There’s a certain ritual that each and every one of the world’s billion-plus Muslims, especially those living in Western countries, is expected to go through immediately following any incident of violence involving a Muslim perpetrator. It’s a ritual that is continuing now with the Sydney hostage crisis, in which a deranged self-styled sheikh named Man Haron Monis took several people hostage in a downtown café.
Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: “As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form.”
This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims.
The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion.
This sort of thinking — blaming an entire group for the actions of a few individuals, assuming the worst about a person just because of their identity — is the very definition of bigotry.
It is time for that ritual to end: non-Muslims in all countries, and today especially those in Australia, should finally take on the correct assumption that Muslims hate terrorism just as much as they do, and cease expecting Muslims to prove their innocence just because of their faith.
Bigoted assumptions are the only plausible reason for this ritual to exist, which means that maintaining the ritual is maintaining bigotry. Otherwise, we wouldn’t expect Muslims to condemn Haron Monis — who is clearly a crazy person who has no affiliations with formal religious groups — any more than we would expect Christians to condemn Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, if someone blames all Jews for the act of, say, extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank, we immediately and correctly reject that position as prejudiced. We understand that such an accusation is hateful and wrong — but not when it is applied to Muslims.
This is, quite literally, a different set of standards that we apply only to Muslims. Hend Amry, who is Libyan-American, brilliantly satirized this expectation with this tweet, highlighting the arbitrary expectations about what Muslims are and are not expected to condemn:
Hend @LibyaLibertyAs a Muslim, I condemn acts of sexual assault following time spent as a self-proclaimed spiritual healer specializing in black magic.10:50 AM – 15 Dec 2014
This ritual began shortly after September 2001. American Muslims, as well as Muslims in other Western countries, feared that they could be victims to a public backlash against people of their religion. While the short-term need to guard against a backlash was real, that moment has passed, and the ritual’s persistence is perpetuating Islamophobia rather than reducing it, by constantly reminding us of our assumption that Muslims are guilty until proven innocent.
The media has played a significant role in maintaining this ritual and thus the prejudiced ideas behind it. Yes, that includes openly Islamophobic cable news hosts like those in the US. But it also includes even well-intentioned media outlets and reporters who broadcast Muslims’ and Muslim organizations’ condemnation of acts of extremist violence, like the hostage crisis in Sydney.
There is no question that this coverage is explicitly and earnestly designed to combat Islamophobia and promote equal treatment of Muslims. No question. All the same, this coverage ends up cementing the ritual condemnation as a necessary act, and thus cementing as well the racist implications of that ritual.
By treating it as news every time, the media is reminding its readers and viewers that Muslims are held to a different standard; it is implicitly if unintentionally reiterating the idea that they are guilty until proven innocent, that maybe there is something to the idea of collective Muslim responsibility for lone criminals who happen to share their religion.
Instead, we should treat the assumptions that compel this ritual — that Muslims bear collective responsibility, that they are presumed terrorist-sympathizers until proven otherwise — as flatly bigoted ideas with no place in our society. There is no legitimate reason for Muslim groups to need to condemn Haron Monis, nor is there any legitimate reason to treat those condemnations as news. So we should stop.
We should treat people like Haron Monis as what he is: a deranged lunatic. And we should treat Muslims as what they are: normal people who of course reject terrorism, rather than as a lesser form of humanity that is expected to reject violence every time it happens.
An OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) delegation, which included foreign ministers and senior officials from its member states Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Djibouti, and Bangladesh recently visited Myanmar. It was led by the OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. The OIC delegation pressed for unhindered access of humanitarian aid to all affected people and communities, including Rakhine (Arakan) State, without any discrimination. They also stressed the need for clarifying misconceptions and misunderstandings on both sides and for building mutual trust and interfaith community harmony.
As has become the norm in this mostly Buddhist country that has come to signify the den of intolerance and hatred of our time, the OIC delegation was, however, met by angry demonstrators, esp. in the Rakhine state, which has seen more than its share of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minorities. Some 3,000 protesters, led by Buddhist monks, staged their demonstrations in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe (formerly called Akyab) as they toured camps housing mostly displaced Rohingya refugees as well as some ethnic Rakhines and met local officials. The delegation’s visit to Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon on Friday also saw nearly 1,000 people, carrying “No OIC” placards.
The protests of this kind – organized by the members of the central government and local administration, Buddhist politicians and monks – are nothing new. These are a show of defiance against everything noble and humane. These dark, hideous and savage forces of Theravada Buddhism want to hide their monumental crimes against humanity and want to starve to death the remnants of the Muslim minority who mostly now live in abject poverty as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in squalid camps.
Last year, the Buddhist government similarly did not allow the fact finding missions from international agencies, including the OIC, to tour the ethnically cleansed territories. It also did not allow opening up an OIC office in the Rakhine state. In the midst of government-sponsored protest demonstrations, the OIC had to pack up and leave, which only emboldened the savage regime and its supporters within the apartheid state to repeat their crimes against the Rohingya – who, according to the UN, are the most persecuted people on earth – and other Muslim minorities.
So the plight of the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities continues unabated inside apartheid Myanmar. In ethnic cleansing drives in this country, the victims are usually the Rohingyas and yet they end up in the prisons (and not the Buddhist marauders) overwhelmingly. A peaceful demonstration may cost them their lives in this Mogher Mulluk.
The same security forces which did nothing to stop lynching of Muslim victims have no moral qualms in killing them unprovoked for staging a peaceful demonstration.
As has been noted by the Associated Press on November 24, 600 Rohingya Muslim men were recently thrown in jail in this remote corner of Myanmar during a ruthless security crackdown that followed sectarian violence, and among one in 10 who didn’t make it out alive.
An eyewitness described that when she visited the jail, the cells were crammed with men, hands chained behind their backs, several stripped naked. Many showed signs of torture. Her husband, Mohammad Yasim, was doubled over, vomiting blood, his hip bone shattered. “We were all crying so loudly the walls of the prison could have collapsed,” the 40-year-old widow said. “They killed him soon after that,”she said of her husband. Her account was corroborated by her father, her 10-year-old son and a neighbor. “Other prisoners told us soldiers took his corpse and threw it in the forest.” “We didn’t even have a chance to see his body,” she said.
In early November, three Rohingyas were killed. One Rohingya man was murdered by Rakhine villagers when collecting firewood in the forest. Another two were killed and four wounded after riot police opened fire during clashes. In Pauktaw Township the situation remained tense with many of the remaining Rohingya villagers being forced into an IDP camp allegedly for their own security by army and police.
Many are afraid because the camp, funded by an international aid group, is very close to a village with only Buddhist Rakhines.
Buddhist security forces have been allowed to operate with impunity. As a result of such brutality, unfathomed discrimination by state authorities and their obvious collusion with the Rakhine (Magh) extremists towards never-ending pogroms life has only gotten worse for Rohingya.
They see no way out but to board rickety boats for Bangladesh, or make the perilous journey to Malaysia. Many have already drowned trying when their boats capsized.
In spite of Myanmar’s Government’s zealous efforts to hide its complicity and crimes against humanity, truth has been leaking out. Consider, for instance, the testimony of Mr. Thomas H. Andrews, President and CEO of United to End Genocide on September 19, 2013 in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. In that, he provided his first-hand account of visits made in Burma. He travelled to Rakhine State in the west where he visited eight IDP camps and spoke with dozens of desperate IDPs. He also travelled to the central and northern area of Mandalay and the city of Meiktila where he visited neighborhoods and met with many people and families who continue to live in fear and desperation. He also came across Muslims in Rangoon whose fear and intimidation was on the rise in Myanmar.
During his trip, Mr. Andrews was blocked by security forces at roadside checkpoints from visiting IDP camps. The reason was clear. They did not want him to hear what had happened to the Muslim community inside Myanmar.
Nevertheless, the signs of destruction were everywhere and he was able to see burnt out buildings and destroyed Mosques, meet with those who had to literally run for their lives after watching their homes and everything that they had worked for destroyed. They were living in abject poverty in makeshift camps wanting desperately to return and rebuild their village but also utterly terrified by the Buddhist mobs, Myanmar security forces and police even more.
Throughout his travels, Mr. Andrews heard stories of systematic discrimination, isolation and blanket oppression where every aspect of life of members of the Muslim minority was controlled.
People described living in constant fear of violence within their communities and intimidation by authorities. The right to move from one village – or even one street – to another, the right to earn a living, to get married, to have more than two children and even the right to live with one’s own family was often dependent on the permission of authorities and most often only after the payment of bribes.
He found that hate speech – a precursor of genocide – was prevalent in Burma. Fueling it was a systematic, well organized and well funded campaign of hatred and bigotry known as “969”. It followed a well established pattern:
1) Campaign organizers arrive in a village, distributing DVDs, pamphlets and stickers that warn Buddhists that their religion and their country were in peril as Muslims seek to eliminate both and establish a Muslim caliphate;
2) Villages are invited to a special community event to hear a message from venerable Buddhist monks about how they can protect their families, nation and religion;
3) Radical nationalist monks arrive at the designated time and deliver fiery hate-filled speeches warning that Muslims are plotting to destroy Buddhism and take control of the nation. Villages are encouraged to support the movement by signing petitions, and displaying “969” stickers on their homes and businesses. They are encouraged to only patronize those who displayed the stickers and boycott any Muslim owned or operated business.
As I have documented earlier, the hateful rhetoric of these radical Rakhine monks and the “969” campaign is ominously reminiscent of the hateful propaganda directed at the Tutsi population and their sympathizers in the lead up and during the Rwandan genocide, let alone the Nazi-led Holocaust more than half a century earlier.
Demanding the expulsion of all Rohingya from Burma, these monks urge the local population to sever all relations with not only the Rohingya, but also with what are described as their “sympathizers”. Labeled as national traitors, those Buddhists who associate with Rohingya Muslims also face intimidation and the threat of violence.
Gregory Stenton, President of Genocide Watch, documented eight stages of genocide – Classification,
Symbolization, Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination and Denial. Human rights watchers have long concluded that the Rohingyas are facing genocide in Myanmar, and this crime must be stopped.
Last week (Tuesday, November 19) the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee passed a resolution urging Myanmar to give the stateless Rohingya minority equal access to citizenship and to crack down on Buddhist violence against them and other Muslims.
In its response, an official of the Myanmar government said that it will not allow itself to be pressured by a U.N. resolution. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut insisted in a posting on his Facebook page that the government does not recognize that there is a group called Rohingya, referring to them instead as Bengalis.
As I have noted above, such defiance by the rogue Myanmar regime is not new and unless checked vehemently it will continue to defy the world community.
The elimination of Muslims there has become a national project enjoying widespread support from Nobel disgrace Suu Kyi to president Thein Sein.
Thus, the UN has to go beyond passing soft resolutions that don’t bite the rogue regime.
A reading of history shows that genocide succeeds when state sovereignty blocks international responsibility to protect its persecuted group. It continues due to lack of authoritative international institutions to predict it and call it as such. It happens due to lack of ready rapid response forces to stop it and lack of political will to peacefully prevent it and to forcefully intervene to stop it.
Since founding of the UN, at least 45 genocides and politicides have taken place in our world resulting in deaths of some 70 million people. It is a shameful record that needs to be improved.
The time for soft talk with Myanmar is over. It is high time for the UN Security Council to authorize armed intervention in Myanmar by a UN force under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter.
The Mandate must include protection of Rohingya civilians and humanitarian workers and a No Fly Zone over the Rakhine state. The Rules of Engagement must be robust and include aggressive prevention of killing. The major military powers (e.g., the USA, Russia and the UK) must provide leadership, logistics, airlift, communications, and financing.
If Myanmar will not permit entry, its UN membership should be suspended. Myanmar’s leaders should be tried in an international criminal court for committing and aiding crimes against humanity. Nothing short of these will be able to stop these savage criminals. Sooner the better!
Dr Habib Siddiqui has authored 10 books. His latest book – Devotional Stories – is now available from A.S. Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Imagine this: killing more than 1,500 enemies in war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield. That was Brandon Bryant’s life. He was a drone sensor operator responsible for tracking and killing militants halfway around the world from where the trigger was pulled, a ground control station in the U.S. states of Nevada and New Mexico.
Grainy black-and-white videos like this one give us a bird’s eye view of this new form of warfare. This attack, for instance, took place on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan back in 2008.
Bryant spent years helping to unleash such drones on militants and admits that he fears that one of his attacks may have, in fact, killed a child. Eventually he became so disillusioned with the career that he turned down a hefty bonus to continue.
He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Now Bryant is opening up about it all, giving the world a window into the windowless bunker where he spent the past several years and revealing new details about America’s top secret and controversial drone program.
U.S. policy should be reinforcing the interim government [of Egypt]… the United States must articulate a global strategy in what has become a cold war between the civilized societies of the world and violent Islamic fundamentalists who seek our overthrow. This is a mortal struggle with enemies who diametrically oppose Western moral philosophies and democratic worldviews.
[Norm Coleman, a Republican U.S. senator from Minnesota from 2003 to 2009, was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee]
Letters Detail Punitive Tactics Used On Guantánamo Hunger Strikers
The US military secretly used a variety of tactics to break the resolve of the Guantánamo Bay hunger strikers, including placing them in solitary confinement if they continued to refuse food, newly declassified interviews with detainees reveal.
One prisoner also said that the last British resident held inside the camp,Shaker Aamer, had been targeted and humiliated by the authorities to the point where it became impossible for the 44-year-old to continue his protest.
The US military recently announced the end of the six-month mass hunger strike among detainees at Guantánamo Bay. But human rights groups argue that such proclamations are disingenuous as at least 16 inmates are still force-fed daily, and two are in hospital.
One detainee, 42-year-old Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab, reported that the Extreme Reaction Force team, the camp’s military riot squad, would “storm” Aamer’s cell five times a day in an attempt to crush his resolve during the strike.
In letters recounting Aamer’s treatment, which have only just been declassified, Wa’el said: “They have deprived him of food, water and medicine. Then the riot squad uses the excuse of giving him water and food and medicine to storm his cell again.”
Wa’el, who like Aamer has spent 11 years inside the camp, added: “They took him to the clinic, tore his clothes off and left him with only his underwear for long hours, taunting him.”
Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian detainee who has been cleared for release, corroborated the claim that solitary confinement was used as a punishment for prisoners making political statements. Belbacha, 43, described how the authorities were punishing hunger strikers by confiscating their belongings. “My glasses, legal papers, toothbrush, toothpaste and all my other necessities have been taken.”
Testimonies of Belbacha, Mukbel and Aamer are among those featured in an animation narrated by actors David Morrissey and Peter Capaldi depicting life inside Guantánamo Bay. The film also uses testimony from the recently released Nabil Hadjarab, provided by their lawyers at legal charity Reprieve.
Mukbel, 35, added that other tactics were utilised to whittle down the size of the hunger strike. He said the temperature was deliberately manipulated to make conditions inside the camp even more uncomfortable and that during the hunger strike searches of cells were timed to disrupt detainees’ sleep.
Cori Crider, a lawyer at Reprieve, said: “The US authorities have, with some glee, announced the hunger strike to be over. What they fail to tell you is the horrific things they did to crush the hunger strikers’ spirits, as my clients have described. And yet still there are at least 16 men striking and being brutally force-fed twice a day.”