The Tribulations of Being a Muslim While ISIS Is There

Silhouette of several muslim militants with rifles
Silhouette of several muslim militants with rifles

When the reports of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris began to break out in the evening of November 13, a mixed feeling of fright and misery immediately inundated me. I was frightened at the depth of cruelty that had transpired and affected the French people once again. I felt sympathy with the people of France who were undeservedly victimized and terrorized.

And at the same time, I felt miserable. As a Muslim, it was my initial impression that the terrorist attacks in Paris would be eventually blamed on Muslims, and it didn't take so long before the media held "Islamic terrorists" accountable for the cataclysm of that horrific night, so my expectation had been realized. I didn't make such a prediction because I shared their view that the Muslims are innately violent and prone to commit acts of terrorism. My surmise was based on what I've learnt in the recent years, that it's become conventional to automatically attribute violent extremism everywhere in the world to the Muslims and accuse them of undermining the values of Western civilization.

President François Hollande impatiently declared a "merciless war" against the terrorists, and even though I think he was right to appease his wounded nation by promising to give a crushing response to the perpetrators of the mass killing, what crossed my mind after his speech was that, okay, we'll have to brace for the War on Terror 2.0.

There's absolutely no reason to resist a war against terrorism. The entire world should unite to eradicate this menace and give the extremists and terrorists a lesson they'll never forget. But the problem is that people in my part of the world don't have a very pleasant memory of what the War on Terror 1.0, masterminded by President George W. Bush, turned out to be. That war, announced in 2001 and translated into action immediately the same year through the unprompted invasion of Afghanistan - which apparently didn't have anything to do with the collapsing of the World Trade Center towers - ultimately transformed into a war on the Muslim world, and paved the way for the demonization and disenfranchisement of the Muslims worldwide. The idea was that they were the "Islamic fundamentalists" who plotted the 9/11 attacks and should be punished so severely that they'll never dream of repeating the same blunder in the US soil.

Now, the politicians, media personalities and decision-makers in Europe are fretfully talking of taking harsh actions, closing the borders to the immigrants, refusing to admit asylum-seekers fleeing war and devastation in the Middle East, toughening the visa regulations for the people of the Third World - mostly Muslims, raising the security measures at the airports, extending the state of emergency and adopting other restrictive procedures to make sure that the security of their people won't be dented. Logically, they have a right to do so. But why should all of these measures discriminate against the Muslims and target them in such a way that essentially chips away at their dignity and self-esteem and alienates them unduly?

It seems like the Western world has not yet made a distinction between the minority of so-called Muslims who engage in violent, suicidal operations - not on the basis of their religious convictions, but because they're radicalized due to a variety of reasons, and the vast peaceful majority of Muslims scattered across the world, who are constructively contributing to the progress and prosperity of their societies. Muslims are not simply Arabs or Iranians. You've got Muslims in such diverse places as Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, China, Greece, India, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore and Sweden. At the heart of Europe, there is Kosovo, which is a predominantly Muslim country - Muslims comprise 91.7% of its population. Albania, which harbors plans for getting accession to the European Union, is 82.1% Muslim. One can find the best physicians, university professors, computer scientists, scholars, authors, philanthropists and public servants among them, and there's barely anybody who could complain of aggressive, immoral or immodest behavior by the Muslims in these places against the other people.

Just visit Turkey, and see how the Muslims there donate to charities and provide food for the hungry and impoverished children of all faiths during the holy month of Ramadan pro bono publico. Go to Malaysia and see how the young Muslims offer their seats in the buses and metro to the elderly or the women holding small children; this is something not necessarily extraordinary, but highlights the humaneness of the Muslims repeatedly portrayed as evil creatures. Come to Iran and see how many young people have set up charity organizations to protect the orphan and street-sleeping children and provide them with shelter, food and free education. These are all the beautiful things that take place in the Muslim world, and are often withheld from the public. In the same Iran, several people held candlelight vigils outside the compounds of the French embassy in Tehran in memory of the victims of the Paris attacks.

It has always surprised me that many of the perpetrators of terrorist operations in the West, like Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of the Paris attacks, are "Muslims converts." It reasonably indicates an unequivocal, straightforward truth: they're not true Muslims. I'd call them concocted Muslims. They've been attracted by a perverted, fundamentalist and adventurous interpretation of Islam presented to them by some radical Imams, adopted the religion and carried out these heinous actions to fulfill the rapture they'd been promised: ascending to heaven.

Radicals and extremists are everywhere. Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian Christian, killed 77 people on July 22, 2011 exclusively on racial and religious grounds. Nobody called him a Christian terrorist, nor did any politician or media organization lament the rise of "Christian fundamentalism." What emerged from the media was that a "mass killer" shot dead the participants of a summer camp in the island of Utøya. Just that.

Ostracizing and defaming the Muslims doesn't smoothen the way for combating terrorism and violent extremism. It needs to be understood that Muslims are not genuinely responsible for what a mad minority does in the name of their religion, and they shouldn't account for that. Indubitably, it's difficult to be a Muslim while the ISIS terrorists continue to wreak havoc on Syria and Iraq and destabilize other parts of the world, because a peaceful Muslim always carries the stigma of being a fundamentalist wherever he goes. He is monitored, spied on, eavesdropped and interrogated intrusively. It's guilt by association, and seems to be overly unfair. Combating terrorism in general, and rooting out ISIS, in particular, requires some degree of realism and firmness. That's what is missing now.