Muslims have to speak out more often, more forcefully and effectively to reject the barbarity, death and destruction.
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Three Muslim university students were gunned down last month in North Carolina, United States. After seeing the ‘breaking news’ alert on my phone, from the UK’s Independent newspaper, I switched on the TV to tune in to CNN. Nothing there. Instead, I saw a suitably stern Christiana Amanpour in conversation with French journalist Didier Francois about the latest ISIS terror. Then I turned to the old, ever dependable Beebs. Nothing there, either. Not even on the ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News or our own Al Jazeera.
In fact, the news about the shooting of the family of three, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammed, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad, 19, all students of the North Carolina University, in their home trickled down on wires much later. And even when it did, the response from Western and international media outlets was limited and understated. No ‘Terror Alert’! No screaming headlines about the attack, or minute-by-minute live coverage.
President Obama did not rush to condemn the killings as he did following the recent attacks in Paris and elsewhere. Much of the US and Western media has played it down as a ‘petty crime over a petty issue’ like parking.
An Associated Press report wondered if the killing had anything to do with ‘hate.’ It answered its own question saying the killer, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, described himself as a ‘gun-toting atheist’ as if that explained the killings.
Ripley Rand, the US Attorney for North Carolina, said the “crime appears at this point to have been an isolated incident.” Hicks’ attorney said the man “was frustrated day in and day out about not being able to park where he wanted to.”
So there you have it. It was a minor parking issue. It wasn’t even a hate crime, it seems, let alone a terror attack. As someone quipped on Twitter, terrorism happens only if Muslims go berserk.
Comparisons are odious. But if all lives are equal in the eyes of the world, why do we not see the same global outrage and outpouring of grief and solidarity with the victims that one witnessed following the Charlie Hebdo carnage?
Where are the righteous statements from London, Washington and Paris, condemning the act of terror in this case??
Truth be told, some are more equal than others, as Orwell would argue. Especially in these perilous times when the whole world seems to have gone stark, raving mad. As Mohammad Abu-Salha, the slain women’s father and a psychiatrist, said: “The media here bombards the American citizen with Islamic, Islamic, Islamic terrorism and makes people here scared of us and hate us and want us out. So if somebody has any conflict with you, and they already hate you, you get a bullet in the head.”
On the other hand, can you really blame the world if Islam and Muslims these days find themselves under fire everywhere? The shenanigans of lunatics like the IS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Pakistani Taliban, all in the name of the blessed faith of course, do not just repeatedly shame Muslims, they have played a critical role in fueling the mistrust, hatred and demonization that the faithful face across the world.
But clearly Muslims have to do more to confront the mindset and conditions that give birth to such nihilist extremism on the one hand and present the real face of Islam before the world on the other. We have to speak out more often and more forcefully and effectively to reject the barbarity, death and destruction being visited on the world in our name. How can anyone kill in the name of a faith that came as a blessing for the whole of mankind and preaches oneness of humanity? It’s the ultimate calumny and injustice to a religion that literally means ‘peace and salvation.’