When Muslims use social networks, certain patterns emerge. For example, when a religious festival or a day of religious observance like Eid or Ramadan emerges, regardless of level of religiosity, Muslims would put up a status celebrating or marking the day. When someone close passes away, requests for prayers or 'duas' is expressed via social media. And when exam stress kicks in or an important exam is round the corner, that tweet or status to request someone prays that you pass your exams often goes up. These are just some examples to name a few.
However, whenever a terrorist attack takes place, Muslims are often quick to jump onto social media to apologise and reaffirm the terrorist attacks that took place as not representing Muslims as a whole and that the religion condemns it. As a Muslim myself, I appreciated and acknowledged the need for Muslim organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain and FOSIS to rightly condemn the actions that took place this week, but disagreed with both organisations' press releases reaffirming the need to distance Islam's true teachings from the individual who attacked the soldier. Because frankly, Muslims do not need to have to reaffirm and clarify their faith in a way that creates the perception of them being inferior from British society. The reminders that the killing of innocent civilians is un-Islamic is one that has been echoed and reaffirmed across the world whenever terrorist attacks take place. This was demonstrated by the #BlameTheMuslim hashtag and the same with the recent Boston bombing and the Woolwich attacks. I'd be lying if I didn't feel the need to reaffirm Islam's stance on terrorism.
But why do Muslims who were born and raised in this country feel the need to reaffirm their faith's stance on terrorism? You'd imagine after more than a decade since 9/11, individuals have come to the realisation that the acts of a minority doesn't represent the majority. Yet media whitewashes, like Nick Robinson's source describing the soldier's attackers as having a "Muslim appearance" (whatever that means) or ITV describing the attacks as "Baghdad-style violence" naturally create a contrast between East and West, employing the "Other" as Edward Said would say, onto the West. A redefinition of violence occurs, a redefinition through labelling it in terms of a city and people who are predominantly Muslim. It was a insensitive and rashly used phrase which will do nothing but create a link between danger and muslims once again. Which in turn forces Muslims to feel pressured into defending and emphasising their faith contradicts and opposes such terrorist actions.
Similarly, government schemes like Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) further caricature all Muslims as being in one basket and create assumptions or paradigms that all Muslims are susceptible to becoming extremists. Debunked theories like the 'conveyor belt theory' which paints the picture of Muslims following a linear process towards becoming radicalised is one that is still used to this day to justify policy, and was being promoted just this week at a Universities UK conference discussing radicalisation on campus. The 'Conveyor Belt Theory' stipulate Muslim individuals start off angry and disillusioned, gradually becoming more religions and politicised, and then resorting to violence and terror. Mehdi Hasan in a 2011 comment piece highlighted how Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and former CIA case officer argued the "conveyor belt" theory as being flawed. In his 2008 book Leaderless Jihad, based on an analysis of more than 500 terrorist biographies, Sageman argued radicalisation showed no linear progression, and that "one cannot simply draw a line, put markers on it, and gauge where people are along this path to see whether they are close to committing atrocities". False paradigms perpetuated by schemes like Prevent further alienate and inculcate a psyche that Muslims have to be apologetic and feel the need to justify their religion. And by putting one group of society and judging them as a monolithic entity, it further creates fear and alienation within the Muslim community as opposed to helping them integrate and contribute to society.
Creating an environment that caricatures and describes Muslims as a monolithic entity within our public sphere, will only serve to further isolate and alienate a community already targeted and under pressure from far-right extremists and the media. Muslims need to divorce the need to apologetically justify their religion in order to be acknowledged by British society. Alongwith an institutional shift within our public sphere that appreciates and acknowledges the positive contribution Muslims have given to British society, as opposed to peddling the right wing narrative of a domestic clash of civilizations taking place in Britain today.
Follow Areeb Ullah on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@are_eb