In a fast news cycle, three seemingly unconnected things ended up being co-dependent on each other and how one drives the narrative of the other: the New Zealand attack, the Quetta attack and the Islamophobia industry:
- A bomb tore through a market in Quetta Pakistan on April 12, 2019 in a targeted attack against the Hazaras, an ethnic Shiite minority group in Sunni majority Pakistan. Twenty-one people were killed and many were injured. In the past five years, 509 Hazaras have been killed in Quetta alone in targeted attacks. Yet, on social media, even a full 24 hours after the Quetta attack, there was deafening silence from Muslims around the world — no hashtags, no solidarity with the Hazaras, no Twitter storms.
- The previous month, a white supremacist terrorist killed 50 Muslims in a targeted attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. Media attention to that attack was tremendous and unrelenting. The drums are still beating a month later. Prominent Muslim celebrities in the U.S. have even taken to offering free holidays to the site of the carnage, turning the grievances of the victims into a distasteful carnival. Twitter is still ablaze with the hashtags. A benefit concert, “You are Us,” was just held in commemoration of the victims.
- Twenty-four hours after the isolated attack in Christchurch, armed guards were put in front of mosques in London, 11,600 miles away. As a result, since the attack, every case of schoolyard bullying, random street racism or legitimate critique of Islam has been ascribed to Islamophobia, inducing Muslim advocacy groups to get involved. One could say, a growing Islamophobia industry has emerged from the New Zealand attack.
Response to the Quetta attack is not atypical. Scores of Muslim-on-Muslim violence is conveniently swept under the carpet by the so-called liberal Western press. Either it’s brushed off as “sectarian violence” or “too everyday” for people to care about. What’s another dozen deaths between Muslims of different sects? Nothing to see here.
But Islamophobia — that has a currency in the West and is the reason why Christchurch is so lucrative. It has become the “gift that keeps giving.” Hardly a sermon or online Muslim celebrity vlog passes up the chance to reference Christchurch. It’s been a boon to Islamist preachers worldwide like Muhammad Hijab and Ali Dawah, two YouTube Muslim celebrity vloggers. It helps to fuel the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The industry of Islamophobia needs currency like Christchurch to pull moderate Muslims toward extremism. This burgeoning industry silences the broader media when it comes to any legitimate criticism of Muslims or Islam, crying bigotry every time there is another honor killing in Muslim community that needs a light shone on it or a woman is jailed in Iran for taking off her hijab or an apostate from Islam is lynched.
In conjunction with attacks such as Christchurch, the so-called liberal Western media feels compelled to run positive pieces on Muslims, reasoning that otherwise, white people in the UK or California or South Africa or Sweden may just shoot down Muslims like Brenton Tarrant did in New Zealand. This narrative –that all white people are potential terrorists — is just as ludicrous as assuming all brown people are responsible for 9/11.
It’s just another form of bigotry.
Throughout the 1980s and ’90s in Europe, the majority of terrorist attacks were carried out by white separatists. Between 2001 and 2015, there were 15 major terrorist attacks. Ten were carried out by Muslims and one was a lone-wolf case carried out by a white nationalist, Anders Brevik.
Eight years after Brevik, there was another lone-wolf white nationalist attack in New Zealand. As heinous as the two terrorist events were, we cannot use them to blind ourselves to the threat of Islamist radicalization going unchecked in Muslim communities.
Radicalization is a serious problem in the UK. Not only with the recent influx of Muslim refugees and migrants from regions under sharia constitutions, but also with disenfranchised British-born Muslim millennials turning to social media and online sources to seek a new understanding of identity.
The larger radicalization machine involves the Saudi lobby, the very same patrons of ISIS and before them, al-Qaeda. According to former UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir William Patey, “Saudi Arabia has been funding mosques throughout Europe that have become hotbeds of extremism … funding an ideology that leads to extremism,” namely Salafi-Wahhabi strains of Islam, the very same ideology ascribed to by ISIS and al-Qaeda.
It is this ideology that must be addressed, just like we need to address various strains of white supremacy, before we face another Manchester Arena Bombing or Brevik-type attack.
To dismantle the radicalization machine, the Salafi ideology must be rooted out and banned from mosques, bookstores and online pages. We can learn from the new state-led German scheme launched by the German ministry of the interior that “recently added a new dimension to redefining Islam: The initiative to redefine and adjust Islam to German values combined with efforts to stimulate the integration of Muslims into German society.”
This will help Muslims adopt a liberal Islam that can synthesize Islamic values with European values. This would not only be valuable in combating radicalization among the young, but it also gives them a sense of belonging to their country.
An important factor in Islamic radicalization is isolation from the broader community fostered by multiculturalism which ghettoizes families, children and communities. It’s vital Muslims feel that their Western host countries are their home.
Too frequently, the extremist interpretations of Islam cause a disconnect in Muslim children, adolescents and young adults between Islam, on the one hand, and their new nationalities, on the other. Muslim children and youth need to feel their religious identity is not at odds with their national identity so we can have integration and harmony between communities.