Islam and Terrorism

Posted on December 12, 2016 by

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Introduction   

Over the course of the past two years, terrorist attacks have plagued the United States and Europe. The root of these attacks has been the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, who are a fundamentalist Islamic group. ISIS’s attacks have led to hundreds of deaths in western countries, resulting in the media procuring an ideology that Islam is a religion of violence. While this is true in terms of ISIS attacks, it cannot be applied to Islam as a whole. Despite this reality, the media has a tendency to villainize Islam by using terminology and selective wording based in bias to form a correlation between Islam as a world religion and the terroristic acts of a minority group within it. Radical Islamic terrorism is a serious threat, and the media should not refute that. However, it is also important for the media to recognize that ISIS is the threat, not Islam as a religion.

Bias takes hold and skews most media representation of Islam and terrorism.

One of the primary reasons for Islamophobia in the United States, especially amongst conservative-minded people, is rooted in the conservative Fox News’s poor covering of terroristic attacks. One example is when Fox News documented that Omar Mateen was a practicing Muslim, based on footage of him praying in a mosque prior to the attack, as provided by a local Imam (Fox). This source gives Islam a very poor image as it shows that the attacker was indeed Muslim, but failed to mention that his attacks were heavily inspired by ISIS, who is an organized terrorist group and an entity separate from Islamic faith. It should also be noted that the goal of this article is to provoke fear of Islam into readers by leaving out monumental details, which the writer naturally accomplished. Another article from Fox details an account of a former American hostage who was imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith. The goal of this article is again to promote an Islamophobic train of thought by calling out Islam as a religion of violence. He explained that Islam is rooted in violence and that because of the Quran’s teachings, violence is encouraged, causing people to die on a daily basis as a result (Fox). This article, like the one on Omar Mateen, holds an extreme bias. The bias comes from a personal experience, which provides for the writer to solely base his opinion on one person’s perspective. The perspective is that of the interviewee, whose opinions of Islam as a faith are rooted entirely in his experience as a prisoner, and clearly focuses on the beliefs of the extremists, who represent only a miniscule fraction of the world’s Islamic population. He also refuses to consider Islamic groups besides the one who imprisoned him. Because of that, this article conveys a message to the reader that Islam as a problem that must be stopped, which is a root cause of Islamophobia.

Switching themes to Islamophobia in current events, Susan Brown’s article, “Ohio State Stabbing and the Rise of Immigrant-Related Terrorism,” from Townhall, utilizes extreme bias against Islam as well as the Middle East in general to convey an Islamophobic tone. Brown clearly takes on the perspective of the stereotypical extreme-conservative in terms of national security and terrorism prevention. In this manner, she focuses on the fact that Artan was an immigrant from a country where extremist Islam is prevalent, and generalizes that all Muslim immigrants enter the United States with the motive of committing terroristic acts as a means of legitimating her views against immigration. She also uses the term “jihad” incorrectly, using it to refer to a goal of violent acts instead of its actual meaning. Back to her anti-immigration ideology, she also makes the claim that no college campus is safe. To someone who understands the Islamic faith, this is completely untrue, otherwise these types of attacks would occur on the daily considering the number of university campuses in the United States. However, a reader who is not well-versed in Islamic tradition could interpret this message as a fear tactic and assume Brown’s Islamophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric as fact. Essetially, Brown set her sights in writing this article on promoting Islamophobic propaganda in an attempt to create a hateful environment towards Islamic immigrants, the majority of whom practice Islam’s core value of peace and nonviolence and simply seek better opportunity in the United States.

This sort of Islamophobic bias has also ingrained itself into American politics, as described in Uri Friedman’s article, “The Coming War on Radical Islam.” The article, published by The Atlantic, focuses on the post-9/11 presidential handlings of terrorism, culminating on Presidential Elect Donald J. Trump’s views on the terrorism problems we are currently facing. Friedman utilizes Trump’s rhetoric to show that even the government constitutes Islamophobic viewpoints in his planned immigration policy and how they plan on handling the ISIS problem (Friedman). He also, however, points out current president Barack Obama’s refusal to acknowledge that radical Islamic terrorism is a growing struggle in the western world (Friedman). As a whole, Friedman’s goal here is clearly to point out that two different opinions of religious violence on both political sides is only making the problem worse. His article is so effective because it points out the flaws of both political parties to the reader, one that demonizes Islam as a faith and one that, in contrast, will not accept the minority that is radicalized Islam as a serious threat. In this sense, Friedman is outlying to the reader the polar sources of bias when it comes to interpreting terroristic acts tied to Islam.

Like President Obama, some of the left-wing population also refuses to accept that recent attacks pose a serious threat despite homeland attacks. This is the basis of Brandon Morse’s article, which focuses on the refusal of some Ohio State University students and staff to acknowledge Islamic terrorist despite the recent attack on the school that ISIS claimed responsibility for. His interviews showed that while the attack was a result of discrimination against the attacker, the perspective of some staff and students was that the attack was a misunderstanding and that his faith should have never been brought into the investigation (Morse). This article is effective, not in showing an Islamic basis in the attack, but in showing the perspective of one of the polar sides of Islamic terrorism interpretation, which is blatant refusal to associate what was clearly a terroristic act with Islam because they view any and all associations as Islamophobic. This translates to the reader that the article has an ulterior motive of singling out the liberal perspective of Islamic terrorism as irrational by contrasting the refusal to accept the act as Islamic terrorism with the fact that the attack was proven to have been inspired by organized terrorist groups.

Not all attacks by Muslims are religiously-based, and therefore not true Islamic terrorism.

Another article from Fox described an event in which a Muslim driver rammed his car into that of a United States veteran as a way of violently protesting Donald Trump’s campaign in the name of Allah. The driver explained to police that his actions were the result of some of Trump’s derogatory remarks towards minorities in America as a whole (Fox). This source is convincing to readers in terms of associating Islam as a faith with violence, as the attacker did not disclose any ties or inspiration from ISIS. However, because the attacker’s motive was rooted in American political disagreement, it can also be dismissed as an overall poor source. What the article failed to report is that because the attack was to lash out at Donald Trump, whose political policies may be interpreted as anti-Islamic, it is not truly a religious attack with an Islamic basis. Essentially, Fox again utilized the fact that an attacker happened to be Muslim as a biased means of promoting Islamophobia.

Despite all of this, Islamic terrorism is still a legitimate threat.

A much better article describing the reality of ISIS and Islamic terrorism comes from Rukmini Callimachi of the New York Times in his article entitled “ISIS Operative Suspected in Paris and Brussels Attacks Is Identified.” Callimachi explained that invesitagtion had “identified Mr. (Abdelilah) Himich as one of the architects of the Paris attack and revealed that he had lived in Lunel, France, and was deployed to Afghanistan after enlisting in the French Foreign Legion (Callimachi).” This passage from the article perfectly describes just how well organized ISIS is, and how they were able to carry out two large-scale attacks under the noses of the French and Belgian governments. As a whole, Callimachi’s perspective shows no bias against Islam as a religion and he goes straight to the point in showing that ISIS was the perpetrator and that its prime organization tactics allowed them to slip past the governments of two different countries to carry out their attacks. This correlates with the idea that radical Islamic terrorism is a real threat and that ISIS is capable of large-scale attacks, without utilizing an anti-Islamic tone. To the reader, this is effective because it is purely informative without any extreme obtrusive opinions from one political side or another. Daily Mail similarly covered Islamic terrorism as a threat, focusing on the statistical side. Going back to the idea of Islamophobic propaganda, the article did wrongly use the term “jihad,” which actually describes any goal in life of an Islamic person. A jihad can be any act, and in actuality, is generally a peaceful goal. This promotes Islamophobic thought, however, it was not the goal of the article as a whole. Daily Mail triumphed in using statistics, citing, “Within the US, 35 people across 18 states have been arrested so far in 2016 on terror-related charges like plots to attack, traveling overseas, and weapons charges (Daily Mail),” and “Internationally, there have 62 ISIS plots to attack the West this year, and a total of 215 people have been killed as a result, with another 732 injured (Daily Mail).” Because of this effective use of statistics, the article can be a sort of proof to the reader that radical Islamic terrorism is happening at a steadily growing rate, which was the writer’s ultimate goal. So long as one considers the actual religious meaning of “jihad” to deduce that not all Muslims who follow a jihad are terroristic, this goal can be considered to have been accomplished.

Alongside these clearly organized attacks, “lone wolf” terroristic acts have plagued the United States in the past year as well, most specifically the Pulse shooting and the more recent Ohio State attack. One article from ABC News describes some of the details of this attack. The writers, Brian Moss and Mike Levine, focus on this “lone wolf” conception, which is described as a terrorist independent of terrorist groups. They utilize Facebook posts referring to “dawla in al sham,” which is an alternate referral to ISIS used by some of the Islamic State’s followers (Levine, Moss). While the writers’ perspective appears to be anti-immigration on its surface, they quote a Somali religious leader as stating, “What has happened yesterday was un-Somali, un-American, un-Islamic, inhumane,” in reference to the attack (Levine, Moss). This shows that the writers’ goal was to consider two sides to create the big picture that ISIS is to blame, not all Somalian Muslims. This proves effective to the reader in outlining the difference between ISIS and other Islamic people to dispel Islamophobic ideology while maintaining the theme of radical Islamic terrorism as a real threat. Another more realistic-sounding article on the Ohio State attack comes from The Daily Caller writer, Russ Reid, in his article, fittingly titled, “Ohio State Attack ‘Consistent’ With Al Qaida, ISIS Tactics.” Reid’s perspective is that the similarities between Artan’s attack and the ISIS-organized Paris attacks, as well as several Palestinian-led attacks, may have inspired Artan. When coupled with Artan’s Facebook posts citing an Al Qaeda leader, he also provides legitimate evidence to the reader to suggest that his attack was, another instance of a lone wolf attack inspired by radical Islamic terrorist groups.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that the media conveys a message of bias when it comes to reporting attacks committed by Muslims. One side wants to promote Islamophobic bias by looping all violent acts committed by Muslims to a common theme of religiously based violence. The other shows bias in attempting to refute the idea of these acts being a result of religious reasons. While this bias takes prevalence, it can still be made clear that radical Islamic terrorism is a very real and very dangerous threat, shown in the attacks of ISIS and the people they inspire.

 

Works Cited:

Brown, Susan Stamper. “Ohio State Stabbing and the Rise of Immigrant-Related Terrorism.” Townhall. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://townhall.com/columnists/susanstamperbrown/2016/12/05/ohio-state-stabbing-and-the-rise-of-immigrantrelated-terrorism-n2255015&gt;.

Callimachi, Rukmini. “ISIS Operative Suspected in Paris and Brussels Attacks Is Identified.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/world/europe/isis-paris-brussels-attacks.html?_r=0&gt;.

Engel, Pamela. “How ISIS Fighters Justify Their Brutal Tactics.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 09 Dec. 2016. <http://www.businessinsider.com/how-isis-fighters-justify-brutality-2015-11&gt;.

Friedman, Uri. “The Coming War on Radical Islam.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/11/trump-radical-islam/508331/&gt;.

Morse, Brandon. “Ohio State University Students Refuse to Acknowledge Terrorism, Even after ISIS Attack.” TheBlaze. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://www.theblaze.com/news/2016/12/05/ohio-state-university-students-refuse-to-acknowledge-terrorism-even-after-isis-attack/&gt;.

Reid, Russ. “Ohio State Attack ‘Consistent’ With Al Qaida, ISIS Tactics.” The Daily Caller. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://dailycaller.com/2016/11/29/ohio-state-attack-consistent-with-al-qaida-isis-tactics/&gt;.

Reporter, Dailymail.com. “US Faces Highest Threat of Islamic Terror since September 11, According to House Committee Report.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 07 Dec. 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4007710/US-faces-highest-threat-Islamic-terror-September-11-according-House-committee-report.html&gt;.

Reporter, Fox News. “Driver Plowed His Vehicle into Veteran’s Car in the Name of Allah, Police Say.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 02 Oct. 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/10/02/driver-plowed-his-vehicle-into-veterans-car-in-name-allah-police-say.html&gt;.

Reporter, Fox News. “Pastor Abedini to Muslims: ‘Islam Is from Satan,’ Followers Attacked Christianity on 9/11.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 15 Sept. 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/09/15/pastor-abedini-to-muslims-islam-is-from-satan-followers-attacked-christianity-on-911.html&gt;.

Ross, Brian, and Mike Levine. “Details Emerge as Ohio State Community Tries to Make Sense of Attack.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://abcnews.go.com/US/details-emerge-ohio-state-community-make-sense-attack/story?id=43864565&gt;.

Reid, Russ. “Ohio State Attack ‘Consistent’ With Al Qaida, ISIS Tactics.” The Daily Caller. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016. <http://dailycaller.com/2016/11/29/ohio-state-attack-consistent-with-al-qaida-isis-tactics/&gt;.

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