I read an interesting opinion piece today that is bound to get people hot under collar.
It asked the question, why aren’t Muslims all over the world protesting at the atrocities being committed by ISIS?
It is a tantalising debate for me because I can see both sides of the argument.
It all started when a well known Professor of Journalism at the American University in Dubai wanted to know why Muslims protesting against Israel’s war in Gaza were not also protesting the Islamic State atrocities against Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims in Syria and Iraq.
Writing in the Washington Post, the academic made the point that Muslims know ISIS does not represent Islam but the rest of the world doesn’t know that or can’t make the distinction. So if organisations like ISIS and Boko Haram are not representative of mainstream Muslims, and they clearly aren’t, then the community should be shouting this from the rooftops. In other words mainstream Muslims must disown the Islamic State because the rest of the world thinks their brutality is what Islam has become. She says if people hear the word Islam the first thing that pops into their heads isn’t its glorious cultural history or the peaceful words of the prophet Mohammed. Rather they think of men in masks carrying knives and beheading innocent journalists who happen to stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time.
I can understand where she is coming from. The other side of the argument goes something like this. Why should moderate Muslims have to speak publicly every time some extremist sends a message of hate? A certain amount of common sense needs to be applied here. The reality is the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving people who would never contemplate harming anyone. They point to the Koran as a book that preaches peace, goodwill, tolerance, understanding and love. Why should they have to stand up and justify themselves every time some nut job nuts off? It becomes the denial that never ends.
Of course there is another factor at play here, especially among Muslim leaders in the Middle East. And that is a dislike and mistrust of the United States. Academics at Princeton and Harvard University analyzed the Twitter feeds of 3.7 million Arabic users in 2012 and 2013 and discovered that whatever position the United States adopted, right or wrong, it made no change to their intense dislike of America. It might explain why President Obama is struggling to get support in the Arab world as well as a meaningful strategy to combat ISIS. The present strategy appears to be limited air strikes while at the same time arming and backing a rag tag of political factions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in the hope that they can cobble together some kind of consensus that speaks for the majority of their citizens. Good luck with that one.
ISIS is a perplexing problem for the United States and the world. The Islamic State won’t be defeated by air strikes alone. Its defeat has to be engineered by local people. Local Muslims prepared to take local action. In other words it will take a coalition of Arab forces prepared to fight against everything that ISIS stands for. Doing it for themselves and their future. One thing’s for sure. We can’t all spend the next 20 years wondering how this is going to be achieved. We may not have the luxury.