Reflections

Website: www.ummahreflections.co.za

Quarterly: Issue No 82

Rabi us Saani 1438 / December 2016

TAQWA (PIETY)

GLOBAL HATRED FOR ISLAM & MUSLIMS

 

Islamophobia - or anti-Muslim racism - is still not even acknowledged as a crime in most Western countries.  It is time for us to speak up for all victims of terror, including the ones in Muslim countries. For example, the latest attack on a shrine in Pakistan took place because the devotees follow Sufism- a form of Islam defined as a form of Islam inspired by mysticism within Islam. While it is common to hear prejudiced statements such as Muslims are terrorists, refugees are dangerous, and Muslims are infiltrating our countries – we must back up our claims with the facts.

 

The Rise of Terror and its Global Effects

 

Ever since the rise of global terrorism, there has been an increase in Islamophobia across the world. There has been a misguided, unjust and prejudiced rise of hatred against Muslims.

 

Let’s look at India to start with. Despite Muslims accounting for 14% of the population, Muslims were represented at 21.05% in under trial prisons in 2014 according to the National Crime Record Bureau. Recently, the news has been flooded with overturning wrongful convictions of Muslims who were branded as terrorists without proof. The most famous case to come to light is that of Nisar-ud-Din Ahmed who was jailed at the age of 20 and released at the age of 43 after it was proven that he was jailed on the basis of false confessions for the five blasts onboard trains on the first anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.

 

Such political prejudices against Muslims steeps into everyday life. This can be exemplified by cases such as the innocent man who was lynched to death because he was accused of eating beef in India, the travel ban that was imposed on 7 majority Muslim nations by the United States and Poland’s refusal to take in a single Syrian refugee from 2016 after stating “After recent events connected with acts of terror, [Poland] will not accept refugees because there is no mechanism that would ensure security.”

 

There is no denying that terrorist attacks are dangerous, heartbreaking and terrible for any nation to witness. Major terrorist attacks have taken place in 2016 in Brussels, Nice, Orlando and numerous other places across the world. However, people have started associating terrorist attacks with Muslims.

 

The Largest Victims of Terror

 

On July 3rd 2016, 300 people were killed and 225 injured in several bombings across Baghdad, On June 28th, 45 people were killed and over 200 were injured in suicide bombings at an airport in Turkey and over 67 people were killed in two car bombings in Ankara within a month of each other. These are just some of the many terrorist attacks taking place amongst Muslim nations.

 

The fact of the matter is that terrorism in Western nations is highlighted for days at an end and justifiably so. People came together from all across the world to showcase solidarity when the Charlie Hebdo attack took place in France and when the shooting in an Orlando nightclub claimed dozens of innocent lives. However, the world watches in silence and ignores the anguished cries of heartbroken families if the victims are from Muslim-majority countries.

 

The fact of the matter is that Muslims are actually the biggest victims of terror. According to the University of Maryland’s global terrorism database, a total of 167,221 terrorism-related fatalities were reported from 2001 to 2015. However, 98 percent of the deaths occurred outside the United States and Western Europe. 75% of all deaths occurred in Muslim-majority countries, 22.4% in the rest of the world and 2.2% in the US and Western Europe.

 

A Cry for Refugees

 

Since 2011, an estimated half a million Syrians have been killed in Syria since the rise of ISIS. Millions of people have been displaced and millions of children are left without a future. With no food, no water, no hospitals, no safe shelter and no education – Syrians have no choice but to flee their nation, where they are persecuted by ISIS and aware of the fact that death is probably just around the corner.

 

ISIS is a terrorist organization that not only persecutes non-Muslims, but also Muslims who do not believe in their ideology of Islam. Any cruel group of individuals can take a holy doctrine and spread hate. For example, a French journalist called Didier Francois is one of the rare individuals who has been captured and released by ISIS. In an exclusive interview with Christiane Amanpour, he stated that “It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.” He stated that it was more political than religious, but ISIS knows that religion holds more power than politics.

 

We have to understand that Muslims also fear ISIS and terrorism. As a matter of fact, refugees from Muslim nations are fleeing to gain freedom from the terrorism they witness on a daily basis. In the past, Muslims have given shelter to hundreds of refugees. For example, Albania gave thousands of Jews refuge during World War 2 – saving them from brutal torture and death in concentration camps.

 

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who may not have had to go to Auschwitz if only someone had given him refuge, once wrote: “We are all brothers and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.”

 

It is time for us to come together and help the millions of refugees that are running away from terror – the very thing we are against. We have to speak up for unfortunate victims of terror who do not have the means or resources to leave their homes that are being destroyed by bombs.

 

It is time to unite against prejudice, hatred, fear and violence to fight the enemy. The enemy is terrorism and we need to fight terrorists and not Muslims.

 

Our duty

 

First and foremost, we must push for Islamophobia to be acknowledged as a crime and to be included in all national and Western statistics throughout the world. Muslims should be supported in counteracting Islamophobia and thus must be seen as allies with non-Muslims in the fight not only against extremism but especially in the fight against racism in Western countries. Both civil society actors and states should acknowledge the seriousness of this issue and develop concrete policies to counter Islamophobia. 

 

Allah (SWT) says:

You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from the polytheists (who worship many gods). But if you persevere patiently, and guard against evil - then that will be a determining factor in all affairs.(Al-Imraan: 3: 186)

 

May Allah bless us all with safety and protection against the enemies of Islam!  Ameen.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ITS IMPACT

 

A recent study by Microsoft 

https://advertising.microsoft.com/en/wwdocs/user/display/cl/researchreport/31966/en/microsoft-attention-spans-research-report.pdf

highlights that humans now have an attention span of 8-seconds – a four-second reduction from a decade ago and one second shorter than the attention of a goldfish.  This is largely due to the digital revolution. 

 

Further studies show that 53-percent of which is digital and 23 percent of that is from social media. There is no denying that social media has transformed reading habits around the world. However, it is important to avoid sensationalizing the phenomenon as the focus must be on adapting to the challenge as it develops.

 

Digital formats have given hundreds of people voices that they would not have been able to voice otherwise – the publishing industry in the region between 1960s to the early 2000s was very much an exclusive invitation-only club that published carefully calibrated information to influence the masses in a particular direction. Freedom of thought and writing was carefully policed to ensure that the right message was delivered at the right time. Writers who did not practice self-censorship were simply not published.

 

While the policing of thoughts and written ideas still exists to some extent, the digital revolution has given a voice to the previously voiceless through blogs, vlogs, and even 140-character tweets. The freedom to build a base of readers who share similar views and values has become easier to build than finding an outlet or a publisher that shares similar views. Ironically, the digital revolution has given writers the freedom of writing under pseudonyms to protect themselves from possible retribution.

 

While social media’s “featured news” pane may entice people to read more, social media does not necessarily deliver a more educated community.

 

As it becomes increasingly difficult to hold peoples’ attention, writers are practicing a new form of self-censorship in the form of sound bites, or short and quotable one-liners. This risks not delivering the whole message, and allows people to take things out of context. 

 

Social media has also transformed the engagement habits of readers – where in the past people would read a book, discuss it, and pass it on, they are now simplifying the process by clicking a “star” or a “thumbs up” button to profess their approval. “Clickable” actions do not provoke as much thought as a book discussion would have in the past, thus the in-depth understanding of issues is at risk of eroding.

 

The digital revolution and social media specifically have indeed challenged the attention spans and the reading habits of people around the world. The industry has been able to react appropriately.

 

However, the real challenge is the one that can be imposed by people.  Whilst social media has made information more accessible, it is up to people to actively challenge the algorithms to ensure that they receive a wide-angled view of the news that they read.

 

I request your sincere du'aas.

 

Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir

Johannesburg, Gauteng

South Africa