Us and them. We humans are so dismally prone to tribal thinking. Yet, with savage attacks from Bangladesh to Baghdad and points in between, ISIS is going all out to show that it is an equal opportunity killer.
So where, as The New York Times asks, is the outrage? Why is social media in the U.S. and Europe not brimming with sympathy? Why has the #cheerioschallenge trended on Twitter but not #Muslimlives?
This is a deep moral challenge, but also a strategic one. This moral dimension is, I hope, obvious. Shakespeare got it centuries ago; surely we can now. Muslim blood, spilled in cafes or nightclubs, is as innocent and red as any other. The lives lost to terrorist guns, bombs and grenades are as precious to their loved ones as any other. Whatever their religion or lack thereof, the maimed and traumatized suffer and need our care.
When Western targets are hit, commentators raise the cry, “Where’s the Muslim outrage?” In fact, decent Muslims have always been horrified by terrorism, and many have spoken out. The Paris attacks last year brought worldwide Muslim condemnation.
Muslim blood, spilled in cafes or nightclubs, is as innocent and red as any other.
But now the shoe’s on the other foot, and people, our laces are dangling, ready to trip us up. ISIS would like nothing better than for the West to brand all Muslims the enemy. But the fact remains that only an infinitesimal fraction of Muslims engage in terrorism, and that from 9/11 until now innocent Muslims have frequently been the victims of terror. In Syria alone, more Muslims have been victimized than in Europe and the U.S. combined.
If we can’t see that, and if we can’t summon authentic sympathy for Muslim victims of terror then we cede our claim to the moral high ground. Although Muslims come from every race, region, and background, when we see them as the enemy, we don the mantle of racist. It’s not only a shame, but a self-defeating shame to boot.