By Dan Morrison
The war on abstract nouns continues. The War on Terror is now a battlefield for the fight against extremism and the struggle against radicalisation. Forget the blundering buffoonery of George Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, when he declared his war on terror. As he divided the world in two, he misunderstood that no culture, religion, war or people is as simple as he is. In fact, these things are as complicated as explaining, to an American, the difference between a tie and a draw in test cricket. His division was not just between the good west and bad east, but more accurately he erected a fairly sizeable bit of kit between the reasonable and the ignorant. Unbeknown to him- I would bet the house that I might be able to afford in say, 2070, that it was unbeknown to him- he fell down on the side of ignorant, alongside many of his faux-Islamic adversaries. And it is this ignorance that needs to be countered.
Ignorance is at its highest points when innocent people are being killed- like when Daesh (ISIS) lops off somebody’s head, or during an American mass shooting. The ignorance of the former tends to endure a little longer, strengthened by the many weird and wonderless social media posts that proceed such an event, damming Islam and Muslims. Following the attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait there was a definite winner for absurdity.
One particular post listed a load of places where Muslims ‘aren’t happy’, the attacks committed by unhappy Muslims and many terrorist Islamic groups- filled with unhappy Muslims one might bet. Apparently this meant it was clear that Muslims are the problem.
It listed Gaza as a place ‘they’ weren’t happy. Who would be happy living in 80% poverty and under military blockade? It is a community of Muslims and Christians living together, victims of the differing objectives of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. This has nothing to do with religion. Each example listed in the status followed a similar misunderstanding; however abhorrent the groups listed were, they were formed as military and/or political groups with political goals, the perversion of Islam being a practical tool to give supposed legitimacy. In some cases, these groups have democratic legitimacy in areas with sizeable Christian populations (Lebanon and Gaza for example).
This is only one of many posts, increasingly prevalent after attacks like Charlie Hebdo, which are crass generalisations about Islam and Muslims. It would be simple to blame racism for the deluge of anti-Islam content. On the whole the view is based in ignorance, ignorance reinforced by the media and the language used to talk about terrorism.
Unfortunately, this does not just stop at anti-Islamic feeling. Recently, a white supremacist was jailed for hacking a man because he thought he was a Muslim, while an 80 year old Sikh was reportedly beaten because his attackers thought he ‘was one of them,’ ‘them’ being Muslims.
The problem is how to constructively challenge ignorance. Some if it is wilful; in the same way that some on the political left fall over themselves to blame all Western acts for each atrocity, the right blames Islam and Muslims. By both treating Muslims as some wasps’ nest you must not irritate, they ignore the fact that it is ultimately about some blokes sitting down and planning to kill innocent people.
Neither the West nor Islam is to blame. It is the supremely malevolent idiots who carry out these acts that are to blame.
The notion that it is just particularly bad men and women whom we have made enemy number one- rather than barbarians of unique brutality, as is often said to be the case- has not been given much credence. For a start, none of this is new, or unique to violent Islamism. In the 1970s, the Cambodian Khmers Rouges, whose beliefs were rooted in Theravada Buddhism, exhibited similar levels of brutality, for example. More importantly, this supposed uniqueness obscures one crucial element; our enemies are human.
Humans inhabiting the extreme peripheries. Use of social media and battlefield tactics has demonstrated intelligence. Daesh has also managed to ensure food and medical aid, as well as electricity to those it governs, which is more than the Americans managed in Iraq. As well as their moral bankruptcy, like humans, these blokes are a band of morons. Among their creed is Richard Reid, the failed shoe bomber, who failed to blow himself up after trying to do it in full public view, on a plane; there are the British Jihadis who took Islam for Dummies for a spot of light reading on their way to the Syrian border; or the Daesh fighter that was killed having given his location away on Facebook.
By viewing them as humans, we see them and their views for what they really are; stupid. Or, as Journalist Andrew Mueller has more eloquently asked, ‘what if our war… wasn’t with terror, but utter fuckwittery?’
Mueller goes on to ask how we would win such a war. The War on Terror’s evolution into the war against Daesh is obviously something that needs addressing, from all sides. Ultimately, it is about some really nasty folks, distrusted politicians, and those caught in between; children, parents and grand-parents. Recognising the humanity, wherever it can be found, would be a good start.