Why Muslim ‘not in my name’ campaigns are part of the problem

Merely being unsupportive of jihadism does not prevent the phenomenon from growing.

Merely being unsupportive of jihadism does not prevent the phenomenon from growing

When faced with the appalling and brutal acts of groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda, the most common response the vast majority of my fellow Muslims offer is ‘they don’t represent me’ or ‘they have been condemned by most Muslims’.

These sentiments may seem laudable on the surface, and in some respects they are, but they also conceal a much deeper problem that helps explain why jihadist ideology seems to be growing in spite of such sentiments being widespread.

Two key points need to be made about this.

Firstly, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter that the vast majority of Muslims oppose jihadism because as long as there is a significant and determined minority of Muslims that are supportive, jihadists will achieve their aims.

The vast majority of Iraqis and Syrians hate ISIS but that did not prevent ISIS from taking over large swathes of those countries and committing large-scale massacres. A majority of Nigerian Muslims oppose Boko Haram but that does not seem to have dented their seemingly unstoppable rise. A majority of Pashtuns oppose the Taliban but they still remain the most potent political and military force in Pashtun regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Hence, merely being unsupportive of jihadism does not prevent the phenomenon from growing and causing widespread chaos and destruction. Nor does it prevent it from becoming a dominant force.

There is a false assumption at work here, namely the notion that as long as the vast majority of Muslims oppose jihadism everything will be fine. Recent history has shown that this assumption is not only false but dangerous.

The second point to be made is that statements such ‘they don’t represent me’ are only useful if they are a precursor to a sustained effort to challenge and undermine jihadism. In my experience, this is rarely the case, in fact, the opposite tends to be true.

Such statements tend to be another way of saying ‘this is none of my business because I don’t agree with them’. By merely declaring jihadists not representative of Muslims at large, many Muslims are in fact refusing to take ownership of the problem and merely performing a PR exercise.

This is the reason why we have not seen any large-scale Muslim led effort to challenge extremist ideology in Europe since 911. Muslims either go into conspiratorial mode or convince themselves that it is not their problem when faced with jihadi excesses.

And yet the very same people will then say they are concerned about Islamophobia and the Palestinian cause because it affects fellow Muslims and that they have concerns about the global Muslim community.

How can one be concerned about the global Muslim community and not want to tackle jihadism which, in the grand scheme of things, has killed far more Muslims that anyone else?

Rather than offering such shallow condemnations, we as Muslims need to stop being solely concerned with the image of Islam and Muslims and recognise that challenging jihadists and associated extremists proactively will do more to rehabilitate the image of Islam than shallow ‘not in my name’ statements.

The greatest threat to Islam and Muslims today is not the US, Israel or India but jihadism and only we can defeat it. The sooner we recognise that the better!

Amjad Khan is a Muslim writer and commentator

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41 Responses to “Why Muslim ‘not in my name’ campaigns are part of the problem”

  1. Gary Scott

    Fair enough, more should be done. But the average man in the street can’t do much more than condemn the actions of the extremists. With Palestine people can contribute by way of charities but in a practical sense there is very little that can be done. Its not the job of peaceful Muslims to take ownership of any outrage committed by Muslims elsewhere in the world, to do so, or to say so simply invites Islamaphobia. No one called on British Catholics to condemn the IRA and if they had it would rightly have been seen as sectarian. All the groups taking arms do not have religious aims they simply seek power, they must be stripped of the cover of ‘religion’ and seen for what they are.

  2. Mark

    How is this to be done? I must admit that for some time I’ve been tired of the same old TV “commentators” using the word “abhorrent”, possibly three times in two sentences, every time something nasty occurs. Shift him on, say “abhorrent,” shift him off. At the very least, find another word to use!
    As far as David Cameron is concerned, “extremist organisations” will be countered by “enabling those who support democracy.” I don’t know what that means, apart from sounding like pitting Muslim organisations against each other.
    If I could put myself in the shoes of a regular Muslim, I would find it hard not to say, “Not in my name,” etc, because that’s how it is at that level I imagine. On the other hand, is it difficult for those “regular Muslims” to accept that, if taken literally in many ways, the Quran/Hadith can lead to such things? Is it taboo to go there? Is it difficult to realise that this is exactly what the jihadists are doing, outside of any other influencing factors?
    The Quran cannot be re-written. Can it be re-explained? Can we have the equivalent of Christians rejecting Leviticus? I have no idea at all. Who can approach this is not for me to suggest, but it certainly isn’t government ministers quoting apparent nice bits from the Quran.

  3. Mohsen Gohden

    We know what it looks like when the Muslim world is bothered by something. Cartoons and youtube videos of their prophet make them visibly upset. Jihad? not so much.

  4. Dave Roberts

    I’ve read the article several times and can’t see what the point of it is except to fill up space. The writer seems to be saying that it is a waste of time to denounce extremists but then goes further and claims that these denunciations are ” a part of the problem”. Would he or anyone else like to tell us how saying that terrorism is bad makes that a part of the problem?

  5. swat

    Good article. The Muslim world think hey can get away with it by just condemnation; but they can’t. They are going to have to do something about these crazed individuals and sects. That means they are going toi have to take them head on, whether they like it or not. Don’t expect the nonMuslim world to do it.

  6. Tam

    Whattttt? So the writer is saying that he should be held accountable for jihadist, the same way I should be held accountable for every stupid thing a black woman my age does? Come again? The point of the campaign is Muslims speaking against what is happening showing the world that a few rotten apples should condemn billions that don’t perform insane actions behind the name of religion. And also Writer you’re argument does not add up. Public acknowledge and condemnation are the right thing to do!

  7. Christopher Field

    A well written article that marks those who have and will suffer from Jihadism the most. I as an Agnostic suffer as well from the terror as well. I do not have any clear idea what I can do. The past contains many tragedies for all peoples. The past can not instruct us on how to build a peaceful future for all peoples. What shall I do now…live Peacefully is the best I can do while speaking against terror of all types.

  8. Mandy Harrington

    Time to step it up Muslim community. I don’t support them either but they need to be dealt with. If you aren’t going to help then you are just as bad as they are.

  9. Dave Roberts

    Catholics all over the world condemned the IRA as you would know if you had followed the situation in Ireland. The only thing that didn’t happen was excommunication which did occur in the 1920s and 30s.

    The Northern Ireland Special Powers Act and similar legislation in the Republic allowed for indefinite detention on the evidence of a senior police officer. Nothing remotely similar as happened to Muslim preachers of hate in this country.

    I am still waiting for someone to clarify, preferably the writer, how campaigns similar to ” Not in my name” are a ” part of the problem”. I really would like to know.

  10. Dave Roberts


  11. ramble

    The idea of ‘Muslim’ world is a bit ludicrous like the ‘christian’ world. What will club people living in a slum with ganglords around in one continent with bankers who quietly pockets everyone’s share in another continent?


  12. sgide

    The source of the problem is the Koran, a book which is regarded by Muslims as the literal word of Allah or God, as dictated to Mohammed. This is what Muslims believe and if they don’t they are not Muslim. ISIS references the Koran to justify everything it is doing.

    This is the issue that all Muslims must come to terms with. The Koran is either the literal word of God, as true today as it was then, or it is not. If it is, then ISIS is indeed Islamic. Some Muslims justify the nasty verses by claiming that they have a context, but not all Muslims agree.

    So we have another problem. There is no leadership equivalent to the Pope as in Catholicism. This is it’s weakness but also it’s strength. A Muslim Pope might be able to get the Muslim world on the same page but it’s highly unlikely because of the sectarian quarrels within Islam.

    Muslims can claim “not in my name” if it makes them feel better but this non-Muslim expects a lot more from them and will not be pacified by a media campaign.

  13. osho

    Thank you. I sincerely hope that many more voices like yours are loudly spoken and clearly heard. Ordinary muslims who have the same concerns as everyone else – education for their children, prosperity for their family, getting along in life, owe it to themselves, their community and the country that is now their home that they challenge Jihad.

    I am puzzled by one thing though. Is there a lack of ‘communal conscience’ within Muslim groups that allowed Rotherham to happen? It is inconceivable that friends and family did not know what their men were doing. Why did no one take one of the perpetrators aside and say – this is wrong. Don’t do it. For a community so concerned with honour and family shame, how come sensible decent members of the community not see that this was also a failure of honour and a matter of shame?

  14. Cheese

    I assume you can read? The article clearly states that Muslims need to do sonething more than just wash their hands of it.

  15. Mick

    Wow, it certainly seems a turnabout on theface of it. They have to get off their arses to make their points, just as they do protesting the West or military actions to bomb jihadists. I think that says a lot of Mulsims in itself.

    Though cynic as I am, I suspect some darker motive. Getting Muslims to protest the right things for once may help scheming ‘community leaders’ ‘prove’ that Muslims do care enough after all. I doubt the one big protest they could organise would outweigh the impact of all the others bitching about Israel, say.

  16. Ortega

    People seem to miss out the fact that Assad also has imams (Sunni and Shia) who justify what he does, and they refer to historical Islamic tradition just like ISIS. Amjad Khan is doing exactly the same thing as these other muslims who are running the “Not in Our Name Campaigns”. They’re just reacting to mainstream media coverage. It’s “politically correct” to condemn ISIS right now.

  17. Ortega

    It is inconceivable that friends and family did not know what their men were doing.

    Why is it inconceivable? A lot of people seem to have stereotypes of Pakistanis being these very quiet, conservative people who just sit at home all the time when they’re not running their corner shop. These are really out of date stereotypes. All the young Pakistani males I know go clubbing and listen to rap music. In many places in Britain Pakistanis are responsible for the heroine trade and have adopted a “gangsta” lifestyle. A lot of these will be the same people involved in the grooming.

  18. Ortega

    Some Muslims justify the nasty verses by claiming that they have a context, but not all Muslims agree.
    I’m pretty sure all muslim sects believe that all verses were revealed in a specific context or “occasion for revelation” as they say.

  19. Issam

    I guess the 7 Arab Muslim armies along with the US fighting ISIS are not visibly enough for you. Delusional bigot.

  20. Paul

    The context of a revelation is rarely if ever made explicit in the Qur’an itself (like for example: ‘In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel’ [ 2 Kings 18:1, Bible – this is historical context]). There is no guide from Allah as to when such and such revelation occurred in Muhammad’s life, and so Muslims take sections of the Qur’an for multiple contexts.
    The Hadith were written by men well after the time of Muhammad – the term ‘occasion for revelation’ is just a garbage way of rationalising the Qur’an’s evil words.
    When Muhammad tells people to fight the unbeliever – and that those who sit at home not engaging in fighting are inferior (Qur’an 4.95) – he was NOT saying for a particular time and place in history against a particular group of non-Muslims. That is not what the words of the Qur’an say. But rather at any time that Muslims feel that non-Muslims are oppressing them and feel they have the power to fight back.

  21. Ortega

    The context of a revelation is rarely if ever made explicit in the Qur’an itself. There is no guide from Allah as to when such and such revelation occurred in Muhammad’s life

    That’s true, it comes from Islamic scholastic tradition. There is also no agreement as to which context matches which verse. It’s a discourse. The point is that the idea of verses being revealed in particular contexts isn’t new.

    The Hadith were written by men well after the time of Muhammad

    They were gathered into written collections many years later. It’s unknown historically how long they had already existed as individual written narrations, and before that how long they’d existed orally.

    the term ‘occasion for revelation’ is just a garbage way of rationalising the Qur’an’s evil words.

    No, it’s a legitimate part of historic muslim discourse.

    When Muhammad tells people to fight the unbeliever – and that those who sit at home not engaging in fighting are inferior (Qur’an 4.95) – he was NOT saying for a particular time and place in history against a particular group of non-Muslims. That is not what the words of the Qur’an say. But rather at any time that Muslims feel that non-Muslims are oppressing them and feel they have the power to fight back.

    First you’re saying the verse has no context, and then you go on to provide such a context.

  22. Christin Hale

    What army would those be? Only the Iraqis and Kurds and Assad are fighting ISIS. Once again you are part of the problem Issam if you are unable to even discuss this issue without resorting to insults.

  23. Leon Wolfeson

    Watch Fox News. They have better coverage of the situation than you.

    (Yes, yes, I am being *very* nasty)

  24. Leon Wolfeson

    “The Hadith were written by men well after the time of Muhammad – the
    term ‘occasion for revelation’ is just a garbage way of rationalising
    the Qur’an’s evil words.”

    You can equally, in the viewpoint you are promoting, say that about Judaism and the Talmud and Midrash.

  25. Dave Roberts

    They aren’t being used to kill any one.

  26. Dave Roberts

    Leon/Guest/Cheese. Read what I wrote in relation to the title of this article.

  27. Leon Wolfeson

    Really? Oh wait, what’s this, the Israeli Religious Right.

    So, you’re wrong again.

  28. Guest

    It’s all a conspiracy, there is only one person who ever disagrees with you! You’re funny. No, the other sort.

  29. Kevin Russell

    Cheap shot dude. Discuss like an adult.

  30. Guest

    What are you doing about InbredBlockhead? Your rules.

  31. D-Undertaker

    Good article.

  32. Dave Roberts

    Would you like to elaborate?

  33. Dave Roberts

    Clearly you haven’t understood the article.

  34. F.D

    Here is a possible solution to this issue……


    Please please read the above if you are able to find the time.

    or least read the preface.

    Please also see



    The future of progressive sharia is what it is all about on a sociological level.

    These books promotes a form of trickle down ‘reform’ that would engage
    the interest of educated Muslims and would act as a counterbalance to
    extremist ideology.

    The issues they both raise could also be included in the national curriculum and both texts

    should be made freely available on the net.

    Unfortunately the Saudis and others are spending billions and I do mean billion on a trickle
    up version of regressive reform via the distribution of free
    Qur’an’s (these contain Wahhabi inserts to the text),books, pamphlets,
    conferences and youtube videos.etc

    ”In considering the ‘reform’ of Islam, it is useful to think in terms of
    the combined roles played by Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther in the
    adaptation of Christian tradition to the development of the modern
    world. This analogy illustrates both the commitment
    to tradition and fundamental religious notions, while at the same time
    seeking reformation and a challenge to orthodoxy.

    In Mecca, for the 13 years before His migration to Medina, the Prophet
    received the first part of the Koran-the Mecca part. This Mecca period
    established the moral and ethical foundation of the Muslim community.

    Because this peaceful and voluntary Mecca message of fundamental social
    and economic egalitarianism was violently rejected in Mecca and Arabia
    in general, the Mecca message was not suitable for that stage of human
    development. Thus, the Prophet’s migration
    to Medina not only signified a tactical move to seek a more receptive
    environment, but also a shift in the content of the message itself.

    The rest of the Koran-the Medina message-which later became codified in
    Shari’a as the model for an Islamic state by the majority of Muslims,
    was a step backward. For example, there are many verses in the Koran
    from the Mecca message which say there is no compulsion
    in matters of religion or belief and people should be left to decide
    for themselves whether they want to believe or not believe.

    In the Medina message, there are verses that say one should go out and
    fight infidels wherever one finds them and kill them. There are verses
    which say one should fight Christian and Jewish believers, making them
    submit to Muslim rule or be subjugated by force.

    Now, according to Islamic belief, each message, including Judaism and
    Christianity, is valid only to the extent that it is relevant and
    applicable to changing people’s lives. So, it was very necessary,
    logical and valid in that context for the Prophet to apply
    the Medina message. But the Medina message is not the fundamental,
    universal, eternal message of Islam. That founding message is from

    So, the reformation of Islam must be based on a return to the Mecca
    message. In order to reconcile the Mecca and Medina messages into a
    single system, Muslim jurists have said that some of the Medina verses
    have abrogated the corresponding earlier verses from
    Mecca. Although the abrogation did take place, and it was logical and
    valid jurisprudence at one time, it was a postponement, not a permanent
    abrogation. If we accept the process as a permanent abrogation, we will
    have lost the best part of our religion-the
    most humane and the most universal, egalitarian aspects.

    The Mecca verses should now be made the basis of the law and the Medina
    verses should be abrogated. This counter-abrogation will result in the
    total conciliation between Islamic law and the modern development of
    human rights and civil liberties. In this sense
    we reformers are superfundamentalists.

    The key to our reformation will be a positive and receptive attitude
    toward the totality of the human experience. What we find to be
    consistent with our fundamental principles, we accept, whatever the

    For example, the democratic component of Western experience is a
    positive aspect. We would not accept the humanism of the Western
    Enlightenment unqualified. We accept that God is the Creator in the
    first place; Man the creator only in the second place-to the
    extent that he is a reflection of the original Creator. For this
    reason, the Islamic religious orientation would remain even in a neutral
    state that retains a functional separation between state and religion.

    If universal values are not adapted from within indigenous traditions,
    reform only foments the very cultural reaction witnessed in the Islamic
    world today.”by Abdullahi An’Naim

  35. Shawn

    Wow. Powerful article! Thank you…I stand with you.

  36. Keith M

    In much the same way as fundamentalist Christians use the Bible.

  37. Keith M

    Can also be applied to other crazed religious sects.

  38. Mohsen Gohden

    Yes Issam these supposed 7 Arab Muslim armies are not visible enough, certainly not visible on the battlefield.

  39. Doron Howard

    You’re in denial.

    The Arab dictators’ armies didn’t give a damn about ISIS until it was too late.

    They happily saw ISIS butchering Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, etc…

    Stop pretending that ISIS has no support in the Wahabi world.

  40. Mahesh Viswanathan

    “Why American and Western European ‘not in my name’ attitudes over massive numbers (200,000+) in Iraq after the US deposed Saddam Hussein are part of the problem.” Anyone of you wants to write that? No? That’s part of the problem too.

  41. Candice

    I’m a regular person living my own life, working full time to make ends meet, taking care of the kids, and all that regular stuff. Like a regular person, I want to avoid that the whole of the Muslim community gets hated on, discriminated, etc because of what ISIS is doing (which is a real problem for Muslims now). I want our real, regular lives to be able to go on as they do for any other person.
    I’m no closer to being an ISIS supporter because of my faith than any other person. I don’t have a closer link to ISIS than any other person.

    I don’t see why I have additional responsibility to “do something”. I surely feel an obligation to educate others on Islam but it’s for selfish reasons I mentionned above. I have no link with ISIS that would have me change them, I will not join the army to actively fight, I’m not a community leader – I don’t even go to the mosque regularly.
    It’s clear to me that I’m not “part of the problem”, I’m just living my life and ISIS has nothing to do with it.

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