Just as in centuries before, the modern world is often a dangerous and brittle place always on the cusp of self imploding, the collateral damage often being innocent civilians and young children caught up in the warfare of another man’s fight. Whilst atrocities in generations past did happen and often on a grand scale one must consider the present day to be unlike any other in the alarming way death and destruction has moved away from the war front and into town centres, public transport and civilian places of work.
Terrorism and the loaded meaning of the word is in itself a political minefield and can be disputed depending on each individual view. To some there is no doubt that a certain act is terrorism whilst to another it can be a military necessity to achieve ones aim’s and is in no way different to sanctioned state action. One of the biggest cliché’s surrounding the noun Terrorism and its aims is oft-quoted:
“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”
This quote tends to have a degree of truth to it and is often dependent on which side of a political fence one sits. An example would be the issues in Northern Ireland during the latter part of the 20th century where depending on which religious/ethnic background one was from the Irish Republican Army and similar Loyalist Paramilitary organisations were termed as terrorists or freedom fighters but never both. On one point it is argued that men only resort to what is termed as terrorism out of a struggle for survival and a necessity to fight against oppression whilst opponents of terrorism argue mass murder in the name of a political or social campaign is never acceptable and should always be condemned. Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001 terrorism itself has become synonymous with the terms Muslim and Islam. On that day a group of men committed an act of atrocity (or celebration, again depending on the background of the person analysing the situation) that resulted in over 3000 deaths of people of all kinds of religious and ethnic backgrounds whilst shocking and humiliating the United States of America at its very core, no doubt the aim of the perpetrators. Since then it has almost become a Western acceptance that terrorism is the sole concept of those from the Islamic religion. Indeed a common status often sighted on Facebook and other forums states “not all Muslim’s are terrorists…but all terrorists are Muslim”.
Ignorant claims portrayed in an academic way leads to myths being claimed as irrefutable facts by the easily-influenced and gullible general public and this can thus transcend itself into serious issues within an already fractured society. A young boy whom believes such claims can grow into a man whom due to a lack of education has an inbuilt rage and hate towards the Muslim population or whomever a false allegation has been made about. In Northern Ireland and to an extent Scotland there is still major issues with sectarianism whereby due to the separate education system plus rhetoric used at home by an equally unenlightened parenting system Catholics and Protestants grow up to consider the other side to be inferior human beings. Muslims have for the last 10 years at least come under increasing persecution and hostility from all sections of society due to the acts of a very small minority of people committing such public acts of terrorism in the misguided notion of Islam. Being of an “Asian” appearance can lead to looks of disdain and suspicion when travelling on public transport or, god forbid, air travel. The Western world has a deep and worrying level of distrust for Muslim’s that they seem to think is to be expected due to the various acts of terrorism that have been committed in the West by people in the name of Allah. Yet looking at the basic facts is this necessary acceptable? Various acts of terrorism perpetrated in the West include the aforementioned and historically infamous September 11th Twin Tower attacks, the London 7/7 bombings and the 2004 Madrid train bombings. All alarming acts carried out in the name of Islam and all of which carried substantial casualties. Yet 3 major acts of terrorism by a handful of people does not under any circumstances correlate to a religion of over 1 BILLION people being undoubtedly guilty of being or aspiring to be terrorists. An interesting report by the European Union stated that in 2006 there were over 500 acts of terrorism committed or attempted in the EU but only ONE was related to ISLAMIC terrorism. Europol figures also clearly show that 99% of all terror-related attacks in the last 3 years in Europe were carried out by non-Muslim’s, a great deal of these being carried out by people of a White and Christian background in the Basque region of Spain and Northern Ireland.
This brings me neatly to my main point. As I have explored very briefly it is clear that Muslim’s and the Islamic religion in the West is the victim of ignorance in that they seem to be disproportionately treated as potential terrorists by the vast majority of the population when cold, hard facts point out the ridiculousness of such a notion. Islamaphobia is unfortunately here to stay it seems and plays a prominent part in the tabloid media who gratefully feed of public hysteria to maximise sale generation. However, the recent tragedy in Norway has once again muddied the waters for your average citizen as it has drastically brought back into focus the fact that Islam does not and never has had exclusive rights to terrorism. Christian terrorism still plays an active part in today’s Western world and has had as many murders and incidents committed in the name of Christianity as there have been in the name of Islam yet doesn’t tend to conjure up the same rhetoric of hate as those committed by the “barbaric and medieval Muslims”. Northern Ireland is or has been a haven for what can be termed Christian terrorism, proscribed groups like the IRA and the UVF regularly committing murder in the name of their relevant religious backgrounds. The Omagh bombing of 1998 by the Catholic IRA killed 29 people whilst the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 by Protestant UVF members accounted for the deaths of 33, just two examples of a tit-for-tat terrorist policy undertaken by various warring religious factions in the North amidst a background of political instability. Other acts of terrorism and murder that have been carried out in the name of Christianity can also be found in America, a country renowned for having a large cross section of society whereby there are people of such religious fervour they are directly comparable with Muslim’s of similar devotion across the Middle East whom they so despise. The Ku Klux Klan may not be as active as they once were but they and other White Supremacist Neo-Nazi groups do exist and often have a strong, militaristic Christian theology at their core, none better displayed as the KKK’s infamous burning crosses. There is an estimated 8,000 KKK members across the US and it is considered to be growing in recent years in direct opposition to issues such as Same-Sex marriages that some conservative Christian beliefs prohibit. Indeed the self-proclaimed leader of the biggest clan, Thom Robb, is himself a Christian pastor. Perhaps the most famous American Christian terrorist is Timothy McVeigh, whom in 1995 concocted and carried through the Oklahoma bombings which cost the lives of 168 innocent people. Up until the September 11th attacks his act remained the single biggest terrorist atrocity on American soil. Finally, the recent attack in Norway by White supremacist and right wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik is the largest single attack by a lone gunman in history, his killing spree accounting for the lives of 77 people. His political aims and his motive for the killing were concluded to be, via his own document that he released prior to his attack, support for varying degrees of cultural conservatism, right-wing populism, anti-Islamification and Serbian Para militarism. He also violently against Islam itself, multicultarism and communism and felt his actions were needed to help preserve a White, Christian Europe that his native Government had betrayed with their liberalism.
This has shown that murder, violence and terrorism is not the sole domain of one group of society but that ALL are capable of murder. The myth that Muslims alone are to blame for all of the world’s ills does nothing for cross-community relations and such a divide in society through ignorance and non-education will only lead to increased issues in the future. As someone from a mixed Christian-Muslim background I am somewhat enlightened more than most to both religions and therefore am able to understand there is nothing to fear from the vast majority of believers on both sides. The major and famous incidents listed do not account for 99.9999% of believers on both sides whom are law-abiding, quiet and decent people who’s only concern is the safety and welfare of their families. Not all Muslim’s are terrorists, killers, beheader’s or Jihadi’s. Not all Christians are right wing fanatics, genocidal maniacs, racists or gunmen. I do not walk down the road and cross when a White Christian walks my way, mental images of Anders Brievik or Hooded Klan members being conjured up out of fear. Remember this next time you’re on the tube and a Muslim sits next to you. The overwhelming odds are that this person is a peaceful man and a decent human being. Maybe you will even say hello.