According to the majority of Americans, the “War on Terror” began September 11, 2001 when 19 Muslims hijacked four planes, crashing them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. While this official version of the story, fueled by policymakers and mainstream media, ignores concrete evidence of other—distinctly non-Muslim—fingerprints on the tragedy, let us assume for the time being that these men were Islamic radicals aiming to destroy prominent American symbols and inflict mass casualties.
One of those killed in the World Trade Center was a young man named James Gadiel whose hometown of Kent, Connecticut wanted to commemorate a plaque in his honor. Since Gadiel’s father demanded the words “killed by Muslim terrorists” be engraved on the plaque, it was rejected by town council members. Ruth Epstein, one of the town leaders who voted it down, correctly pointed out that such language is disparaging, detrimental to the town’s image and hurtful to its Muslim residents.
However, “killed by Muslim terrorists” is not so offensive in that it is insensitive or promotes a negative stereotype: it is just plain inaccurate.
A “Muslim terrorist,” is a myth, a fictional character based in part on the hypocritical definition of terrorism that Western policymakers and the media have used to promote their own agenda and partly due to territorial and political conflicts being erroneously framed in a religious context. Most of the “terrorist groups” and “state sponsors of terrorism,” so named by the US State Department are reactive, formed as organized resistance in the face of oppression.
During her recent visit to Pakistan, Secretary of State Clinton condemned marketplace bombings as terrorism, while stating in a town hall meeting that US drone attacks on villages were not, even though such attacks have resulted in civilian casualties and the destruction of madrasas, religious schools for children.
Throughout the world, Muslims have had no choice but to form organized resistance to the myriad injustices committed against their communities and institutions. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran was a reaction to the Shah’s bloody regime and the CIA’s now admitted role in the coup which overthrew democratically elected (and secular) Mossadegh to put him in power. The Abu Sayyaf movement in the Philippines formed as a result of the government’s policy to encourage Catholic settlers to move from the north to Mindanao, which was richer in natural resources. Poorer Muslim communities were subsequently displaced and marginalized. Abu Sayyaf’s desire for an independent state in the southern Philippines has more to do with historical injustice (along with Spanish and American colonial influence) than religion.
The same false religious context is ascribed to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a fight between Muslims and Jews. In reality, Zionism begin as a secular movement, later establishing a state atop the mass graves of Deir Yassin, Ramleh, Acre and countless other villages decimated by the western-backed Irgun, Stern and Israeli military. In the 61 years following that disaster, the United States—founded on the principles of religious equality and freedom—has become the greatest ally of a state who has co-opted religion to justify the wholesale slaughter of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, while turning survivors into the world’s largest refugee population.
Recent weeks have seen Islam’s third holiest shrine, Al-Aqsa Mosque, fall under a siege by the Israeli police, attacking worshippers therein with tear gas grenades and rubber bullets. If we really lived in the alternate universe of FOX News and AM talk radio, Muslims would be carrying out daily spectacular attacks to avenge this desecration; instead Al-Aqsa is defended by a band of youths with rocks while there is silence from Islamic countries, most of whom boast corrupt western puppets as heads of government.
The assault on Al-Aqsa is the latest outrage Muslims have endured; from genocide and strangulation by the Israeli assault on Gaza to the humiliating maltreatment suffered in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram and elsewhere. According to Newsweek, tactics used in US military prisons in Iraq include the use of loud music during interrogations; one of the most frequently played songs is entitled “F-k Your God” by Deicide, attacking their very faith itself.
However, the persecution of Muslims does not just take place overseas. On October 28, FBI agents shot Detroit imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah during a botched arrest in which they loosed a police canine on him. Abdullah fired at the dog and was subsequently shot 18 times, dying at the scene. The dog was airlifted to a medical facility where it was pronounced dead. According to the FBI, Abdullah was allegedly dealing in stolen goods and was “anti-government.”
Now as the latest violent incident involving a Muslim unfolds, Arab and Islamic advocacy groups are tripping over each other to condemn the Ft. Hood shootings. Koreans did not feel such urgency when Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. The difference is, Koreans have not been the victims of a sustained media campaign to define alleged criminals on the basis of their religion or nationality. Muslims have.
For far too long, our politicians and the media have preyed on an uneducated public, attempting to turn us all into Islamophobes, fearing a Muslim takeover that will turn the United States into a caliphate. For those misguided individuals, rest easy: Muslims worldwide are too busy fighting for their very existence in a war the West declared long ago.