by Samana Siddiqui
The Islamic faith requires Muslims to believe in and practice five pillars. In our day and age, condemning terrorism committed by extremists seems to have become the sixth pillar. After any incident of terrorism, representatives of mosques, Islamic centers and organizations, bloggers, and writers sit with their fingers ready at their keyboards, prepared to issue condemnations for crimes they have not committed.
Yet, despite these clear statements stating their and the Islamic position condemning terrorism, which are diligently sent to media outlets locally, nationally, and internationally after every incident, Muslims are routinely accused of “not condemning terrorism”. There are two reasons for this.
First, media outlets are not interested in reporting the Muslim side of a breaking news story. It is neither in their own interest, nor do they feel that their audience will care what Muslims have to say about a crime committed in their name. This is why most of the time, journalists and their editors will not include a quote or statement from the many that Muslim individuals and organizations immediately send out. Second, it is the nature of the news media to report on that which is an aberration, not the norm. In practical terms, that means they will never show the law-abiding, tax-paying Muslim. They will hone in on the exception. Such bias is nothing new. In the past, this same prejudice was exercised against other minority communities by the American media, from African-Americans to Jews to Japanese-Americans. Muslims are the current scapegoat being singled out for such unethical journalistic treatment.
An additional tendency of the media, which fuels the myth that Muslims do not condemn terrorism, is to focus on Islamophobes as spokespersons on issues. That means individuals who have made a career out of spreading hate and outright misinformation about Islam and Muslims are given ample air time to share their hateful views. This is akin to giving large amounts of air time to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke to spout his hatred of Jews.
In the case of Muslims, hatemongers like David Spencer and Pamela Geller are featured prominently in news items about Islam and Muslims without being challenged or another view being presented for balance.
This focus on terrorism committed by extremists in the name of Islam is not only unfair, but it also paints a false picture of the most dangerous threat to Americans today - right wing extremism.
According to a June 2015 report by the New America Foundation, that kind of homegrown threat is twice as prevalent than the threat posed by Islamic extremists.
As well, when it comes to terrorism and violence, Muslims are more peaceful than their neighbors. A World Public Opinion (WPO) survey done in collaboration with the University of Maryland reported that 51 percent of Americans believe "bombings and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians are sometimes justified," while only 13 percent of American Muslims hold a similar view, with a full 81 percent saying violence against civilians is never justified.
As well, 89% of Muslim Americans surveyed by Gallup rejected violent individual attacks on civilians as compared to 71 percent of Christians and 75 percent of Jews. Muslims are the least likely to justify attacks on civilians. Only 11 percent of Muslims justified that sometimes such attacks are acceptable as compared to 27 percent of Christians and 22 percent of Jews.
These facts need to be widely publicized by both Muslims and non-Muslims. The media’s wilful ignorance and/or refusal to acknowledge them, along with their exclusion of Muslim statements condemning terrorism, are fueling the myth that Muslims do not condemn terrorism.
Muslims have, do, and will continue to condemn terrorism. It has no place in our faith. And it has no place in our world.
© Sound Vision Foundation. Used here with permission.