

    This reads like some drunk Uncle blathering away at some young one at a wedding. Be nice and yerra it will all be grand.

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