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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