I am compelled to revisit a subject that I have written and spoken on many times in the past. I feel compelled because I recognize that not everyone fully understands my position on issues as it relates to terrorism and acts that are often characterized as being done in the name of the faith I adhere to.
Recently, in another section of the media, five questions were directed at me in which the questioner sought to gather my opinion on the bombing in Manchester and other similar acts and whether I should respond. I have used this column before to fully express my feelings as to whether each and every time a terrorist act is committed supposedly by a Muslim, Muslims worldwide must condemn these acts.
There is no doubt that in recent years the world has witnessed a surge in violent acts and terrorist activities. These horrible deeds are not only affecting Europe and North America but countries across the globe, including in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. And not only is one specific demographic affected. The effects are felt by a large number of people of all races, nationalities and religious persuasions. In fact, Muslims are bearing the brunt of these atrocities either by their fellow adherents or by foreign forces.
I have argued that the Western media are clearly biased in their reporting and will single out events in Western capitals for greater focus whenever such tragedies occur. This slant in reporting creates the narrative by which we are informed. And unless we take the time to delve deeper into the story, we will be misled into accepting as ‘gospel’ all that is reported and flashed before us.
I chose to respond to the five questions posed to me by way of a letter to the editor. Question 1 asks if I accept that Islam has a negative image among many people in many parts of the world. The answer depends through which lens and under which microscope a person wishes to view Islam. I think that for some people, their view of Islam and Muslims is largely shaped by what they read and see in the media, especially the Western media. Taking an opinion or view from these sources can lead one to have a very negative image. Researching what Islam truly is can ultimately lead one to the truth of this faith, like thousands have done and embraced.
Question 2 asks if I appreciate the need to constantly condemn the brutality done in the name of Islam. The short answer is no. I don’t believe I need to condemn every act carried out by a lunatic, fanatic or misguided individual, whether he claims to be following Islam or not. Does every Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Barbadian, American, Chinese, black, white, or red-skinned person need to condemn the horrific actions of persons of their kind?
Question 4 asks whether I agree that condemnation of the bombing in Manchester should have been forthcoming from the local Muslim community. I do not agree. As outlined in my response to Question 2, I am not of the opinion that every time a misguided individual does a horrific act, I must link myself to him or her. Closer scrutiny of the terrorist acts carried out in recent times in many Western cities and in the latest in Manchester, shows that these individuals have left no rationale behind for their actions.
The so-called experts immediately link these acts to so-called “Islamic fundamentalism”. And ISIS loves to stake claim to all these acts of barbarism.
Delve a little further and one will find that the bomber in Manchester was recruited at age 16 by British intelligence to fight against Gaddafi and overthrow him. Where have these seeds of hate and militancy been sowed? Four days after the tragic events in Manchester, a Caucasian, Mr. Jeremy Christian, in Portland, USA, stabbed to death two men who attempted to prevent him from harassing two teenage girls, one a Muslim on a train. Do Peas and Rice agree that condemnation of this horrendous act should have been forthcoming from the local Christian community?
In response to my letter after it was published, I was then accused of dodging the questions by a reverend who in his letter to the editor insinuated I was practicing deception. I recognize therefore that regardless of what I say, there will always be those who wouldn’t accept my position. Such is life but I think it is important that these discussions take place because, as a result, platforms can be launched that will bring about a better understanding and appreciation of each other. If we don’t, then these terrorists and misguided humans will be the winners with their divisive ideologies.
The violence that is impacting on all of us is symptomatic of wider issues and it cannot be simply ascribed to one religion, way of life, culture or ethnicity. Barbados is witnessing increasing levels of gun violence and murder. Europe and North America are reeling from race-based violence and other gun-related crimes. Several countries in the Middle East and Africa are destroyed by mad violence with daily acts of terrorism and bombings that are taking hundreds of lives.
What is the source of all this violence? Why are some human-beings bent on destroying each other? The causes need to be addressed for us to truly find an answer and ultimately a solution. The violence in my opinion is cyclical. One act of violence will lead to a reaction and another act of violence. Disenchanted people who see no hope will gravitate to all sorts of self-gratifying behaviours whether good or evil. In fact, the evil may appear all good to them. Unscrupulous people will fill these people with all sorts of grandiose ideas of settling old scores and gaining fame and some glory in this world or the next.
In the aftermath of the very recent bombing and stabbings in the United Kingdom, it was revealed that these terrorists were on the police radar and they were reported to authorities by their families and they were even barred from mosques. And as I mentioned above, the young man in Manchester was recruited by MI6 at the age of 16. Yet the link was made to Islamic fundamentalism and, as expected, anti-Muslim attacks increased. The violence continues. I won’t despair as I recognize while there are some who view events through tainted lens, there are many others who have an approach that embraces all and recognizes the reality as it is.
Benjamin L. Corey, in his article titled 5 Things I Wish Conservative Christians Understood About Muslims, stated: “Does Islam teach it’s okay to kill innocent people? No, it doesn’t. In fact, the Quran actually says this: “Whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.” Furthermore, the entire idea of being a suicide bomber as a way to martyrdom is at complete odds with Islam, as the Quran teaches that Muslims must not kill oneself (surah 4:29, and 2:195).
“If folks like Franklin Graham were correct, and if terrorism is all about Muslims hating us, we would expect to see “freedom-loving Christians” as being the typical victims of terrorism– but that’s not the case. The typical victims of terrorism are Muslims. We just don’t see it because seven people killed in London gets more air time than when 60 Muslims are blown up in Kabul. Muslims, instead of being the average terrorist, are actually the average victims of terrorism. We should be coming along side our Muslim neighbours, we should grieve with them, and support them– because they are under attack from extremists more than anyone else.”
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)