Prosecute Islam, but not Unilaterally

Epigraph: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” President Thomas Jefferson

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

After the recent bombing in Boston last week, Jenan Moussa, a journalist for Dubai-based Al-Aan TV, retweeted the message “Please don’t be a ‘Muslim’” and added that the plea was “The thought of every Muslim right now.” Moussa’s message was forwarded more than 200 times.

A large number of the Muslims sympathized and prayed for the deceased and other victims, especially those who lost their limbs.  At the same time most Muslims had another emotion, an emotion of fear, which the non-Muslims did not have to go through.

They were afraid of a backlash.  How reasonable is it to keep millions of Muslims living in the West, in this fear of prejudice and backlash, for the crime of a few bad apples, who commit abhor-able acts of terrorism?

How wrong it will be to judge all Christians or at least all Catholics by Adolf Hitler, as he was one?

Most Muslims, who are well educated and live in the West, consider themselves to be moderate and peace loving.  They have no desire for violence.  They have no dreams of Sharia Law in the West, the strangle hold of which some of them have experienced in their native Muslim countries.

Yet, the recent bombings in Boston and for that matter any act of terrorism, gets Islam and the Muslims on trial, in the eyes of the media and as a result in the eyes of a part of the public in the West.

The Western system of justice is built carefully on individual responsibility and goes a long way to give the benefit of doubt to the accused.

Tribal thinking that if one member of the clan is guilty the whole of the tribe is guilty and should be punished is a thinking of stone age, long discarded with the development of human thought.

An Euler diagram illustrating the association fallacy. Although A is within B and is also within C, not all of B is within C.

Guilt by association can sometimes also be a type of ad hominem fallacy, if the argument attacks a person because of the similarity between the views of someone making an argument and other proponents of the argument.

This form of the argument is as follows:

  • Source S makes claim C.
  • Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the recipient, also makes claim C.
  • Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the claim as associated to the group G and inherits how negatively viewed it is.

An example of this fallacy would be “My opponent for office just received an endorsement from the Puppy Haters Association. Is that the sort of person you would want to vote for?”

A terrorist attack creates fear in the public and creates a fertile ground for hate mongering and stereotyping.

This gives some of the extreme media a chance to make all Muslims guilty in the eyes of the naive and scared public, by loose association.

Guilt by Association is an association fallacy is an inductive informal fallacy of the type hasty generalization or red herring which asserts that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another, merely by an irrelevant association. The two types are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association.

Association fallacies are a special case of red herring, and can be based on an appeal to emotion.  It works both in a positive and a negative sense.

Public has been long known to elect children or spouses of popular leaders.  Kennedy, Clinton, Bhutto and Gandhi are but a few recent names that sell well in politics of USA, Pakistan and India.

Collective punishment has been practiced as recently as last century.

In 1906, 167 Black U.S. soldiers stationed in Brownsville, Texas were dishonorably discharged by orders of President Theodore Roosevelt in response to the shooting of two white citizens in the middle of the night of August 13, 1906. One man was killed and the other, a police lieutenant, was injured and it was never discovered who the shooter(s) were, though they were presumed to have been members of the nearby Fort Brown. The soldiers of Companies B, C, and D of the 25th infantry regiment, many of whom served in Cuba and the Philippines, were punished for the crime collectively and they were not entitled to pensions.[2]

British forces in the Boer Wars and the Germans in both the Franco-Prussian War and World War I justified such actions as being in accord with the laws of war then in force.[3] During World War II, Nazi troops killed 434 men in three villages near Kragujevac on October 19, 1941 as punishment for previous actions of the Serbian resistance movement. In the next two days, the Nazis also killed more than 13,000 people in Kraljevo, Kragujevac, and Sumarice, including 300 students from Kragujevac First High School. In 1942, the Germans destroyed the village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) killing 340 inhabitants as collective punishment or reprisal for that year’s assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by commandos nearby the village (the village of Ležáky was also destroyed in retribution). In the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane 642 of its inhabitants — men, women, and children — were slaughtered by the German Waffen-SS in 1944.[4] In the Dutch village of Putten[5] and the Italian villages of Sant’Anna di Stazzema[6] and Marzabotto,[7] as well as in the Soviet village of Kortelisy[8] (in what is now Ukraine), large scale reprisal killings were carried out by the Germans.

Joseph Stalin‘s mass deportations of many nationalities of the USSR to remote regions (including the Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans and many others) is an example of officially-orchestrated collective punishment.

When media puts Islam or the Muslims on trial for the crimes of a few bad apples, or when the right wing politicians start demanding profiling and universal surveillance of all Muslims, it becomes a form of collective punishment.  Such collective punishments may have been necessary and could have some justification,  in the centuries past, but in this day and age of cameras in public places, which could be high definition, and individual email and twitter accounts, profiling and discriminating is totally redundant and unfair.

Law enforcement should police terrorism suspects, like they would police suspects of drug trafficking and child pornography.  The society does not need to reinvent wheel to fight terrorism and in the process destroy the wisdom of ‘individual responsibility,’ which humanity has learnt after centuries of struggle.

After unfortunate episodes of terrorism, small or large, media often asks the question, “where are the moderate Muslims or moderate Islam in criticism of such acts of heinous violence.”  We are here in the Muslim Times and else where, but our mega-phone is small.  Unless the bigger players with larger meg-phones, like CNN, MSNBC, BBC and Hufffington Post give us a voice, the larger public does not get to hear us.

How can the media stop prosecuting Islam unilaterally?

I have a simple suggestion that whenever a news item or a talk show is going to indict Islam or the Muslims by inference or innuendo, let there be spokesperson from moderate Islam as well as for the Islamists or the Muslim fundamentalists or let them refuse the invitation.  Let the public hear different perspectives and let the chips fall, where they may.

Unless distinction is made clearly between the Moderate Muslims and Islamists or terrorists, any news coverage, by the media, can be guilty of  promoting hate and suspicion of 1.3 billion Muslims, by creating a paradigm to judge them by the lowest common denominator among them, which in the case of the Christians will be Adolf Hitler, or to pick up more recent examples, Timothy McVeigh or the recent terrorist from Norway,  Anders Behring Breivik.

Unless the moderate Muslims are allowed to constantly defend themselves, when they or Islam is prosecuted on the national airways, the media is guilty of slandering and defaming them.

Fair and equal treatment as and when extended to the moderate Muslims will become a strong incentive for the Islamists to give up their extreme ideology and move towards moderation.

If this simple idea is implemented, the West will stop suspecting the Muslims and they in turn will stop suspecting the media.

Categories: Americas

Tagged as:

3 replies

  1. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
    It’s important for people to speak up whenever they see injustices. I for one, do not allow “Islamophobia” to go unchallenged in my social circles.

Leave a Reply