Day by day, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand why the global Muslim community does not unite with one voice to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the brutality of the self-annointed Islamic State (ISIS) against Christians, Yazidis and its fellow Muslims in Iraq and Syria. This barbaric group of terrorists resorts to all manner of violence — including beheadings — against men, women and children who do not support its goal to create a caliphate that would erase 1,000 years of progress in the Middle East. And it’s all being done in the name of Islam
Writing recently in The Washington Post, Yasmine Bahrani, a professor of journalism at American University in Dubai, questioned the absence of public outrage among her fellow Muslims.
“Why is it so hard to take a stand against the killing of women and children?” she asked. Bahrani noted that Muslims marched in the streets of London, Paris and other cities earlier this year to condemn the bombing of schools and residential buildings and the deaths of Gazans at the hands of Israel. Yet there have been no similar demonstrations against ISIS for its horrific acts. “There certainly haven’t been any marches protesting the beheading of innocents,” she said. Some individual Muslims have spoken out against ISIS, she acknowledged, but have done little more than call for an end to the violence. “Surely we can do better. Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others?”
Increasingly, in today’s world, the word “Islam” calls forth an image of masked men wielding knives and other weapons and often reveling in the butchery they’ve inflicted on others. That view is only enhanced by sophisticated ISIS-produced YouTube videos glorifying their crimes and inviting young Europeans and Americans to join what they misrepresent as jihad. Many observers, including President Barack Obama, have observed rightly that what ISIS is perpetrating is not Islam. “Muslims know that,” said Bahrani, “but we need to understand that others do not.”
Even as President Obama and the U.S. Congress work to craft an effective United States response, other countries around the world are joining in the effort to develop a coalition of nations to stand against the very real terrorist threat posed by ISIS. Were the global Muslim community to lend its collective voice to that effort, the impact would be immediate and consequential.
“Either we reject the Islamic State and groups like it in the clearest possible terms, or we allow them to become the face of Muslims,” said Bahrani in her commentary. “When we say ‘it’s not Islam,’ we are dismissing the criminals as someone else’s problem. The truth is, nobody else is going to deal with them. It might seem easier to evade this responsibility, but the price of doing so will be heavy. Because, to the rest of the world, that horrific picture is what Muslims have become. If we don’t do something now, that image will be the world’s perception of us for years to come.”