Supremacist attitudes are a universal enemy


By Amira Elghawaby | Hill Times
April 25, 2016

OTTAWA—Is it time for a blanket condemnation of all future terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam, occurring anywhere in the world, to be featured on the front page of every Muslim organization’s website? Or perhaps, every Muslim should permanently pin an expression of horror and an accompanying plea of solidarity on their social media accounts.

Don’t misunderstand: the horror, the pain, the solidarity—all of it is real and authentic.

But so is the frustration at the expectation that when criminals commit despicable acts of terrorism under the pretext of religion, Muslims everywhere should say something to assure everyone that they don’t support those views.

Muslims worldwide have repeatedly and categorically denounced all violent extremism and, in particular, the terror group Daesh. What’s more, Islamic scholars of all stripes have repudiated Daesh’s murderous ideology and have shown how its horrific acts have no justification or place in Islam. And many Muslims will continue to do so because if they don’t, some people will inevitably ask, “Why don’t they condemn what’s happening?”

Yet, as prominent American-Arab activist Linda Sarsour has said, to expect Muslims to denounce certain acts of terrorism every time they occur is itself bigoted. Caucasian men aren’t called on to answer for what white lone gunmen do in schools and movie theatres, what some Christian priests have done to children, or for what neo-Nazi groups preach.

Furthermore, the condemnations against Daesh and its ilk are most often expected following terrorism inflicted on western nations. There are no expectations of press releases denouncing Daesh attacks in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey or a myriad of other places when the victims are or are perceived to be primarily ‘brown’ or Muslim. And when the targets are brown but not Muslim, the news seems significantly amplified as with the horrific Easter Sunday attack in Lahore, Pakistan. We should all hurt when even one human life is stolen, no matter the victim’s identity.

What we seem to miss while seeking to understand these senseless acts of violence committed in the name of any religion, or political ideology, is that this nihilistic hate is often based on supremacist attitudes.

Instead of constant condemnations of those who say they are fighting and killing in the name of Islam, we must universally condemn those who paint the world in the false dichotomy of black and white, good and evil, or right and wrong.

Anyone who implicitly or explicitly advocates the supremacy of a particular group over another should think twice about how this dehumanizes fellow human beings around the world.

We have to acknowledge that nationalism can also be used to create and bolster a sense of righteousness and dominance in the minds of some. That isn’t to say that being proud of one’s country, or fellow citizens, is blameworthy. But we should beware of how nationalism may disconnect us from others in the world, or even within our own communities, and how it can be manipulated by agenda-driven interests and metastasize into something more sinister as we witnessed in Brussels with the unwelcome appearance of neo-Nazis at a recent weekend memorial.

Consider what fuels those who support such attitudes, including what fuels them to support the likes of Donald Trump. The head of the U.S.-based National Policy Institute and a white nationalist, Richard Spencer, told VICE News last December that “[Trump’s] basically saying that if you are a nation, then at some point you have to say, ‘There is an ‘Us,’ and there is a ‘Them.’ Who are we? Are we a nation? In that sense, I think it’s really great.”

Supremacist attitudes are dangerous, not least because they also make it harder to engage in meaningful discourse around the drivers of violence. Our best chance of fighting extremist ideology is to find our common humanity and not simply reinforce false polarization within our societies. The doubling of hate crimes against Muslims over the past three years here in Canada speaks clearly to this.

Furthermore, law enforcement agencies have identified right-wing extremism as a growing and significant threat to public safety in North America. This means we must work even harder than ever to challenge any and all supremacist attitudes which could potentially lead to harm. “Humanity should be our race. Love should be our religion” is an apt quote in times like these. Maybe that’s what we should be posting to our websites, and pinning to our social media pages.

Amira Elghawaby is the communications director at the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).