Opinion| Barcelona Terror Attack and the Argument of Complacency

Mini-Report

Assuming we all read the news or at least consume the news through some sort of informative medium, we all know about the recent happenings in Spain. The gruesome act of terror which involved several separate acts: a van struck innocent pedestrians in Las Ramblas, an attack in Cambrils and an explosion in Alcanar.

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A flower tribute was placed the Saturday following the attacks on the promenade of Las Ramblas, Barcelona.

The five known suspects involved, some of them reported to be wearing explosive belts, were shot down by Spanish Police. According to the Guardian, the death toll had reached 13+ and at least 100 injured. Along with Barcelona holding a half-million-man march and 1-minute moment of silence, many cities and public figures paid their tributes as well.

Catalonians, Spaniards and all who participated in the peace march chanted “No Tinc Por” which in Catalan Spanish means “I am not afraid”. Spanish Muslims showed their disapproval and protested the terror along with their fellow Spanish countrymen.

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Muslim women protesters hold anti-terror signs reading (from left to right): not in my name, terrorism has no religion, Islam is peace.

In a video/article reported by the Independent, thousands of Muslims in Spain marched days after the unfortunate attacks took place. The Muslim march was accompanied by Catalan President Carme Forcadell and other officials from the Barcelona City Council and Catalan Parliament.

Further social implications of the heinous terror attacks on Barcelona, as the Washington Post reports, may include more political interest and activity. The report argues that a city which experiences such large-scale shocks increase the probability of their inhabitants being more politically active. The increased political activity could mean more people participating in future votes as politicians will most likely focus on the issue of security and anti-terror measure checks as a political platform.

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The Towers of Kuwait lit up with the Spanish flag, in honor of the victims of the recent attacks.

Opinion

A short time after the repulsive happenings in Barcelona, a fellow blogger posted an open letter to the Muslim community regarding the attack. Robert Turner, a blogger and travel writer whose work I greatly admire, posed a number of important questions with, in my opinion, a collection of weak arguments.

This is a good opportunity to address some issues Muslims face on a regular basis by both the media and those who consume it without question.

*I must apologize to Turner for writing this so late. I’ve simply been busy.

The questions posed by Turner, the very same questions that inspired me to report on the issue and attempt to answer them, are:

  • Why would you allow the activities of these extremists to continue?
  • Why would arguably the largest religion in the world allow itself to be used as a front for heinous crimes against innocents?
  • Is it not time to act now, to clean house before your religion and culture suffer any further damage?
  • If the fundamentalists and terrorists are indeed acting out the desires of a disgruntled nation, how can Islam be held accountable and more importantly, does it leave Islam powerless to stop them?

I am sure to the non-Muslim individual, these questions possess great significance. To the average Joe of a Muslim, the questions are simply nonsensical. They are based on spurious correlations and minimal knowledge on the history of Islam, let alone the sociopolitical history of modern Islam in relation to post-colonial times. As much of the general arguments floating around in the minds and mouths of the masses who dare courageously yet illogically, to tackle a problem that is colossal and riddling in complexity, is one that requires plenty of intelligent prep time.

It seems as if the efforts of the global Islamic Nation is constantly disregarded as soon as a terror attack happens. When Muslims immediately march on, express in writing or art, publicly denounce…etc. the actions of a small % who identify as Muslims, the world does not bat a single eye. On the opposite side of the spectrum, when a terror attack does happen, the Western World in particular embarks on a frenzy against the supposed ‘complacency’ of Muslims.

As for the questions, I will address them in the order mentioned above:

One does not simply ‘allow’ terrorists or extremists to act out their doings. There are no billboards suspended in Muslim cities that say “feel free to self combust”. Societal leniency may be a form of permittance to adopt potentially dangerous ideas. Countries, Islamic majority countries, may ideologically support a religious school of thought that is destructive at its core; Saudia Arabia, for instance, with Wahabism/Salafism has most certainly given birth to repulsive terrorist factions. The ideology’s continuation, however, is rooted within centuries of Islamic thought that violence is permissible. This is moreso a reflection on the culture of a given place, in this case the reflection on the culture’s tribalism. To tackle such thought, one would need to tackle deep and corrupt roots. Something that will require time and awareness before time. You cannot allow yourself to continue a thing if you are not conscious of the thing itself.

Islam is too big for, again, ‘allowing’ itself to be a platform of heinous crimes. Islam is built of many sects, even sects that have sub-sects which behave differently; in the case of Sunni-Islam, an arguably moderate sect, we see sub-sects of it such as Wahabism or Salafism, two highly destructive sects. In Shia-Islam, we see similarities, although less bigoted and harmful in both theology and history, a comparison to Iran’s religious behavior could be used as an example. Hezbollah’s influence on Lebanese politics could be perceived as political terrorism as well.

How can an entity this massive, comprised of large-chunked sects and different mentalities within sects, malfunction as a whole? When your car’s breaking down, you certainly don’t go looking for problems with the garage that you park it in but rather the specific parts breaking down within. Perhaps, just maybe this time, it’s the car not the garage that’s screwed up; the object being held taken care of and not the holder of the object.

It’s what is being concealed within a collection of ideas that is destructive, not the mother idea itself. That’s the paradox of any institutionalized idea, isn’t it?

It is outrageously irrelevant. The actions of a Protestant, their beliefs as well, are not a reflection on the character of a Catholic. The same goes with Zionism and Judaism. Buddhism and the Rohingya genocide.

Why would the actions of a very small group within 1.5 billion people, given all the sectarian and theological differences, be expected to act as a reflection of the whole? Why must that warrant an argument of accountability, complacency and desired yet unspoken punishment on the whole of Muslims?

We cannot clean house, we are too destabilized. We are too lacking in unity, in an overall social awareness, in literacy, in education…etc. The list goes on, sadly. Islam and the Arabic Nation are desperately in need for a reformation, awakening, evolutionary process, modernization,  whatever it is anyone would like to label it as.

We need a new format where we can live in this world gloriously, in tune with our identity and faith yet managing to compete with the world at all levels. Slowly but surely eradicating our problems, one step at a time. But that, again, is not that simple. It is not entirely achievable when as a region, we do not have the stability to even conjure up the energy to focus on our evolution.

The West has had hundreds of years in social experience to surpass the rest of the world as it was never hindered by any long-term destructive colonialism. The West developed the separation of religion and politics early on, it focused on education and intellectual enlightenment.

One could argue that that same process has led the West to an infinite array of moral dismay and decadence, killed its spirit and even faith. These criticisms of Western thought should also highlight some attributes necessary to understand the contemporary Islamic condition. Essentially, that may be why it is so hard to comprehend the nature of Islam and its history, given the West has disbanded itself greatly from religion. The same way a physicist or chemist could best tackle a natural science issue whereas a writer or theologian could not so efficiently.

The thought is that other parts in the world are having a very different form of progression than the far West or far East has had. The Middle East is far from perfect, far from any decency as of late, but in terms of cleaning house, a house that big takes time.

A house that old and fragile, takes even longer.

One is right to think that where there is smoke there is fire, Islam has a darkside to its roots. A topic far too sensitive, but if not confronted then it will be our doom surely. The topic is of Islam’s corrupted roots, the roots placed well below the ground that Islam rose from by specific powers; a corruption that has enabled over a millennium of degeneracy.

That is the accountability that Islam fails to meet as a whole, to discuss as a whole. That, in return, makes Islam as a whole powerless to eliminate certain schools of thought.

However, to be dubbed as sympathizers of terror and evil because the issues are far too big to face by such a small conscious group within Islam, is abominable. It is accusatory and demonizing to that of the average Muslim, away from all theological dangers and extremities, to be marginalized into complacency.

Do we expect of all Christians to emphasize their disenfranchisement of West-brook Baptists when an abortion clinic blows up? Or do we have the intellectual capacity to know the difference between regular Christian and murderous-psychopath Christian?

Maybe because we haven’t dehumanized Christians as insanely as we have Muslims?

Muslims are, contrary to common belief, working extremely hard to fight off terrorism. Look at the efforts of the Iraqi Army against the vile forces of the Islamic State. Countless of their soldiers dead, on a daily basis, unsung in their heroism and too busy to care about it because they’re too dead. In Kuwait, the Al-Abdali Cell, a Hezbollah terror cell was dismembered, some caught and others have fled from punishment.

The Muslim nation, Islam and the Arab World are all doing far much more in fighting terrorism than what is conveyed to the Western masses. No, we are not as successful as being able to eradicate the whole terror issue yet, but the process has undergone its first steps. Time will prove that, just like other Abrahamic religions, Islam will have its intellectual evolution as well.

In 2014, When ISIS first appeared in Iraq, miraculously so, I was there. I was having brunch with the family in a little cafeteria in Southern Iraq, before we got back on the road to Najaf to begin our shrine-visiting pilgrimage. A crowd of Iraqi’s gather around a tiny TV screen situated in the corner of this dining hall, men and women unanimously in shock and some even crying at that early point. Maybe it was a premonition to so much future destruction, maybe a people so devastated by a past dictatorship had the wisdom to foresee such a future.

The next day, having a cup of morning coffee in the Qasr-Al-Dur Hotel in Najaf, Iraq, more than half of the men of the hotel’s staff had quit their jobs. They were protesting in the streets, their motive you wonder?

Begging the Iraqi Army to join immediately and defend their country, their various faiths and their families.

This is what your average Muslim begs for on a daily basis, that more of us demand a mass awakening. That more of us speak out, against those who dehumanize us for the actions of a few and against those few who enable the dehumanization of the many.

It is not unfair, it is simply the way it is. And we know it. Accountability and responsibility take time. Progress is a function of time, that will require even more of it.

An ideological revolution? That is sadly uncertain in knowing when but, luckily, the changing of ideas is inevitable. We can hope for it to get better and we can work for it.

It is also understandable that those who believe they have surpassed us as an overall civilization to criticize, ‘aid’ and even attempt to teach us the ‘right’ way. That in itself is welcomed to an extent. At the most practical level of ideological change and the sustainability of that change, Islam must learn by itself, without the patronizing efforts of the West or foreign help in general.

It is too complicated for a definitive solution, let alone a definitive argument. It is not easy to defend such a topic whilst also wanting to attack it. The same was observed by Turner’s post, this need to attack a very complicated topic and simultaneously reading hints of defense to your average Muslim.

It is a subject rarely discussed in an analytical format where many participate with intelligent input. Instead, we are for now stuck in this lack of knowing how to instill change because the symptoms reflect a much larger and older disease.

Nevertheless, discussion, discussion, discussion. We are at the forefront of these happenings, we have to set the preliminaries for future generations to propose effective solutions, practical ones that hopefully are more likely to work than what is being done today.

Assalam-Alaikom.

 

6 Comments

  1. Hello Yousef, I trust you enjoyed your break? Thank you so much for this in depth and well thought through response to my post. With more open and Frank discussions, we can better understand each other and work together as people rather than as cultures. I have linked to your article at the top of my post and if we reach ten people, then a least those ten will be able to make their decisions based on knowledge rather than emotion. Wouldn’t this be a great topic for a television series. Thank you again my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Robert, my friend, I hope my attempt of a response was as well received as your initial post was to me. Whether people differ or agree, the more we discuss a topic the more we achieve a form of truthfulness together. This would be a great series if we were to ever find enough people interested in resolving differences and understanding each other, let alone funding. Thank you for reading, I look forward to more of your writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Holding all Muslims accountable for the actions of extremists is somewhere between naive and insulting. You ask if all Christians are responsible for the bombing of abortion clinics, and the parallel’s a good one. I’m Jewish, and if I could magically turn Israel into a state that recognizes the human rights of all people, I’d do it, but I don’t seem to have that power. We live in terrible times, when the worst is drawn out of many cultures and belief systems. May we all find a better way while we still can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Power relations are undeniably a variable in the equation of understanding and conveying religious matters in society. It seems to be a byproduct that is undesirable in most political discussions. A lot of people argue for pure secularism as the default fix in a globalizing world, as people would argue democracy is the only suitable design for a society. I think it’s far more complicated of an issue to try to solve it with one undisputed solution. May we all find a better way, I could not agree more.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m very much a secularist, but not in the way France has interpreted it, which seems to restrict displays of religious beliefs. If the state is secular, that should–or so we can hope–allow people to follow their beliefs freely without imposing them on other people. Unfortunately, there does seem to be a tendency in many (and may all–I wouldn’t know) religions to think they’re not fully free to follow their beliefs unless they can control the beliefs and actions of the people around them. Which is where we seem to get into trouble.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Institutional and systemic fallacies- that is a dimension of problems with little to no universal agreement on the solutions proposed. Sometimes too much discussion and effort can distort the desired outcome. We seem to get in trouble with, what you highlighted, problematic power dynamics. Compromise can be demeaning, but it is highly essential to any agreement. The ‘my way or the highway’ approach seems to be everyone’s favorite, regardless of it being the intention or not. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

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