In the past month alone, ISIS and their sympathizers have murdered over 400 people by way of terrorist attacks in the US, France, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. For many, the most shocking of these recent attacks was the July 4th suicide bombing outside the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, the second holiest site in Islam.
Notable among the condemnations of this attack were those from prominent Islamist terrorist groups. Hamas, the Gaza-based group whose mandate is to destroy Israel and kill Jews, described the bombing as “criminal”. Hezbollah, the Lebanese group with similar goals, denounced the attack as “a new sign of the terrorists’ contempt for all that Muslims consider sacred”. The Taliban condemned the attack as “an act of enmity and hatred.”
The hypocrisy in these statements is beyond belief.
There is no real ideological difference between ISIS and groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban. All of them base their existence and their actions on hateful fundamentalist Islamist beliefs. All of them engage in jihad (holy war again non-believers) in accordance with these beliefs by conducting violent attacks on civilian populations. The biggest difference between them is their primary targets: whereas other Islamist groups primarily target the West and its affiliates such as Israel, ISIS primarily targets what it considers to be “apostate” regimes in the Muslim world. The horrifying and tragic attack on the Prophet’s Mosque is understandably devastating to the Muslim community, as for them it represents a direct attack on their faith and on all that they hold sacred. But this does not mean that the attacks by other Islamist groups are any less horrifying and tragic. There is no moral boundary that renders their terrorist attacks any more justifiable or less abhorrent than those committed by ISIS. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban have no right to be offended when the same radical and violent ideology they espouse is used against them.
Equally as hypocritical are the condemnations by those who otherwise support and facilitate terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose extreme Salafist ideology is the inspiration for most Islamist terrorist groups, condemned the attack and reiterated its “established stance against the shedding of innocent blood”. Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood’s definition of ‘innocent’ is informed by radical Islamist principles, and on many occasions it has supported the shedding of what it considers to be ‘non-innocent’ blood. The foreign minister of Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, responded to the attack by stating that “there are no more red lines left for terrorists to cross” – the implication being that the terrorism Iran sponsors is within these red lines. Turkish President Erdogan, in response to a previous ISIS attack, rightly stated that “for terrorist organizations, there is no difference between Istanbul and London, Ankara and Berlin, Izmir and Chicago or Antalya and Rome.” However, Turkey was found to have been financing ISIS by purchasing its black market oil, and until mid-2015 Turkey was enabling foreign fighters to pass through its borders to join up with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Turkey has also consistently expressed its support for Hamas and provides a safe haven for some of the Hamas leadership, who, from Turkey, have funded and coordinated terrorist attacks in Israel.
The hypocritical condemnation of some terrorist groups while supporting others is not limited to these examples or to the Middle East, but is a widespread issue in the West as well. I have personally encountered many people who vehemently denounce ISIS but ardently defend Hamas and Hezbollah.
Let me be perfectly clear: support for terrorism of any kind is morally repugnant. Drawing artificial lines in the sand between ISIS and other Islamist groups creates a false moral relativism that allows for justification of terrorism and in turn facilitates the further growth of radical ideology. To paraphrase former British Prime Minister David Cameron: if you believe that suicide bombs in Medina aren’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter, then you too are part of the problem.