By Ray Hanania
8 December 2016
Maybe you read the story this past week
about how a significant number of Muslims in Britain said they didn’t know who
was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United
According to a survey of 3,000 British
Muslims by The Policy Exchange, an independent British think tank, 31 percent
of Muslims believe America was “responsible” for the terrorism that killed
nearly 3,000 innocent civilians. More than 52 percent said they didn’t know who
was responsible, but 7 percent blamed Jews while 4 percent blamed Al-Qaeda,
whose leader Osama Bin Laden openly claimed responsibility. Researchers and
Western media commentators concluded it is “deeply troubling” that so many
Muslims are willing to “entertain wild and outlandish conspiracy theories.”
That may be true if that was the whole
story, but it is not. The truth is the Western news media does not care about
truth or accuracy when it comes to Muslims, or Arabs. It is easier to attack us
than to write accurately about us. The media ignored significant parts of the
survey that show the majority of Muslims strongly oppose extremism. Muslims
strongly believe in their religion. And, the survey shows they not only respect
others but also identify with the same concerns of non-Muslims.
Maybe it is our fault as Muslims and Arabs
that we allow the Western news media to be so biased and we fail miserably to
make the media accountable for its exaggerations and lies. For example, here
are things the media did not report that were in the survey and that I argue
are significantly more important:
The survey shows most Muslims do not see
the bigotry they face in society as their most important challenge. Harassment
on religious or racial grounds is not as important to them as are the many
other issues they share with non-Muslims.
That is a fascinating considering Muslims
make up only 4.8 percent of the British population and more than half of the
Muslims interviewed were immigrants. Being immigrants and a minority makes them
more easily subject to bigotry. Yet Muslims do not have a chip on their
shoulder, according to the study.
What concerns them? Most said they are
concerned with the same issues that concern other people in Britain and the
West. Those issues include crime, violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. A
majority, 93 percent, see themselves as British citizens. Imagine that. Muslims
do not think they are different from others. They see themselves as being the
same. But there is more that was skipped over in the coverage of the survey by
the racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab Western news media.
A total of 49 percent of Muslims said they
believe they have to do more to tackle extremism and radicalization in
Britain’s Muslim community, while only 39 percent believed enough was being
done. Only 3 percent said too much is being done.
If you are worried about Muslims being patriotic
to their adoptive countries, 52 percent said they would report without
hesitancy any member of their community who supported or encouraged terrorism
in the Syria conflict.
That is important because that issue is the
focus of fears that Muslims are being drawn into Daesh because of the Syrian
A significant 35 percent of Muslims said
they believe moderates in their community are drowned out by extremist
activists. A 2011 study of Muslims by the PEW Research Centre in America said
that more than 48 percent of Muslims believe their own religious leaders have
not done enough to speak out against Islamists’ threats.
I agree. I think the problem is that too
often, the mainstream Western news media focuses on the so-called “leaders”
rather than on the people.
If you only relied on the Western news
media, you would think most Muslims are fanatics who support extremists and
need to be put on watch lists, spied on, and monitored for violence and crimes.
I think it is our leadership that has the
problem. Too many live in the Western countries physically, but mentally they
are too focused and consumed almost entirely by the politics they left behind
in their countries of origin.
That makes the leadership different from
the community they seek to lead. The survey shows 89 percent of British Muslims
condemn “political violence.” That reflects exactly how non-Muslim Brits feel.
There is so much more in The Policy
Exchange survey that deserved more coverage from the biased mainstream Western
news media. The issue is not about whom to blame for Sept. 11, 2001. Taken out
of context, that single issue makes Muslims and Arabs appear to be extremists.
In context, though, you might recognize that the issue is exaggerated and not
as important as it was made to seem.
The whole survey reinforces the truth that
Islam is a religion of peace. And, extremism is a threat not just to
non-Muslims but to Muslims and Arabs, too. When it comes to the patriotism of
immigrants, Muslims and Arabs are no different than anyone else. As Muslims and
Arabs, our real problem is we just do not do a good job of presenting who we
are and what we believe to the rest of the world. We treat communications,
public relations and PR messaging like foreign concepts. But they are the most
important things we need to understand and engage.
We need to stop listening to and enabling
the extremists in our community who falsely claim they speak on our behalf. We
must tell our stories to the rest of the world better, more extensively, and
more often, not just through the “news” media but also through the
entertainment media including through movies, books and even television
sitcoms. Humour is the most powerful method of communications to break through
racism and bigotry.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning former journalist and Palestinian
American political columnist.