Last week, stories about ISIS were plastered across our screens after another heinous crime was committed against humanity. This time, instead of showing bloodied children or destroyed Middle Eastern infrastructure, which Western audiences have become desensitized to, we see the dimmed Eiffel Tower in the center of Paris.
On Nov. 13, France faced one of the worst attacks on their soil since World War II. The terrorist organization known as the Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed the lives of 129 French civilians and injured over 300 people in a series of attacks through the nations capital.
This act of terror started conversations across the globe ranging from Islamophobia to the ongoing refugee crisis. Audiences, once again, began jumping to conclusions due to the biased coverage of issues on mainstream media.
Terrorists are being painted by some as the face of a faith that is practiced by 1.6 billion individuals across the planet when in reality they are not. Terrorists are also now being associated either victims of their crimes; specifically Syrian refugees.
Islam condemns the acts of violence that ISIS commits no matter where they occur or who they affect. ISIS affiliates attempt to cherry-pick lines from the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, to justify their actions. This lead spectators outside of Islam to conclude that there must be substance to what ISIS does. However, these interpretations of the Qur’an are misguided and agenda driven, which is a dangerous approach no matter what religion you try to manipulate.
According to Mohammed Akram Nadwi, a popular Western Islamic scholar based in Oxford University in England, most individuals that join ISIS are unaware of the teachings of the Qur’an because of its complex narration. Also, many members of ISIS who were recruited in the West had little to no exposure to Islam except for the contorted interpretation that ISIS advocates.
The Qur’an is written in such a manner that it takes many practicing Muslims a lifetime to understand and apply. Many Muslims do not even take the time to study the Qur’an because they are intimidated by its vast nature. Rather, they turn to secondary sources like hadiths, documented practices of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), and lectures from Islamic leaders. Though these secondary sources may help individuals grow in their faith, they are meant to be complementary to the Qur’an.
What audiences need to understand about ISIS is that it is a result of foreign governments failing to uphold their promises to their people. Its failure has also contributed to the West failing to thoroughly aid nations who have been in turmoil for years. When citizens become desperate and angry because of a lack of basic needs, they turn to more radical resolutions. Terrorist organizations feed off of this conflict within communities.
To allow this Islamophobic rhetoric to continue is dangerous because it creates rifts between Muslim communities and its neighbors. ISIS and its affiliates take this fear as an opportunity to move in and Paris is a prime example. It can be said that there is a prevalent disconnect between the Muslim community and French natives. This disconnect may have lead some of the attackers who identified themselves with ISIS to foster and develop their motives that lead to the horrific events of Nov. 13.
In the end, there has been a tremendous amount of support online and in demonstrations that show solidarity with the Muslim community around the world. The conversation, however, does not end there. There are still threats being made against those who choose to dress in religious garbs, mosques and communities who have Muslim members.
Members of the Muslim community will continue to tirelessly battle the negative atmosphere ISIS creates for the world. Muslims will need the rest of the world to make an effort to step outside of their prejudices and look past the glaring headlines to gain solidarity. The world can only be a better place if we all come together and this situation is no different.
Editorial by: Hiba Ahmad, Contributing Columnist