British Muslims are Celebrating the Death of ISIS' Leader – but will we Read About that in the Newspapers?
CJ Werleman examines the damaging and inaccurate narrative propagated by the UK’s tabloids: “Why won’t Muslims condemn terrorism?”
From the moment the self-declared Islamic State (ISIS) carried out its first beheading of a Western journalist in 2014, the British tabloid media has deliberately profited from fear by subtly, and sometimes overtly, conflating the terror group’s dastardly deeds with Islam and the beliefs of every day Muslims.
With that said, the country’s newspapers now have a responsibility to report the fact that no one is celebrating the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi more enthusiastically than British Muslims.
The world’s most wanted terrorist was killed in a US-led raid in north-western Syria on Saturday after US Special Forces had him and his family cornered in an underground tunnel. He, along with his two wives and children, were killed when the ISIS leader detonated his suicide vest.
Since the day ISIS seized large swathes of territory in Iraq in 2014 – culminating with the capture of the major population centres of Mosul, Fallujah and Kirkuk – the news media has fixated mostly on the group’s anti-Western/Christian/Jewish bent, while largely ignoring the fact that more than 90% of the terror group’s victims have been Muslim.
This media framing of the group has provided an information gap for far-right political entrepreneurs and con artists of all stripes to portray the terror group’s violence – including beheadings, stonings for adultery, and the throwing of homosexuals from high buildings – to be emblematic of Islam, and the attitudes of Britain’s Muslim population.
No matter how loudly and frequently Muslim groups and organisations have denounced ISIS and the perverted and illiterate version of Islam it presents through its online propaganda, politicians and pundits routinely portray these violent thugs as “pious” or “obedient” Muslims, while, at the same time, bellowing to any news reporter who will listen: “Why won’t Muslims condemn terrorism?” This absurd question is asked so often by the tabloid media that it is as though every Rupert Murdoch-employed news reporter is absent of hearing and sight.
Muslims not only denounce ISIS, but also demand protection from ISIS. This is why no one is celebrating the news of the group’s leader more than Muslims.
In 2014, a mere few months after ISIS had captured Mosul, 100 of Britain’s leading Sunni and Shia Muslim figures came together to produce a video denouncing the terror group as un-Islamic, describing it as “an illegitimate, vicious group who do not represent Islam in any way”.
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“As a Sunni Muslim, I do not accept the Caliphate of ISIS, I consider ISIS as a terrorist organisation,” Maulana Shahid Raza, of Leicester’s Central Mosque, said.
Abu Muntasir, chief executive of the educational charity JIMAS, said: “Brothers and sisters, if I could tell you in one sentence about ISIS I would tell you that they are evil, they are corrupt, they are self-seeking, self-centered, vicious people. Don’t get mixed up with them.”
Heraa Hashmi, a Muslim university student in the US, became so frustrated with her classmate’s insistence that Muslims weren’t doing enough to condemn ISIS and terrorism that she compiled a 712-page list of prominent Muslim groups and individuals condemning both. “Muslims are held to a different standard than other minorities: 1.6 billion people are expected to apologise and condemn [terrorism] on behalf of a couple of dozen lunatics,” she has observed. “It makes no sense. I don’t view the Ku Klux Klan or the Westboro Baptist church or the Lord’s Resistance Army as accurate representations of Christianity. I know that they’re on the fringe. So it gets very frustrating having to defend myself and having to apologise on behalf of some crazy people.”
To her point, right-wing Christian extremists are responsible for 100% of all terrorist attacks to have occurred in America since end of 2017. But, the country’s Christian majority has never been called upon nor expected to condemn the attacks on black churches, mosques and synagogues.
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While no unelected individual has the authority to speak on behalf of a disparate and diverse community, Medhi Hasan, a journalist and British Muslim, captured the mood of the country’s Islamic community by saying: “On behalf of every Muslim I know… every Muslim watching… good riddance to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. Here is a man whose primary victims were Muslims, who was loathed by Muslims… The world is a better place… Good riddance to this piece of human scum.”
Abu Bakr-Baghdadi is dead – and Muslims couldn’t be happier. That’s the truth that will go unreported.