It’s only terrorism if it’s Muslim.

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June 14, 2017 by Cláudia

The West is (rightfully) terrified with the terrorist attacks. Terrorism means a foreign incomprehensible threat that can be anywhere and is causing meaningless deaths of innocent people. Terrorism is cruel, ruthless and unforgivable, however, I think that the Western attitude to it has been biased and unfair. The East and the West have been mutually demonising each other: Western countries see Syria as the Devil and the impersonation of evil and vice versa. This means that in those countries there is a very ingrained idea that Western societies are the source of all Evil and the cause of moral decay.

Plus, we are only seeing the deaths in Western countries but there is a lot more behind what the media is showing us. After the Paris attack, Syria was heavily bombed by France and the USA. This means that a lot of people were killed because of retaliation, people who probably had nothing do to with terrorism or fundamentalism. Responding to the meaningless deaths of innocent people, we caused more meaningless deaths of innocent people. The same thing happened after the Manchester attack when the UK Government sent a missile with the message “Love from Manchester”.

The general attitude towards terrorism is that the other side is cruel and vicious and our side is the victim. That our nations are civilised and have better morals and would never support killing civilians the way they do. We claim to respect human life and then kill people just because they are on the other side of the world and their religion is different. Violence and revenge have been a characteristic of both sides. And, as always, violence and revenge escalate. We’re only seeing one side of the story but this action reaction has been going for so long that it is hard to find the beginning. We’re only seeing the cruel actions of the other side but this story has also been marked by many Western regrettable decisions. And in the same way we are only sensitized to what has been happening in Europe, surely the other side’s perspective is completely different and has been placing much more emphasis on the deaths that we caused.

Every death is a tragedy however it seems like it only matters what happens in countries that are close to us. Whenever there is an attack in Europe, it is national news everywhere, important buildings light up with national colours, Internet platforms change their logos… Attacks in Lebanon, Turkey or Syria may have happened the day before or after but no one hears about it, no one will mourn their deaths just because they are on the other side and that makes them somehow being perceived as the enemy. And it’s not that people don’t care. It’s not that they inherently hate everyone from Muslim countries. But this is the way that this story has been told and it is not convenient if the other side is humanized. 

And of course we are suffering. Terrorism is terrifying because it is an evil that can be anywhere and there is not much we can do to try to protect ourselves from it. But just try to imagine what it is like to live in a country in which fundamentalism is in power. In which your children are forced to learn how to handle guns and young girls are forced to marry ISIS leaders. In which people around you constantly die. In which people you love are converted to fundamentalism. We can try to imagine but we will never be able to understand (hopefully). But what we can understand is that not all of the people living in Syria support what has been happening and they have been victims of both ISIS and the West and this is a situation that no one in the world deserves to go through.

We rage against the cruelty of terrorism and yet our nations are bombing and killing civilians that have nothing to do with the attacks. Why is this not terrorism? When the other side causes deaths it is terrorism but our response is mere “defence”? How could this attitude possibly be helping the situation? We’re dealing with a group of people who have internalised centuries of Western oppression and disdain and that are now convinced we are the Devil’s Alliance and we go and bomb the place? We’re at the same time shocked with the cruelty displayed in our own countries or neighbouring countries and indifferent to the cruelty that other people far away are going through.

This is a war, and as any war, there is no good side and no bad side, just a lot of pointless violence, hate and deaths. In order to glimpse at a solution, we need to understand two things: not all Muslims are terrorists, and not all terrorism is Muslim.

The destruction in Syria.

Read more: Terrorism: Fight Fire With Water


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