Demanding Muslims be more anti-Islamist than the rest of us is a non-starter
Photo: The French tricolor is projected onto an ancient citadel in Hewler, Iraqi Kurdistan (Credit: کێشەی کۆمپیوتەر)
In its editorial today the Sun calls on British Muslims to ‘march through London’ denouncing the terrorist group ISIS after the massacres in Paris on Friday:
“THERE is a simple way for Muslims to denounce the monsters of IS [it begins]: march through London in masive numbers with placards saying ‘not in our name’.”
It says this ‘would show the rest of Britain, and that includes impressionable young Muslims, how much the majority are repulsed by the jihadis, as we know there are’, adding that Muslims ‘have been quick to protest if their faith has come under attack’ yet ‘have done too little in public’ to express solidarity with the victims in Paris.
This might appear a reasonable position, but it is one hugely divorced from reality.
For one thing, there have as yet been no big solidarity marches in Britain over the Paris attacks by anyone. The only demonstrations that have taken place, such as the vigil in Trafaglar Square on Saturday night, were mostly attended by French people. Why should we expect more from Muslims than the general population?
And why a protest? As a method of political action, walking around with placards has long reached the point of general impotence, except as a show of strength after the hard work of organising. (See: the march on Washington in 1963). On certain occasions, like the Paris attacks, they can be valuable in expressing a common sentiment. But the numbers rarely turn out, (a few thousand on Saturday) and nothing really beats a specific set of demands.
Second, as the Sun admits, Muslims are usually the first victims of Islamist terrorism, and (as it doesn’t mention) face an extra threat from racists and xenophobes. How wise would it be then for Muslims to gather in a big crowd in a public place? Jewish people are thought to be more ‘accepted’ in Britain, and I still wouldn’t advise them to congregate en masse.
But most of all, the call for a ‘not in my name’ demo places the burden on Muslims to show ‘the rest of Britain’ that they don’t support ISIS. Aside from this being grossly unfair, it’s obviously pointless. The sort of people who will assume Muslims do support terrorism are not going to have their minds changed by a protest.
It also looks at the problem through a keyhole. On a global level, Muslims protest and fight against Islamism constantly despite grave danger to their personal safety. Decades of struggle against this movement have been led by people of Muslim heritage long before it was noticed by the Sun newspaper, (or Nigel Farage).
Muslims in Britain might decide to hold a ‘not in my name’ march, (though one hopes they would come up with a less puny slogan), but it won’t be at the urging of newspapers that often treat them like a dangerous alien presence.
While Muslims surely have a key role in this struggle – they have no choice – this is a challenge for everyone, and loyalty tests for people facing a double threat are worse than useless. They carve us up into separate tribes and reinforce the propaganda of our enemies.
Demanding Muslims be more anti-Islamist than the rest of us is a non-starter, and terrorism won’t be defeated by a hashtag.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13
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