Stop the CrISIS
MAISHA RUMMAN Stop the CrISIS
With recent news of the atrocities committed by ISIS and growing Islamophobia, what can students do to stop this global crisis? The Texas Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Organization held a talk on February 26th to address this question at their event, #StopTheCrISIS, featuring speakers Dr. Robert Jensen and Harris Zafar.
A professor of Journalism at UT, Dr. Robert Jensen addressed the context of the talk as an American citizen and a Christian. He starts with a quote from Matthews: “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He continues with this theme of hypocrisy, remarking that it is critical that the US engage in critical self-reflection and to acknowledge its role in the issue at hand.
In order to be able to talk about the context in which ISIS started, Dr. Jensen suggests that we want history to start when an injustice was done to us, as opposed to the previous year when we did this same injustice to others. By starting history when we were wronged, self-reflection becomes unnecessary.
To give an example of this, Jensen draws on events from 1990-1991, when the relationship between the US and Iraq was unstable. In 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait prompted the US to obtain authorization from the UN to use force.
However, in addition to driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait, the US troops also damaged civilian infrastructure in Iraq. By doing so, they put civilians in danger and thus committed an act of terrorism, defined as the “use of force or threat of force against a civilian population to achieve a political end.” Pentagon planners explained the actions as a way to maintain leverage after the war was over. Jensen claims this point of view is seldom told and concludes that the US should first look at its own actions and engage in critical self-reflection before it condemns another nation.
The second speaker, Harris Zafar, serves as the National Spokesperson for the Ahmaddiyya Muslim community and provided his perspective as a Muslim. Zafar points to increasing radicalization, citing examples such as the Black Friday bombings and the attack on police officers by Zale Thompson. According to Zafar, these events have brought much suffering to peaceful Muslims since these acts are supposedly done in the name of Islam.
Meanwhile, ISIS commits many more atrocities, beheadings, and burnings in the East. In the West, ISIS recruits youth through social media, relying on the isolation and frustration experienced by Muslim youths who aren’t very devout but want to be part of a higher cause. Zafar suggests that ISIS has painted a narrative of being the victims in order to recruit youth. Although some claim that ISIS is a group that has been inspired by prayer and the teachings of Islam, Zafar states that most of the Quran and Islamic teachings are about upholding peace. For this reason, ISIS violates the core Islamic principles.
Islamophobia and a Solution
According to Zafar, the role of Islamophobia in heightening the angst felt by many Muslims, regardless of if they turn to radicalization, is another important factor to consider. Additionally, the matter is exacerbated by the West’s support of regimes such as those in Egypt and Libya.. Although some say that Islamophobia is a fictitious, insignificant concept, Zafar gives many examples of violent attacks aimed at Muslims just in the month of February alone, including the execution of 3 Muslims at gunpoint in Chapel Hill and a family of Muslims attacked in Kroger. It is clear that Islamophobia is still prevalent.
But what is the solution to ISIS and Islamophobia? Zafar suggests a wide ranging, multifaceted approach. The role of Muslims in this fight, he continues, is to educate others—especially youth by bringing in those who may be frustrated and teach them about what Islam is and guide them to prayer. Everyone - Muslim or otherwise—can play a role in the solution by educating themselves and others, and by learning from previous mistakes. Instead of allowing the media to paint Muslims as a violent group, individuals should speak out and actively encourage leaders to make better decisions. The solution requires partnership and unification, with Muslims and non-Muslims working together.