New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 12th, 2015
Radicalisation of an American Muslim
By Syed Mansoor Hussain
Having a little FATE
By Mashal Imran
The known unknowns
By Amina Jilani
In the US, as in the ‘west’, much is being said about Islam as a religion that predisposes ‘believers’ towards violence. The recent massacres in Paris and now in California have brought Islam and Muslims into unwanted prominence
The ‘shooters’ responsible for the latest mass killingin the US are of Pakistani origin. The woman was a Pakistani citizen and the man an American of Pakistani origin. Obviously, their actions have no direct relationship toPakistan. In the US, the question comes up on why such seemingly normaland quite well off people are ready to kill and be killed. One of the reasons for such a transformation frequently mentioned is Islam, or at least a rather extremist version thereof. My purpose today is not to indulge in a religious debate about issues like this. I will,however, like to iterate that most law-abiding American Muslims have no reason to be apologetic for the actions of Syed Farooq and his wife. But they must all condemn what these two people did.
Syed Rizwan Farooq was an educated American with a decent job, making much more than an average US income. He was recently married to Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani woman with a postgraduate degree. They had a six-month-old child and lived a decent life. However, they chose to go on a murderous rampage and then died in a hail of gunfire. They left behind a child,who will grow up never knowing a mother’s love or a father’s protection,and will forever live under the shadow of her parents’dastardly deeds. What makes somebody do that is at best an enigma. I have lived and helped bring up children in the US, guiding them through childhood and their teenage years, and then watching them grow up into responsible adults. What worried me the least through all those years of parenting was the idea that they might become Islamist radicals.
Even today, as I look around at the Pakistani American families I know including relatives, colleagues and the extended social group in my part of the country, there are no young men or women that have become radicalised to the point where they become threats to people around them. This includes many young peoplewhoare more religious than their parents and are quite vocal in the expression of their religious beliefs. This is true even outside our immediate circle of acquaintances in the Pakistani American community since news of such transformations definitely travelsquite rapidly. Interestingly, during the last few years that I have spent more time in Pakistan, the same is true of my extended family and the people I know as well as those I worked with who come from all socio-economic backgrounds. However, my interest today is about what made a Pakistani American man and his wife kill innocent people.
In the US, as in the ‘west’, much is being said about Islam as a religion that predisposes ‘believers’ towards violence. The recent massacres in Paris and now in California have brought Islam and Muslims into unwanted prominence. Donald Trump, presently the leading contender for the Republican nomination to run for president in 2016, has evensuggested that the entry of Muslims into the US should be banned. It is extremely unlikely that Trump will be elected president of the US and it is even more unlikely that Muslims will be banned from entering the US. That said, already travelling to the US as a Muslim is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. That has been happening since 9/11 but it could conceivably become a lot more unpleasant.
As far as ‘home grown’ jihadists in the US are concerned, it is still a very unusual phenomenon but it is something that needs to be thought about both by the Muslim community in the US as well as law enforcement agencies. In every culture and in every religious tradition, zealots exist and so do they in the US. The recent Planned Parenthood killings by an anti-abortion activist in the US are a typical example. At this time, the Middle East is in a state of complete turmoil and Islamic State (IS)controls a lot of territory,spreading a rather virulent version of our religion. The use of social media has made IS quite popular among disaffected Muslim youth in many western countries. The female California killer posted a message of support for the head of IS just before she was killed. Yet investigation suggests that the couple were already ‘radicalised’ even before IS had become established as a political entity. It would then seem that IS, its media penetration and social media presence are inciting a pre-existing group of disaffected Muslims especially in Europe and possibly in the US to jihadist action.
In the US, where most Muslim immigrants have integrated quite well and are partaking of the ‘American dream’, the question arises as to why a couple with a decent life chose a path of violence that, in all likelihood, was suicidal. Investigations suggest that the husband had thought about jihadist action a couple of years ago but gave up on it for fear of detection. Clearly not a true jihadist it would seem. But it all changed after he got married. Evidently, marriage to Tashfeen Malik gave him the courage to embark upon the deadly attacks. So it would seem that much of the blame would be heaped upon the woman. What makes that easier is that Tashfeen Malik was born in Pakistan and grew up in Saudi Arabia. Why a woman, however religious, gave up a ‘good life’, abandoned her infant and chose certain death for herself and her husband is the question that needs an answer. And, no, I do not believe that religiosity is the answer we are looking for.
The world is full of very religious people. What drives some of them to extremes depends on the environment they live in. In the US, so far, Islamic radicalisation of the sort we saw in Syed Farooq is an aberration. It is important that it should remain so. And Muslim Americans must try their best to keep it so.
Syed Mansoor Hussain is a former editor of the Journal of Association of Pakistani descent Physicians of North America (APPNA)
In a country like Pakistan, which is a perpetual target of suicide bombings and a hub of Islamist militancy, the population remains as susceptible as ever to the notion of terrorism
With nearly 12 months having passed since December 16, 2014, in a milieu where terrorism and violence have become the norm, there comes a time when we must stop, rise up and question: haven’t we had enough? Are we going to watch passively as humanity bleeds? Do we need another Army Public School (APS) to remind us of the innocent lives lost each and every day, all over the world? Are we going to be passive bystanders as the world crashes and burns?
From Apathy To Empathy (FATE) represents an attempt to counter notions of hatred, bloodshed and hostility through productive forces such as solidarity, peace and compassion. Organised by six seniors from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), this anti-extremism campaign takes a stand against the narrative of indifference that has stemmed from exposure to the regular headlines of death from insurgency in newspapers and the internet. In a country like Pakistan,which is a perpetual target of suicide bombings and a hub of Islamist militancy, the population remains as susceptible as ever to the notion of terrorism. FATE recognises this, but chooses to focus on the way the youth of this nation can become the very agents that challenge what seems to be the indomitable entity of extremism.
Since its inception, this campaign has focused on a diverse range of domains as productive avenues of raising awareness against the forces of terrorism. To commemorate the global terror attacks on Paris, Beirut and Baghdad, FATE initiated its journey with a vigil on campus to pray for those who lost their lives in this violence, along with those who suffer each and every day. “As several members of the LUMS community collected at the central courtyard of the campus for a few minutes of silence, we realised how something as simple as lighting candles and showing our support for our brothers and sisters suffering collective violence actually made a difference,” said Abeera Akhtar, one of the co-founders of FATE. This inspired greater and broader effort towards the cause. FATE followed this up with a whiteboard campaign featuring the hashtag #IChallengeExtremism, going all over the university and encouraging students to take a definite stance against a pervasive global phenomenon. “We had no idea our simple mission would go so viral. While we had planned to focus solely on LUMS itself, pretty soon we started receiving entries not only from different parts of Lahore, but also other cities!” Through an intensive social media campaign, FATE succeeded in getting word across internationally as well, with citizens in Germany, Greece and India standing in unity with the students of Pakistan against an issue that affects everyone.
“Our goal is to challenge the passivity that debilitates any kind of action against injustice. For that purpose, we decided to take on a holistic approach that coupled extremism with domains in Pakistan that had suffered on its account such as music, tourism, education and women empowerment,” said Samey Noor, another member of FATE. FATE has collaborated with Vilarto, a brand new start-up that aims to bring back the concert culture in Pakistan and organised a concert featuring Noori. The event was a huge success and was premised on the idea of getting people to step back into public spaces and celebratinga common love for music that had been our greatest pride before the onslaught of intense extremism over the past few years. Following this, FATE also worked with TurrLahore to arrange a tour promoting religious tolerance in Lahore, with the mission of returning to the city’s glorious and harmonious tradition of co-existence of different beliefs and ideologies. Again, the tour proved to be a triumph, giving those who attended an experience worth remembering.
Through regular focus groups held with members of the student body, the team of FATE realised the impact they were having and how to make their project could be even bigger and better. “By engaging in discussions with people from all kinds of backgrounds in LUMS, we narrowed down some common factors. It was agreed that change would work best if it stemmed from a grassroots level; this inspired our strategy to visit schools and talk to young students about something that seems like general knowledge but really is not. Everyone knows extremism is an issue; what most people do not know is what to do about it. Finding an approach that gives individuals the chance to best live up to their human potential and simultaneously make a difference is what FATE aims to teach students,” summarised Basil Saeed. FATE visited different schools as part of this project to counter extremism through education. Members of the team conducted sessions on the importance of empathy, along with the distribution of pamphlets to the students. The enthusiastic response received through these visits showed how macrocosmic a single step towards positive change can be. Based on this, FATE aims to collaborate with the viral ‘Girls at Dhabbas’ chapter of LUMS to promote a narrative of women empowerment and the conduction of uncensored debate and discussion in public spaces.
FATE serves as an inspiration for all those who feel powerless in the face of circumstance. It shows how terrorism is a problem that is not unsolvable; it only requires a change in perspective. By challenging extremism through positive, productive forces, as well as inculcating a confidence in the power of raising one’s voice against injustice, FATE shows how no effort goes unrewarded, as each revolution begins with a solitary cry.
Mashal Imranis a freelance columnist and member of FATE, a social campaign initiated by students at LUMS
That spreading band of enormously well-heeled thugs whose member militants have spread terror, fear and foreboding in the Western democratic world through what they perceive as ‘successes’ are known by various names — IS, ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. Apparently, so say a couple of sources, they so hate this latter adapted acronym of their Arabic name — Dawlat al-Islamiyah f‘al-Iraq w Belaal al Sham — that they have threatened to cut out the tongues of those that publicly use it. So, good for the ISPR spokesman-General when at the end of last month he firmly put to bed any fears and stated to the world that “there is zero tolerance for Daesh in Pakistan. Even Daesh’s shadow will not be allowed in Pakistan.” The media should follow suit, forget about IS or whatever, and stick to Daesh in defiance. However, it may be that ISPR is somewhat over-optimistic as the ‘shadow’ could well be with us. At the same time, a report by this publication on the Pew Research Center data told us that 62 per cent of Pakistanis are undecided as to their approval/disapproval of Daesh (that’s a lot of don’t knows), while 28 per cent are anti with nine per cent pro.
They don’t knows are a tad worrisome. In a poverty-stricken country, and a national mindset that is deeply and dangerously intolerant, with a religious right that tends to dictate to the ignorant, with a population of which two-thirds are under the age of 30, with over two dozen extremist groups scattered around the land, and a decades-long history of enthusiastic jihadism of the wrong type, this could well be a potentially ripe breeding ground for manic religiosity. Daesh literature has been openly aired, a number of sympathisers have been arrested as have some 500 who were on their way to join their fellow followers in Syria. Also troubling has been the state’s wishy-washy reaction to the international fight against Daesh and its ideology.
Then we come to the government, albeit it is dominated by what coyly is known as the establishment. It is led by an indecisive man, who consults only with a small, tight coterie imbued with an ugly combination of nepotism, sycophancy and corruption. He tries to do what he thinks is popular, thus befooling many of late by his mention of the words ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic’. Liberal is a joke, as is democratic. The Islamic Republic as it stands has no concept of the true meaning of liberal — to far too many it is a smutty word, as it is to Daesh. The prime ministerial mind, in the second coming of Nawaz Sharif, was all tangled up in dreams of a caliphate and a caliph. The leopard and his spots applies.
The ruling party is thought to be well-entrenched as far as numbers are concerned. It is controlled from above, but it has tight and binding ties to one of the world’s most prolific financial and doctrinal supporters of global false-religious inspired terrorism. Charitable donations far too often land up in the hands of terrorists. That is no secret. And the same goes for the funding of Daesh. Oil smuggling, plundering banks, flogging looted antiquities, extorting ransoms, and amassing funds from its supporters in the Gulf area have, as reports the NYT, made the group “arguably the world’s richest militant organisation”. One study last year has it that it controls assets in excess of $2 trillion with an annual income of some $2.9 billion — ample funds with which to make inroads into this troublesome country. As with all militant groups, the prime source of power is the funding. And the main problem is how to cut off the cash flow. There are the greedy amoral arms and munitions suppliers, equally greedy and amoral banks through which funds flow, and donors. How on earth does one control them unless Daesh is eliminated — and eliminating an ideology is no mean thing (as we here well know)?
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, Islam, Terrorism and Jihad, Jihad, Radical Islam