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Islamic Extremism: Multiple Misunderstandings

16th December 2014
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From the recent ‘Sydney Siege’ and the Taliban massacre in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, violent Islamic extremists continue to rein terror around the world. It is fair to disagree with and despise these people; however, the movement is hugely misunderstood, especially in the western world.

Muslim protestOn countless occasions I have spoken with people who blame the Islamic creed as a whole for these horrors, depicting all Muslims as “monsters who want us all dead”. This Islamophobia is rash and fallacious and is often perpetuated through the media’s sensationalism.

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Robb Leech, a documentary film-maker whose brother converted to Islamic extremism. According to his extensive experience in this field, Robb claims that people convert to Islamic extremism due to an identity crisis. They feel that they need something to believe in and fight for and that his is brought about through a type of brainwashing. He highlighted a key point which justifies why it may appear to some that the Muslim community ‘supports’ this extremism.

The vast majority of the Muslim community does not support extremism and suffers from it more than non-Muslims. According to a poll by Gallup Inc. 93% of Muslims do not support extremism, a figure far from the narrative played out by our media and right-wing politicians.

It should be raised that many do not speak out about extremism as they feel no association with it – these terrorists do not, for them, follow the same religion as them and so they shouldn’t have to actively speak out. Speaking about extremism will only increase their association with it. Following the devastating 9/11 attacks, Muslims around the world (especially in the U.S.) felt oppressed and discriminated against. Many were taunted and attacked in the streets simply because the 9/11 culprits were a bunch of people who follow a sect of the same religion. Is this rational? Absolutely not. This naivety and ignorance has caused and continues to cause unnecessary problems and injustices. To solve these problems, people need to properly understand the situation.

Fortunately over a decade on many non-Muslims are becoming increasingly informed and fully respect the Muslim community.

For instance, this can be seen with the #illridewithyou  campaign which followed the Sydney Siege, but in the midst of media sensationalism and ‘us-versus-them’ politics seeking to divide rather than unite, misinformation is still perpetuating, and in some cases growing, Islamaphobia.

Much of these appears to come from older generations who, perhaps, are less flexible and more prejudice than younger generations. ‘Kainotophobia’ is the fear of change. In our more globalised, information age cultural segregation is becoming less common, and the media has less of a strangle-hold on the information available, which might explain the growing tolerance amongst young generations.

In reports by Ipsos MORI, the average Briton estimated that 21% of the United Kingdom’s population is Muslim, yet the actual figure is 5% (perhaps due to the emphasis that the media, the EDL and UKIP place on the ‘issue’?).

They have ranked the UK as the 5th most ignorant country in the developed world.

If religions, cultures and people are to peacefully co-exist it is crucial that a better understanding is achieved and that all parties accept, appreciate and respect each other.

It might not make for the best headlines but the reality rather than the myth of Islam in the western world needs to be highlighted to put out the fire of ignorance that fuels tensions that lead to violence and extremism.




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