Recent Jihadi-inspired attacks in Europe and in many other parts of the world have had a general effect on the consciousness of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, leading to a rise in Islamophobia and endangering the Muslim populations of those countries where they are in a minority, as in most European countries. Although the toll of civilian dead and wounded is in the hundreds, the chances of being the target of such an indiscriminate attack are millions to one against. That, of course, is no consolation for the victims. But the point is that the vast majority of people are extremely unlikely to become victims of Muslim terrorism.
Yet Islam as a religion is being blamed by a handful of European and American demagogues for complicity in this heinous yet still occasional slaughter. There is a growing belief that most Muslims secretly approve of the behaviour of ISIS in its pursuit of the Caliphate, despite its brutality towards Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Organisations such as Jaamat-e-Islami, which is very influential among Muslims in Britain, openly denounce Western civilisation—its democracy, culture and religions—and call for their eradication. Although their ideology inspires the jihadist group mentality, these fundamentalist Islamic groups operate legally in many countries around the world.
The fact that modern Muslim suicide attackers think they are Islamic warriors who will walk straight into paradise after killing unarmed men, women and children suggests very strongly that they lack any sense of human decency. A warrior is one who fights an armed enemy of Islam, which was what the Muslim prophet meant when he created the concept of jihad. Moderate Muslims scholars can quote passages from the Koran that state unequivocally that the killing of non-combatants is strictly forbidden. These suicide attackers are, therefore, in direct contradiction of their own religion and so their supposed easy pass into paradise is invalidated. But that apparently does not deter them.
Some Muslim organisations openly challenge the extremist narrative: the website New Age Islam and The Quilliam Foundation, for example, as well as individual imams. But they do not appear to have the support of the wider Muslim community, most of whom remain a ‘silent majority’. Such silence creates suspicion amongst non-Muslims, which leads to social tensions and abuse of law-abiding Muslims. That in turn leads to a greater sense of alienation amongst the Muslim community and encourages some of its members to adopt the extremist ideology.
There are other incentives for the spread of Islamic extremism, including the weak European economy, which has disproportionately affected the continent’s Muslim populations, and many Western countries’ open support for Israel in its seventy-year persecution of the mainly Muslim Palestinian people. That persecution, and the denial of its existence by the Western media, is a running sore in relations between Muslims and the Western world and it plays a significant part in helping jihadist recruitment.
In addition, the neo-con directed Western ‘regime change’ policies in the Muslim Middle East—Iraq, Libya and Syria—have inspired thousands of young Muslims in Europe to join the fight against secular regimes and against the West. The refugee crisis that is causing such distress to millions of people is a direct consequence of these policies and will no doubt inspire further recruitment to the jihadist cause.
Fascist, racist and other tribal type demagogues seize upon communal tensions, openly encouraging reaction in order to win wider popular support for their agenda. Donald Trump’s recent anti-Muslim rhetoric is a case in point. Extremists exist in all societies and the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the Norwegian sociopath Anders Breivik has many sympathisers amongst neo-Nazi and Fascist elements in Europe and America. Islamic and anti-Muslim extremists feed upon each other’s prejudices and that is a recipe for long-term global instability, with the attendant danger of democratic nations slipping into fascist dictatorships.
Several avenues can be explored to counter the extremist Islamic narrative, including the West taking a tougher stance with Israel concerning its treatment of the Palestinians, and insisting on the creation of a Palestinian state. The Western media has a moral duty to expose the persecution and encourage sanctions until Israel complies. The West must also abandon the destructive regime change policy that has wreaked havoc all over the Middle East, and should direct its attention to the sources of Islamic extremism in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Pakistan, all of which finance and motivate this new jihadism.
It is now widely believed that governments must start to tackle seriously Muslim minorities’ lack of integration into Western society, along with the higher rates of unemployment and social exclusion from which they suffer. Employers must be encouraged to take on Muslims or other racial or religious minorities on a quota system so that unemployment rates amongst these groups is reduced.
Jamaat-e-Islami and similar organisations that promote Islamic fundamentalism and antagonism towards Western institutions should be proscribed in Europe and faith schools should be abolished and replaced by secular schools. Access to religious instruction should be available but a standard core curriculum should exist that subscribes to the ideals and culture of the host nation. This should include lessons in the natural and exact sciences that disprove the Genesis creation story, upon which all Abrahamic religions are based, in order to remove the dogmatic sense of certainty that seems to underlie the jihadist mentality.
That last, of course, is the most difficult because of the vested interests of the non-Islamic Abrahamic religions that wield so much social power, even in the twenty-first century. But it could be the most effective because, as the saying goes, the truth is out there.