By Jude Haddad
By now, news about the Manchester attack has been made public and spread globally. The suspected attacker’s name has been released, as well as indication of his links to both ISIS and Al Qaeda. Along with the recent attack, there have also been negative comments circulating around the internet through social media platforms regarding both ISIS and the religion of Islam.
For someone living in the Middle East, it may be quite simple to see the differences between the two; Muslims make up our peers, our neighbors, and our colleagues, whilst ISIS is a terrorist group who commit horrible actions and spread fear and hatred. See? Easy differentiation. This is due to the accessibility of information and the ability for expats and foreigners to keep an open-mind to the culture they live in. Moreover, Muslims in the Middle East are not a minority group. In fact, around 49 other countries also have a Muslim majority. This is not surprising considering Islam is the second largest religion in the world. However, the blurring of the line between being a Muslim and being a terrorist is causing an epidemic of ignorance, hatred, and as a result, isolation.
The hatred towards ISIS is understandable and relatable, however, the terrorist group that claim to be followers of Islam are most definitely not synonymous to the religion itself and the followers of Islam as a whole. Although this statement might be easy to agree with for some people, to others, the statement might not correlate with their beliefs and views. Some of the latter people have taken to Twitter to express their individual beliefs, going as far as creating the hashtag, “#antimuslim”. This hashtag has previously been a worldwide trend. Although those Twitter users most definitely have the right to express their opinions online, it is still hurtful and quite nauseating to see that correlations between a peaceful religion and a terrorist group are still being made at a time when there is an abundance of means to educate oneself on the differences between them, available for free online.
The ignorance that is being spread is not a new phenomenon and there is no clear indication of when this began. However, more widespread hate can be tracked down to post-9/11 and the fear that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda initiated. When reporting on the tragic event, some Western media outlets have covertly implied that being either an Arab/Muslim is synonymous to being a terrorist. To some uneducated viewers, this can result in a lack of understanding towards the situation, which then leads them to hate an entire religion, culture, and even ethnicity. Their generalizations then spread and have the power to impact an entire community. As the years go on, Muslims are finding that they have to explain themselves and their religious choices to other people more often since the 9/11 tragedy, along with other attacks that are linked back to terrorist groups claiming to support their religion. They are constantly faced with discrimination and hate, seen consistently in the media when Fox News host Brian Kilmeade stated that “all terrorists are Muslims.” More recently in November of 2015, Southwest Airlines denied six Muslims to board a flight from Chicago to Houston after passengers on the flight stated that they felt “unsafe” in their presence. Southwest issued a statement explaining its actions and stated that, “Safety is our primary focus”. It is important to note that no apology was given.
This discrimination is worrying, especially when one stops to think what it is that ISIS wants exactly. For their plans to move forward, ISIS needs to be able to recruit. Making Muslims feel isolated and misunderstood is a large reason as to why they may crave the community and sense of understanding found within the terrorist group. Daesh (another name for ISIS) promise many rewards for potential recruits, including promises of “having a purpose and playing an important role in something larger than yourself”. Discrimination makes those promises sound more appealing. Additionally, ISIS also utilizes social media propaganda in order to appeal to the younger generation. They have developed a Twitter app that sends information online to potential recruits, and allows for ISIS to tweet from users’ personal accounts. Thus, giving them the ability to spread their propaganda and messages across the globe, exponentially. With this, it is important to note that with the 20 new members that ISIS recruits daily, many of them are not Muslim-born, and come from countries such as France, the U.K., and Germany,
Although discrimination is not the only method used by ISIS to recruit, it still has many negative consequences on the more than two billion people population of Muslims who have to deal with it daily. When someone spreads hate and ignorance, ISIS is succeeding.
The battle against a terrorist group is never black and white. Nobody can simply blame every Muslim for the existence of ISIS. Hatred towards a religion, and thereby 49 countries, is not an efficient solution. Possible recruits are essentially everywhere and there is no way of knowing who they might be, regardless of where you live. This is not intended to spread fear, it is intended to spread a message of the utter necessity of unity and acceptance. It is only when the world’s population strives towards values of acceptance and tolerance of diversity, then a solution to eradicate ISIS will be much more achievable.