Holding 1.6 Billion Muslims Accountable for Daesh: Conversation with Tasnim Nazeer
The Paris attacks on November 13 and 14, 2015 for which the terrorist group ISIS claimed the responsibility, and the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2 last year that was carried out by a Pakistani-American couple who were allegedly inspired by ISIS, have called attention to the surge of violent extremism, the boundlessness of terrorism and blind prejudice against Muslims.
The Islamic State, as President Obama noted in his address to the nation in the wake of the San Bernardino disaster, is practicing a perverted, falsified interpretation of Islam and the Muslims worldwide have been distancing themselves from this decadent sect. President Obama has warned against demonizing and isolating Muslims in response to the attacks that were masterminded by terrorists who profess to have an Islamic background.
Even though the peaceful majority of Muslims have made it clear through their campaigns, rallies and grassroots efforts that they despise ISIS, anti-Islamic sentiments in America and Europe are rising and are agonizing to Muslims.
In the wake of the Paris attacks and after the British MPs voted to extend airstrikes on the ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, hate crimes against British Muslims have increased threefold from 24 incidents during the week ending on November 10th last year to 76 recorded incidents during the week ending November 24th.
At the same time, hate crimes and assaults on Muslims, including cases of violence, harassment, intimidation and bigotry were reported in different U.S. cities; mosques were vandalized, Muslim properties were damaged, severed pig heads and burnt copies of the Quran were thrown on the doorsteps of Islamic centers, Muslim passengers were denied boarding at airports and women wearing hijab were assaulted on the streets.
The Republican contender for the 2016 presidential election in the United States, the multibillionaire Donald Trump, called for a complete banning of Muslims from entering the United States. His statement went viral and received an angry response from Muslim and non-Muslim human rights activists, immigration experts and journalists who believed his remarks violated the principles of plurality and freedom of religion on which the United States was founded.
To discuss the mounting anti-Islamic intolerance in the West and the repercussions of the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shootings by Muslims, I interviewed Tasnim Nazeer, a British Muslim journalist, writer and poet. Tasnim Nazeer is the UN Universal Peace Federation Ambassador for Peace and writes for a number of online and print publications, including The Huffington Post UK, CNN International, Middle East Eye, Your Middle East, The Sunday Times LK and BBC World Service. The award-winning journalist comments on Muslim issues, immigration and Middle East current affairs. She has been voted as one of the Top 40 Inspirational Muslim Women in the World by American Muslim Magazine “MB Muslima.”
It has been long asserted that the emergence of Islamic State, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda and the Al-Nusra Front, was an indirect outcome of the U.S. and European governments’ implicit support for these radical cults when they were fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad as “moderate rebels” and legitimate opposition groups.
There has been much speculation regarding the fact that the rise of Daesh (ISIS) had been an indirect outcome of the U.S. and European governments support in overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad. Washington has avoided such criticism by denying that al-Qaeda and Daesh are a dominating factor of insurgency, or that any type of foreign support of the opposition to Bashar al-Assad had contributed to the rise of Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
However, there has been evidence to document that the outcome of U.S. contribution to the war against the Assad regime has had an effect on the insurgency as stated in the disclosure of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report from August 2012. That document contained an admission that “The Salafist Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI are the driving force to insurgency.”
There is no doubt that the terrorists are targeting the U.S. and Europe; however, they can never be empowered if we work together to eradicate terrorism and stand united against them. Staying united is the only way that we can work towards combatting Daesh and their supporters.
What is your view of the global reactions to the Paris attacks that laid the groundwork for a new smear campaign against Muslims in the United States and Europe?
As a Muslim journalist in the West, it is disheartening to see that ordinary, peaceful Muslims are being targeted due to ignorant people who associate Daesh with Islam. I have written countless times against the actions of Daesh and will continue to campaign against them. Frustratingly, it is peaceful Muslims who are facing the wrath of retaliation from those who ignorantly associate the terrorist group with Islam. There is nothing “Islamic” about Daesh. They have destroyed mosques, killed mercilessly and the majority of victims they have murdered were Muslims themselves, a fact that many fail to realize.
The majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world have stood against the atrocious acts of Daesh and continue to rally against them. What is becoming increasingly difficult to comprehend is the rise in Islamophobic incidents that are becoming prevalent not only in the UK but around the world following the Paris attacks.
What happened in Paris was a tragedy; what is happening in Syria where innocent lives are being lost is also a tragedy and in Palestine and Yemen the list goes on. People fail to realize that they cannot hold 1.6 billion Muslims accountable for the atrocities of Daesh. If an atheist commits a crime, does that mean that we should hold all atheists accountable? The logical and right answer to that question is no. The backlash against Muslims in the West has seen an unprecedented rise, Islamophobia continues to grow and the number of hate crimes increases on a daily basis. I wish people could see that this anti-Muslim hate is playing right into the hands of Daesh. I stand firmly against all forms of terrorism, but I hate the double standards in the mainstream media. As a journalist, I believe the media should not even describe Daesh as being “Islamic” as they are not following a single tenet of Islam. They are going completely against Islamic values and probably don’t even know the difference between the Holy Quran and other books, because they clearly are not patterning their conduct in compliance with the religion.
Daesh would love the fact that they are inciting hate crimes amongst the community. Those who carry out verbal or physical attacks on Muslims in the UK and abroad are only contributing to a far worse situation by giving Daesh exactly what it wants. The public can help the situation by taking action in reporting such incidents of hate crimes and this will help to protect the victims and reduce the chances of a serious assault taking place. The best thing that we can do to really defeat Daesh is to work together as one, stay united and support each other against all forms of violence, terrorism and evil. I urge anyone who has experienced abuse and anti-Muslim hatred to report it immediately.
Some members of the GOP express an uncompromising approach towards immigrants and a troublingly Islamophobic attitude. What is the root cause of Republican anti-Muslim hatred?
The Republican candidates for the U.S. Presidential election [including] Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump all have one thing in common and that is airing their ignorant and hazardously discriminatory views. Carson has been noted to have said that, “many immigrants are criminals from Iraq, Somalia and Russia,” a clear discriminatory and generalized accusation.
In addition, Trump recently spurred religious tensions and anti-Muslim hatred with his stance on banning Muslims from entering the United States and Cruz was noted to deny entry not to all refugees but to all Syrian Muslim refugees. The Republican Party is frankly drowning in its own stupidity.
As far as I am concerned, these views that are directed deliberately against Muslims are further contributing to the rise in anti-Muslim crimes both in Europe and the U.S. The future leaders of any country need to be those who keep people united, not [those who] cause division amongst the masses. Great leaders are those who keep people together, embrace multiculturalism and promote diversity. Unfortunately none of the Republican Party candidates represent any of these values.
The House of Representatives has ratified a bill restricting European, Japanese and South Korea citizens who want to enter the United States on visa waiver programs if they’ve traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan since 2011. Doesn’t this complicate the U.S. relations with the Muslim world?
Yes, the measures that Donald Trump is using is legitimizing hatred against Muslims and isolating them from the community in which they have served and contributed to. America has a significant Muslim population and the remarks made by Trump are insulting and baseless.
In addition, it is ridiculous that there is a bill putting restrictions on European, Japanese and South Korean citizens who want to enter the United States if they have visited Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 2011. The measures here are only further heightening tensions and it would not help the fight against Daesh.
Donald Trump has recently suggested expelling Muslims from the United States. What’s your reaction?
There are many leading Muslim Americans who have contributed significantly not only to America but to the world, such as boxer Muhammad Ali, those Muslims who serve the country as police [officers], scientists, scholars and artists and all those innocent, peaceful Muslim citizens who live in harmony and have a right to stay. After all, America is their home. If anything deserves banning, it is the anti-Muslim views of Carson, Trump and Cruz. It is completely insulting to ask Muslims who make America what it is today to leave. Perhaps someone would need to ask Trump whether he should be leaving America too?
What’s your viewpoint about the immigration policies toward refugees in the European Union governments, the United States and Canada?
I think many EU countries who have either decided to not take refugees fleeing oppression from the war or have capped them need to rethink their policies. Angela Merkel seems to be standing alone in her open door policies to allow refugees into [Germany].
I am impressed with the new Canadian Prime Minister’s stance on allowing refugees into the country and also welcoming them. What was heartwarming to see was that Canadian school children sang an Arabic, Islamic song to welcome refugees from Syria. We need more countries to stand up just like Canada did. The people in the devastated countries of Syria and Iraq have no way of rebuilding and rehabilitating their lives if people do not show compassion. We need to be able to welcome them and enable them to lead a better life if we have the provisions to do so.
The EU has to vigorously insist on the observation of human rights, especially in European countries that receive many boats on the Mediterranean with refugees. This is something the EU and its member states have experienced for a long time. I believe we’ve had enough time to talk and lament. It’s high time to act to help.
In a recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service, the vast majority of respondents (83 percent) said they know little or nothing about the religious practices and beliefs of Muslims. Why?
I think there needs to be better interfaith understanding in order to dispel myths and stereotypes surrounding Muslims. As a Muslim myself, Islam is a peaceful and beautiful religion. Ignorance breeds hatred and I think it is unfortunate that we need to spell it out but Islam has nothing to do with Daesh, as their actions are totally against the tenets of Islam. If people took the time to read the translation of Quran, they would understand the reality of the teachings. Many people also fail to realize that Jesus, peace be upon him, is the most mentioned prophet in the Quran. We Muslims are taught in the Quran that we should respect people of all religions, should show help and compassion to our neighbors and should not even take our own life let alone the life of others.