Paris attacks: Jihadism is an Islamic issue and twenty-first century Orientalists need to stop suggesting otherwise

Those who are genuinely interested in countering Islamist terrorism need to encourage dissenting voices in the Muslim world


As Friday night’s terror attacks in Paris were unfolding, the reactions of many individuals and groups often betrayed preconceived, nay rehearsed, reactions.

Different Quranic verses were cited by both overly defensive Muslims and anti-Muslim bigots to prove how Islam is the religion of peace, and violence – respectively.

While many Muslims condemned the attacks in numbers, many well-meaning westerners seemed guilt-ridden about the fact that we Muslims were ‘forced’ to issue these condemnations.

All this was on display before the final death toll was announced and before anyone had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Clearly apprehensions over – and loyalty towards – one’s favourite narrative superseded any interest in focusing on the victims of terror and engaging in discussions to forestall similar attacks in the future.

As the hours went on, French President François Hollande issued a strong statement against the culprits. The French border was sealed and a curfew implemented in Paris, before ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

And then came the second wave of premeditated and repeated-to-death assertions.

They started off with ‘West is to blame’, discussed apprehensions about rise in ‘Islamophobia’, claimed that Islamist extremism isn’t a ‘Muslim problem’ and were exclamation-marked by the assertion that France was asking for it and should expect more of the same.

There was time for a reverse ‘all lives matter’ campaign as well, calling out ‘silence’ over recent blasts in Beirut in Baghdad, completely ignoring the role precedence plays in reactions and conveniently forgetting the global reaction to Peshawar attack and Boko Haram’s violence last year.

Evidently, those waiting for the overwhelming reaction to the Paris attack to generate noise for the Beirut or Baghdad bombings didn’t see the irony in their own delayed outrage.

This is not to suggest that amidst this tangential pool of self-serving narratives, no argument valid or relevant to the bigger picture was presented. Indeed, anti-Muslim bigotry is an ugly reality, as depicted by the Chapel Hill Shooting, PEGIDA, the anti-Islam rallies in Australia or by the many mosques becoming targets of hatred.

The same is true for Western states’ foreign policy blunders and the lack of Muslim/Arab communities’ integration.

But something somewhere is seriously wrong when prejudice against a community is one’s primary concern on the day a nation suffers the biggest acts of violence in decades. It’s almost as if racism is a bigger evil than terrorism, and that by correlation calling out anti-Muslim xenophobia a more pressing concern than Islamist violence.

The obsession some have with earmarking Western imperialism as the root of all global evil is paradoxically soft-racist. By putting the blame for the volatility of the Muslim world at large on the neocolonialist manoeuvres of the West, and not on the corrupt leaderships or religious fault-lines conspicuously manifested by the locals, these opinion-makers exhibit twenty-first century Orientalism, implicitly asserting that Muslims would readily act against their self-interest should a Western power sufficiently wish so.

This soft racism is also flagrantly displayed by anyone who claims Islamist terrorism is ‘not a Muslim issue’, which demonstrates complete denial of the simple reality that global imperialist jihadism (the kind of imperialism that isn’t quite factored by the self-pointing ‘critics’) is nourished in Muslim communities around the world, including the West. It also happens to affect the Muslims the most, both in terms of suffering from Islamist attacks, and the ensuing backlash.

But because the West trains, funds and arms jihadists for its self-interests, those militants that self-implode to kill Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and their domestic backers, get a pass as mere ‘tools’ or ‘creations’ of the West.

This is downright dehumanizing of Muslims, sold by sections of the left and bought by the right-wing resellers of the Muslim world to sketch the simplistic and convenient narrative that paints West as being historically responsible for the Muslim world’s predicaments.

ISIS’ statement claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks said they targeted “the capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe”. There is no mention of ‘Western colonialism’, ‘economic disparity’ or ‘social alienation’, which some commentators keep asserting as the main motivation behind jihadists’ actions.

The statement is Exhibit A of jihadism, an expansionist terror drive carried forward by radical Islamists that seeks to destroy pluralism by holding a literal version of Islam as the sole rulebook for not just Muslims, but the entire world. Jihadism nourishes itself by painting Muslims as perpetual victims of the West’s actions – an idea perpetuated by regressive sections of the left and Islamists alike.

Those who are genuinely interested in countering Islamist terrorism need to encourage the dissenting voices in the Muslim world, the voices that critique the wrongs within their communities, leaderships and religio-political policymaking. If you keep vending the soft-bigoted idea that jihadism isn’t particularly a Muslim issue, Islamist extremism will continue to spread in the Muslim communities.

Why, after all, would we Muslims work on solving a problem that isn’t ours to being with?

As appreciable as the left’s self-critique regarding Western imperialism and anti-Muslim bigotry is, it shrouds the more pressing need for Muslim world’s self-reflection. Muslims taking ownership of jihadism won’t rid the West of its historic – and present – wrongs; but it would allow the Muslim world to finally catch up and reconcile with the modern ideals.

It’s a no-brainer that once Islamist extremism is curtailed, anti-Muslim bigotry will be gradually snuffed out in synchrony.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a Friday Times journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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76 Responses to “Paris attacks: Jihadism is an Islamic issue and twenty-first century Orientalists need to stop suggesting otherwise”

  1. Esmee Phillips

    Notice that Labour Uncut has been silent as the grave since Nov. 11, maddo? After all that effort you put into it trying to rouse the 4.5%, it cannot even find anything to say about Paris.

  2. Esmee Phillips

    No, fascists were supporters of Benito Mussolini 70 years or more ago. That is all.

  3. Esmee Phillips

    It goes back before the Six Day War, Israel has been trying to push Palestinians out of their homeland (‘Jordan is Palestine’) since its proclamation. Zionist colonists were trying to foment inter-communal hatred leading to expulsions some years before the Balfour Declaration.

  4. Esmee Phillips

    Like Stalin, Saddam chiefly confined his state terror to the inner circle of the politically active.

  5. Esmee Phillips

    As long as we follow your recommendation on Labour List that all British Muslims be deported forthwith, everything will turn out fine.

  6. Eric Christison

    I could post a number of scholarly articles that would contradict your assertion but it would no doubt result in tangential bickering reminiscent of a scene from The Life of Brian.

    How would you refer to this group of people, this ideology?

  7. woohoo002

    Been through my history?, lol 🙂

  8. Esmee Phillips

    Hardly necessary, since you lot are for ever stuck on auto-repeat.

  9. Esmee Phillips

    I should like to see these scholarly articles.

    It is unncessary to pin ideological labels, above all completely ahistorical and crass ones, on enemies. They should be recognised as such solely by their actions.

  10. Jack Blue

    The key issue here is moral relativism and wether one wants to engage in that or not.

  11. tamimisledus

    Those with “dissenting voices” will turn against non-muslims, whenever they are in a position of power. They always have done, and they always will. They are no more interested in the continued existence of non-muslims and their beliefs than ISIS, Wahhabists, Muslim Brotherhood or any other such distraction.
    And if all these groups were to disappear, those muslims remaining would still believe they have been given the right by *allah* to rule the world, for their own benefit.

    All muslims have only one aim – to see the whole world subjugated to islam,
    And that is not anti-muslim bigotry, that is the reality of islam.

  12. tamimisledus

    You don’t have to be mad to be a muslim, but ….. or no, sorry, you do.
    If *allah*, the core of islam (who strangely enough never seems to be mentioned by muslims when talking to non-muslims about islam), were to present himself at a Western psychiatric hospital, he would be held under the mental health acts as a danger to himself and those around him.
    Many anti-muslims think that mohammad needed help for his moral perversions and intellectual incapacity, but he only learned from the master, *allah*. the terrorist in chief, who far exceeded him.
    And lest anyone forget, it is this very *allah* from whom ALL muslims get their (laughingly called) moral code.

  13. tamimisledus

    Those 70% of 2+million want to live in peace, with the non-muslims subject to their evil moral and legal codes. I don’t expect many of those non-muslims (certainly not me) would be at all happy living in peace on those terms. That would be a living hell.

  14. tamimisledus

    Those muslims hold all non-muslims in contempt and wish to see sharia reign.
    Sounds suicidal for non-muslims to support them in introducing sharia.
    But maybe you just have a subconscious death wish you want to sublimate.

  15. tamimisledus

    Exceedingly well put.
    Did the poster “statchecker” stop to think that it might now even be much higher as muslims responded to the hyped anti-muslim backlash?
    It seems that “statchecker” would find a huge amount of sympathy with islam and its anti-rational stance. That is, let’s ignore the facts if they don’t suit, and/or make some up that do suit.

  16. tamimisledus

    If you’ve got one as well, we would all be glad to hear it.

    Please go ahead.

  17. tamimisledus

    It has everything to do with their so-called religion in which *allah* urges, and will reward, attacks against non-muslims who do not submit to islam.

  18. tamimisledus

    They, like murderers, rapists, racists, pedophiles, thieves and every other evil person, should also be judged by what they admit to believing, whether they have yet acted on those beliefs or not.

  19. tamimisledus

    And the message will be repeated for so long as muslims exist and continue to pose a threat to humanity.

  20. tamimisledus

    It goes back 1400 years when islam started to spread its empire and began to push non-muslims out of their homelands.
    As did the lies which you help to propagate.

  21. tamimisledus

    muslims have been conducting war against non-muslims ever since islam was founded.

    ISIS are just the latest manifestation of that war The war is nothing new. It is just that now we have become wise to it.

  22. tamimisledus

    It will certainly not get any worse. Bearing in mind the progress made outside of islam, it will certainly get quite a lot better without muslims, who see it as their duty to turn our society into a failure just like all the other islamic societies where muslims have a majority.

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  24. Wendle Trendle

    Jihad was how Islam took over Arabia and within a century of Mohammed’s death had conquered parts of India all the way to the French border.

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