There have been and will be Muslims who do not adhere to the Qur’anic principles when responding to injustices and violence that they or fellow Muslims are subjected to, making innocent victims pay for aggressors’ crimes. This form of injustice has been committed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. History of ancient and modern violent conflicts involving various cultures and religions confirms that this is a universal phenomenon. When a violent aggressor is powerful and immune to retaliation, frustration, desperation, and anger can at times drive his victims to direct their violent revenge at innocent, vulnerable victims whose only crime is some irrelevant association with the aggressor.
One aspect of the problem of the violent image of Islam in the West is the focus on the violent reactions of some Muslims while ignoring, almost completely, the miseries that pushed them down that road. It is certainly right to condemn Muslims’, and to that matter any group’s, violent behavior that targets innocent people. However, failing to acknowledge and denounce the violence that Muslims were subjected to and resulted in their violent reaction is equally criminal and condemnable. The modern term for this is “double standards.”
Applying double standards in any conflict can guarantee only one thing: claiming more innocent victims on all sides. I do not think those who apply double standards in any conflict can be separated from the culprits. They share the responsibility for any blood shed, child orphaned, family rendered destitute, and atrocity committed. Given that I was driven to write this book by the tragedies of September 11, I would like to cite a related event to show the use of double standards and their damaging effects.
In the middle of December 2001, TV channels and radio stations across the world broadcasted excerpts from a video tape by the anti-Islam campaigner Osama Bin Laden.1 In the one hour long tape, the terrorist calls the attack on September 11 “blessed” and talks at length about his version of “jihad” against the West. He cited instances of Western injustices against Muslims in various regions in the world as a justification for his and his followers’ war against the USA and the West. He talked about the mass killing of innocent Palestinians, the death of more than half a million children in Iraq as a result of the sanctions, the persecution of Muslims in Kashmir, and other tragedies. What we are particularly interested in here is the comments that this speech drew from Western politicians.
The White House spokesman dismissed the speech as “nothing more than the same kind of terrorist propaganda we’ve heard before.” “Terrorist propaganda” is how the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman also described it. The other comment that Western politicians rallied to make on the tape is that it proved Bin Laden’s involvement in the criminal attack of September 11, 2001. As put by the British Foreign Secretary: “By boasting about his involvement in the evil attacks, Bin Laden confirms his guilt.”
At first glance, the response of the Western politicians might seem reasonable and understandable. After all, they exposed Bin Laden’s tape as “terrorist propaganda” and, thus, neutralized any effect it could have. The reality, though, is that this response was nothing other than a complete failure to deal with the issue. Their response amounted to a non-response. The reason that the reaction of Western politicians was effectively a non-response is actually quite simple and straightforward. Bin Laden cited the persecution and suffering of Muslims in various countries, and accused the West of being heavily involved in those tragedies, in order to urge Muslims to attack the West and Western interests everywhere. Bin Laden was not that stupid to try to recruit Londoners, Californians, or Berliners for his bloody cause. He was addressing and trying to move Muslims who have been living or following closely the years-long injustices that he mentioned. The response of Western politicians, however, was to tell Westerners that Bin Laden’s tape was “terrorist propaganda”!
What Westerners thought of the tape, if they had time to listen to or read excerpts from it, was not really relevant. It is what Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom do not live in the West, made of his speech that really mattered. Particularly important to the West was the response of those Muslims who can be vulnerable to Bin Laden’s rhetoric. This audience was completely ignored by the wise politicians in the West. I cannot think of a better endorsement Bin Laden could have had from Western politicians for his message. They proved his point for him.
Bin Laden used what is described in Arabic as a “right argument for a false cause.” He incited feelings of hatred to the USA and the West in general, by citing their involvement in sufferings of Muslims, to ask his audience to join his campaign of brutal terror. Western politicians chose to address Westerners because they can easily overlook the facts that Bin Laden cites in front of an audience who listens only to Western media and knows little about the problems that Bin Laden mentions. They ignored the target audience of Bin Laden’s message because they cannot really come up with any convincing response to an audience that is well-informed on these issues, let alone people who are living those injustices. Western politicians cannot explain why more than half a million Iraqi children had to die because of sanctions that they imposed to punish a brutal dictator who the West decided one day to demonize and change his identity from friend to enemy. They are unable to explain why a whole people in Palestine should be driven out of their homes and forced to live for generations in camps under humiliating and brutal occupation forces that the West boastfully support.
By choosing not to respond to Bin Laden’s recruitment message, Western politicians chose yet again to apply double standards. We are back to square one and the vicious circle goes on and on. Muslims are left to continue to suffer away from the eyes of the rest of the world. Some would feel an urge to inflict misery on the West to take revenge and/or maybe bring a change. Innocent, vulnerable victims would then be caught up by the bloody rage. Here is another proof on the violence of Islam, we would then be told!
1 The name “Bin Laden” means in Arabic “Son of Laden.” I prefer to read and understand it rather differently. In Arabic, when a word ending with the letter “n” is followed by one starting with the letter “l,” the “n” is pronounced like an “l.” So, “Bin Laden” is actually pronounced more like “Bil Laden.” This is very close to “Bila Deen,” which means “without religion,” and which better reflects this terrorist’s lack of any religious identity.
Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
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