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writing for godot

No one is a Zebra (Islamophobia)

Written by Maia Newley   
Saturday, 21 November 2015 18:13
In the U.S., you are more likely to die from a bee sting than from a terrorist attack, or whatever the current comparison is! In fact, my favorite statistic from the Center for Disease Control is that you are 11 times more likely to die from suffocation in bed than a terrorist attack. Don't panic, the zebra bit comes later!

I don't know about you but I sure am going to be more careful about where I'm laying in future. But what I WON'T be doing, is blaming the pillows or demanding that my duvet is registered on a list somewhere. Unless of course it is a washing list and someone else is going to do my laundry!

Let us all be very clear: terrorists kill people. Not foreign policy, not politicians, not Muslims. Terrorists kill people, the deaths in Paris were perpetrated by terrorists. However, underneath that basic premise is a miasma of ugly realities which we side-step at our peril. These past couple of weeks I have sat and watched the growing Islamophobia subsequent to the Paris attacks and observed the growing demand that we should stop allowing refugees into our country in some bafflement. Refugees are fleeing FROM terror and terrorists, not fleeing to BECOME them! Imagine having to live a Paris attack every single day of your life, wouldn't you want to escape? I have repeatedly heard people ask "why don't Muslims speak out against ISIS?" and have repeatedly answered "they have" but no one appears to be listening. Muslims HAVE spoken out, they have taken out full page adverts in newspapers to denounce ISIS, they have made countless videos using the hashtag #notinmyname , they have set up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, been interviewed on every radio and tv station in the country, they have written articles, feature pieces, blogs - I could go on. But still people ask why they are not speaking out.

It is a special kind of deafness that we seem to be suffering from. What my mother would have called 'selective deafness' when she wanted me to tidy my room and she repeatedly asked me and I repeatedly didn't hear her.

I belong to a number of groups which promote peace and unity between faiths and I have lost count of the comments and posts which begin with the premise that Muslims should 'apologize' or 'distance themselves from' ISIS or Daesh or whatever they are being called today. That is a preposterous starting place!

There is a great cartoon doing the rounds, it depicts ISIS terrorists threatening to kill two hostages unless they convert to Islam. The hostages say in response "You first". And THAT is the point.

ISIS are NOT Muslims. They DO hijack the terminology and they DO want us to all hate each other, they fear our unity more than anything else at all. Every time a news channel has the discussion "Is Islam a peaceful faith?" they are playing right into the hands of the terrorists. ISIS must be sitting there laughing at us amazed at how easy it is to manipulate us.

On one page which I belong to, a Muslim shared a parable which is worth sharing with a wider audience...

A Christian married couple are staying in a hotel and the hotel is attacked by terrorists. The terrorists ask the husband "are you a Muslim?" and he says "yes". The terrorists then ask him to recite a verse from the Qu'ran and he recites a verse from The Bible. The terrorist says "very good" and allows him to leave. When the couple are outside the wife says to her husband "why on earth did you say that? You could have gotten us killed" and the husband says "Maybe. But the terrorists have no idea what is in the Qu'ran and so I knew they wouldn't realize that the verse was from The Bible. They are not Muslims and have probably never even looked at the Qu'ran. They are terrorists not Muslims".

The point being, just because someone says they are something, does not MAKE them something.

And here comes the zebra bit...

There is a British television programme called Question Time which invites politicians and various thinkers onto a panel on a weekly basis and audience members can pose questions to them. Last week a woman in the audience asked what has become known as "the zebra question"! She said "If I call myself a zebra, it does not make me a zebra. I will never BE a zebra and no one would really believe or think I was a zebra. How is this different from ISIS claiming to be Muslims?" and, in a very simple way, she made the point that many of us have repeatedly tried making. However, her zebra question has now gone viral and if you search on You Tube you will no doubt find it. It is worth watching.

On a slightly different subject, I do not understand why we expect Muslims to tolerate our intolerance. If half of the things said in the past few weeks about Muslims were said about any other group in our society, no one would put up with it. No one would be surprized if the targetted group reacted aggressively. But, somehow, if Muslims respond angrily to ill-informed verbal attacks upon their beliefs, then people say "you SEE, this is how 'they' are, they are all like this" instead of saying "I am not remotely surprized. I would have reacted the exact same way." I am a pacifist but I must admit that even I, with my genuine and deeply held pacifistic views, would have felt moved to some degree of anger if such epithets or comments had been aimed at me when I had done nothing to anyone.

The attackers behind the Paris Attacks WERE NOT Syrian! They held Belgian and French passports and the 'masterminds' of the attacks had been born in France, privately educated and lived in middle class suburbs. They also had criminal backgrounds as so many of these young people who become radicalized do. In other words, they are thugs. They are not Muslims. After the French attacks I was watching French television and a man was stopped on the streets and asked what he thought of the attackers and he said "they are being maniuplated. They think they are fighting for a cause but they are just being manipulated. They are lost. They are really lost" and I agree with him. But whether or not I agree is largely irrelevant, but somehow we HAVE to get to grips with these issues and stop trying to side-step them by making them about immigration, or refugees, or religion.

I am not saying that our foreign policy has not played a role, I believe it has. But I think we still have be clear about who is actually perpetrating the attacks before we start looking at the possible causes or reasons which lay behind them. One thing I do know is that bombing Syria won't help anything. If Afghanistan didn't teach us that, Iraq should have done. Bombing never solved anything, it just kills a load more people, most of them totally innocent and creates yet more recruits for Daesh/ISIS.

Our de-radicalization programmes are not great. Clearly. Europe has a larger problem and their programmes are variable. But somehow we HAVE to sort this out and disenfranchising Muslims, or making people feel excluded from society is NOT the way to go about it. Exclusion is how this all begins. We need to make people feel welcome and included, we need to make people feel their views are important and will be listened to, not dismissed and ignored. Not because Muslims are dangerous - they are not! But because what we are doing to OURSELVES here, allowing hatred and fear to take over our reason and rationality, is a far more dangerous thing than any outside threat.

Someone pointed out to me recently that by allowing refugees in, we had to accept the possibility that some might turn out to be Ted Cruz! And I said yes, they may well do that, but I would still rather welcome them in and make them feel a part of something, than exclude them on the grounds that they are 'different from. me'. Fear and ignorance is what ISIS/Daesh want. It hands them a gift. We need to stand together or we all fall separately. Unity terrifies terrorists.

I have no answers, I am hopeful there are others far wiser than me who have enough experience and insight to offer that we will find a way through this quagmire, but what I do know is that blaming Muslims repeatedly for terrorism is absurd. Why should Muslims speak out against the attacks? If they do, is there not an inherent acceptance in that that they are in some way guilty of something? They are not. Do we all feel we have to say we do not agree with the Westboro Baptist church and their hate-filled ideology? No, of course not, because they are nutters and most people can see that! Do Christians have to continuously apologize for The Crusades? I don't know, maybe they do feel they have to, I am not a Christian so I honestly don't know but they certainly shouldn't. The Crusades have nothing to do with them.

It is like mixing a metaphor - but with terrible results. And the irony on display in some of the hateful comments towards the Muslim community is extraordinary - those who claim to hate terror and to love freedoms seem perfectly happy to terrorize others without a second thought and to wish to limit the freedom of others if they do not agree with them. How odd that Daesh/ISIS have so much in common with those who claim to hate them!

We must resist the urge to draw dividing lines between us. Are all Muslims good? I doubt it. Are any of us always good? I can only speak for myself but no is the answer for me!

Whatever your position on all of this is, just remember, ISIS/Daesh fear our unity.

None of us can become zebras, SO LET US BE UNITED!! your social media marketing partner
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