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It is not just Islamists who play the victim card

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Originally published in The Sunday Times (£) on March 1

When Abubaker Deghayes heard that his son Abdullah had been killed while fighting alongside his brothers for the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria last April, he described the 18-year-old as a “martyr”. Although he said he had “never encouraged” his sons to go and fight, he felt “some comfort” that they had fought for a “just cause”.

Other parents of young men and women who have gone abroad to join Isis have expressed shock at the actions of their children. How can anyone raised in Britain abandon their seemingly comfortable life in favour of joining a death cult?

Deghayes has repeatedly spoken about injustices in Muslim countries. It is a concern shared by many Muslims, who often refer to “brothers and sisters” being killed in Iraq, Syria or Gaza, and say something must be done about it. After being exposed to such views, is it any wonder that the Deghayes brothers left their home and went off to fight?

There are problems in some Muslim communities that allow for unpleasant and often dangerous views to fester. A BBC poll of 1,000 British Muslims, published last week, found that 27% had sympathy for the motives for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. A Muslim man from Bradford, when asked on Radio 4 about the cartoons, remarked, “If they hadn’t poked fun at our prophet, no one would have died.”

Even seemingly modern Muslims share these views. Many do not support violence or murder, but they believe their communities are always under attack and unfair scrutiny. Just listen to the BBC Asian Network’s phone-in show on any given day and hear how many Muslim callers either deny the existence of Isis, insisting it is a CIA plot (no, really), or condemn as non-Muslims anyone who follows a different interpretation of Islam.

Some on the political left have lent support to Islamist organisations such as Cage — a pseudo human-rights group – and are silent about the rise of fundamentalism, possibly because they do not wish to be labelled as racists.

Unfortunately, such groups receive support not just from local politicians but also from naive Muslims who want to tackle Islamophobia, little realising that they are tacitly supporting shady organisations.

These push forth poisonous ideologies, yet in the same breath claim to be victims of Islamophobia and racism. They blame everyone else for radicalisation.

It is not just Islamists who play the victim card. Whenever there is a discussion on anything relating to Islam or terrorism, conspiracy theories are wheeled out by many Muslims: 9/11, 7/7 and Osama bin Laden’s death were all CIA or Israeli (read: Jewish) plots to justify more wars, they say.

The bar is set low for Muslims. We are satisfied with people condemning murder, as though that is something to be congratulated. But condemnation alone is nothing if the root causes are not tackled.

Foreign policy and other grievances are exploited by extremist preachers, many of whom have been given platforms in mosques and university Islamic societies. Activists have long been warning institutions and those on the left not to cosy up to soft Islamists, who have been arguing for the creation of a caliphate for decades.

The seeds of this destructive and reactionary ideology were sown a long time ago. Until we stop getting defensive and start challenging the mindset within our own communities, nothing will ever change.

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Written by Iram Ramzan

March 2, 2015 at 5:32 pm

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