Colombo Telegraph

Paris 2015 & Islamophobia – II

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

I have already established the point that irrationality, fanaticism, intolerance, violence, murderousness are not integral to Islam. I can provide more details of course but that is not going to convince the Islamophobe. A further point to be made is that violent Muslim reactions to the Danish cartoons or the Charles Hebdo material should not be regarded as peculiar to Muslims. His Holiness the Pope made the point during his visit to Sri Lanka that if you insult someone you have to expect reactions from him. One can add of course that if the insult is to something held sacred by a human group the negative reactions will be all the more intense. We can be certain that if there are insults to a Buddha statue or a Krishna statue there will be angry reactions, probably violent, in Sri Lanka or India. It will not be so in the West if there are insults to Christ and Christianity. That is because there has been a long tradition of secularism and anti-religion in the West dating from the eighteenth century and even earlier. That is not something that we need to emulate. Most Muslims, including myself, would hold that disrespect for the sacred betrays a degree of spiritual impoverishment. We must absorb the best in the West, not the worst.

A further point to be made against Islamophobes is their propensity to double standards. They will react with much intensity to the Paris outrages but not to the drone attacks on Muslims. The Americans are well aware that in drone attacks non-combatant innocents are almost invariably killed, and certainly far more innocents are killed in drone attacks than in the Paris bombings, but all that is dismissed as incidental collateral damage. We can also be certain that in the French revenge bombings on the IS far more innocents have been killed than in the Paris bombings. I would agree that the Paris bombings can be regarded as savage and betrays something sub-human in the perpetrators. But what words are left to describe the savaging of Iraq in 2003 in which around a million innocent Iraqis were killed? Bush and Blair lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They lied in order to wreak racist revenge on an Arab country for 9/11. The point I am making is that Muslims can sink into savagery but so can the West. The Islamophobes can’t recognize that fact.

Islamophobia is a form of racism. As in the case of other convinced racists it will not be possible to make the Islamophobe change his views, and the best that can be done would be to bring about an enlightened understanding of what Islamic fundamentalism and the IS are all about, so that the potential harm to this society can be contained. The best article I know for this purpose is entitled Don’t give ISIS what it wants, by Stephen M. Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, which appeared about three days after the Paris bombings. He wrote that the emergence of the IS “ is symptomatic of the broader legitimacy and governance crisis in the Arab and Islamic world. It is also, however, an unfortunate response to decades(or even centuries) of Western interference in the Middle East, and especially to the policies that have taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

“To acknowledge this fact in no way justifies what happened in Paris, and I am most certainly not defending, excusing, or rationalising what the attackers did last Friday or what other terrorists have done before. At the same time, to pretend that American and European actions have nothing whatsoever to do with this problem is to bury one’s head in the sand and ignore the obvious. To note just one example of the West’s own role in creating this problem: Had the US refrained from invading Iraq in 2003, there almost certainly be no Islamic State today. We have to face facts squarely: Decades of misguided US and European policies have left many people in the Arab and Islamic world deeply angry at and resentful towards the West. Those policies include the West’s cozy coddling of various Arab dictators, it’s blind support of Israel’s brutal policies towards the Palestinians, and its own willingness to wage air campaigns, employ sanctions, or invade Middle Eastern countries whenever it thinks doing so suits its short term interest. Consider how we would react if some foreign power had been doing similar things to us – not just once but over many years. Unfortunately, among those many people are a few – fortunately only a few – who decide to pay back the West for what they regard as illegitimate and murderous interference. Their response is morally despicable and will solve nothing, but it should not be that difficult to fathom.”

In conclusion Stephen Walt points out that the only long-term remedy for the ills of the area is the setting up of more legitimate and effective state institutions, and that has to be done by the people of the area, not by others. The US and France, he thinks, should remain as far in the background as possible. Ïf our post- 9/11 track record is any indication, however, we’ll probably do the exact opposite”.

Before concluding this part of my article I must make a clarification about what I stated in concluding the first part. The grotesquely extreme form of Wahabism practised by the IS cannot be to the liking of the Saudi Arabian elite. The point that I have in mind is that there is known to be schism within that elite, with some favouring that extremism. It cannot be ruled out that there could be an upheaval in Saudi Arabia that might be favourable to the IS. That is why I made an oblique reference to Yeats ‘great prophetic poem The Second Coming written not long before the Second World War:

Änd what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

Back to Home page