In Focus Headlines
|Written by Monia Mazigh, Special to the Muslim Link|
|Tuesday, 14 February 2012 14:53|
These days it seems the Muslim community is perceived through the prism of two perfectly defined categories: terrorism and honour killing. One represents the men and the other the women!
Ten years after the war on terror began with the invasion of Afghanistan to rid that country of terrorists and to liberate the "oppressed women" from their burqas, the gap between Islam and the West is growing like never before, not only in the newspapers but also in the minds of people.
Indeed, after 9/11, the Muslim community had to prove, denounce, shout and repeat millions of times that not all its male representatives are mean spirited, terrorism plotters and suicide bombers ready to cause death and devastation among civilians. Community leaders were put on the defensive with accusing flying at them for being silent, complacent and not doing enough to denounce terrorism. The climax of such an atmosphere reached its peak with the arrest of 18 young Muslim men in 2006 (the so-called Toronto 18).The subsequent media frenzy around arrest captured the essence of public perception about young Muslim men: brain washed, misguided, hateful and violent men who have only one objective in life and that is killing.
Amidst this chaos where emotions ran extremely high, ordinary Muslim men paid the price of this dangerous portrayal. Some were arrested while innocent, many were subjected to discrimination and a few others were deported.
The quiet and wise voices who tried to bring reason and build bridges were simply ignored. Hence, arguments such as terrorism isn’t linked to Islam but is phenomenon that has existed for centuries were not examined or even discussed in the public sphere. Instead, those making these arguments were seen as part of a dangerous Islamic-Socialist conspiracy ready to take over the western democratic institutions.
So what about Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist, raised as a Roman Catholic American who bombed a government building in Oklahoma killing 168 people and injuring 800? Isn’t he a terrorist? Didn’t he use his political beliefs to justify his act? Why didn’t the U.S government and the media link his faith or culture to his action? Why didn’t the U.S government begin profiling and spying on all young American men fitting his description?
What about the Air-India tragedy in Canada, which resulted in 331 dead. Was it not the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history? “Yes, but…the 19 hijackers who committed 9/11 were clearly all Muslims and they killed about 3000 people” the louder voices would answer.
What about Anders Behring Breivik in Norway who in the summer of 2011 bombed government buildings and killed and injured many people. Wasn’t he a terrorist? Didn’t he use his hate against Muslims to justify his act? “Yes, but he was "mentally insane" so he can’t really be blamed for his actions!”.
Again, it seems that during the last ten years, the word terrorism has come to stay with Muslim men no matter what examples are brought forward to counteract the accusations. This image has become so persistent to the point that Islam and terrorism became synonymous in the minds of many people.
With the Shafia trial where an Afghan man, his wife and their son were accused and convicted of killing their daughters and a relative, the pendulum seems to have swung towards the Muslim women, seeking to discover how are they are treated and what they hide behind their layers of cloth and culture. The discovery? Muslim women are oppressed, victims of a patriarchal authority, controlled because of their sexuality.
Once again, community leaders are asked to comment and explain the barbaric actions of some, as if those leaders had a moral power on all Muslims. Ironically, the Muslim leaders in order to diffuse the tension issued a fatwa -- another “dreadful” tool in the possession of Muslims -- and distance themselves from honour killings.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have calm the spirits as many columnists are very still sceptical and tend to believe that there must be a religious factor or to be politically correct, a cultural element that triggered the Shafia tragedy. They use the same reasoning when it comes to terrorism and Muslim men.
What about Guy Turcotte who killed his own children as a way to punish his unfaithful wife who committed adultery in his “own bed”? Wasn’t he acting as a dominant male eager to save “his” honour? No, it seems he has psychological problems and thus couldn’t be convicted for committing such a crime.
And what about Derek Jensen, the Albertan, who, in December 2011, killed two men, his ex-girlfriend, injured another woman and then committed suicide? Wasn’t that all because he was jealous after his girlfriend dumped him and went with another man? Is there any element in his culture that made him take such devastating action? Do we even know anything about his religious beliefs or cultural background or his general attitude towards women? Did we see Christian figures coming out in the media distancing themselves from his action? I do not think anyone will even attempt to answer these questions as it seems the debate is only relevant when it comes to crimes that are committed by Muslims.
Last but not least, we have Russell Williams, the high-ranking military commander who turned out to be serial killer. Did we have to blame the whole military system for producing such a monster? And by the way does anyone know his religion?
Monia Mazigh is human rights activist based in Ottawa.