Islamic Fallacies: Before the Kurds were Muslims

I am told the Muslim community isn’t doing enough to condemn and combat ISIS. I mean sure, those hip young Muslims are trending with Not in my Name, but its not enough either, something has to be done, and community leaders need to show more leadership.

Besides not knowing exactly what is meant by the Muslim « community », what I know is that there are diverse Muslim communities. My favorite being the Muslim community of The Little Mosque on the Prairie and their tongue in cheek portrayal of the differences, and evolutions within their specific, and fictional community, but most Muslims would agree those are also the trends rocking the Muslim world by and large, albeit differently in different places.

And Muslim leaders are active behind the scenes; an article in this very paper supports this.

There is, obviously, confusion between Muslims as people, Islam as a religion and terrorists as criminals, and it has never been more glaring than in the discourse over ISIS and the Syrian Civil War.

Even if we go as far back as Afghanistan, allies against the Taliban in northern Afghanistan were then labeled as the Northern Alliance. Their official name however was: United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan.

It would have been hard to sell our allies as Islamic while we were, and are still, actively fighting the Islamic Taliban, and that’s where the semantic and conceptual flaws begin.

Several groups are active in the Syrian Civil War, one of them is the Islamic Front. They are a religious movement fighting for the liberation of Syria, like the Free Syrian Army, and believe that most Muslims would believe in a state under Sharia Law. When asked about ISIS, they are critical of their methods, but they are not Jabat Al Nusra or the Khorasan Group, if both aren’t one and the same. They are not international Jihadists, they are no threat to the west, but they are also Islamic.

Yet they are never mentioned in the press, it would cause too much confusion, instead, the Syrian Civil War is portrayed as a struggle between three driving forces: the Government, the Rebels (Free Syrian Army) and the Islamists (Al Nusra/Al Qaeda/ISIS), moderate Muslims (albeit believing in Sharia Law) are left out of the narrative because foreign understanding requires a dumbing down of information, and because there is very little actual understanding of what moderate Islam means. To most westerners it means Muslims who are as liberal, or close enough, as Americans, but it has never been defined, and the reality of moderate Islam includes a significant religious element which if presented as Islamic is not perceived as moderate anymore.

This semantic distortion is part of the reason why the world is so critical of Muslim communities and countries. Islamic is seldom associated with the positive, and the groups that are targeted represent negative traits overwhelmingly, as opposed to the Northern Alliance, which sounds like Scandinavian countries coming together and no one’s been scared of the Swedes since the Vikings. Unless you count Zlatan Ibrahimovitch, but Ibrahimovitch is a Muslim name, so let’s not go there.

And it couldn’t be more obvious than with the Kurdish Peshmerga vs ISIS.

Kurds are overwhelmingly Sunni and Shia Muslim, and yet Kurds are never defined by their religion, unless they are a minority (Christian or ­­­­­­­­­­Yazidi), otherwise they are defined by their ethnicity.

Given the Kurdish national struggle (and likely the reason Turkey is loth to intervene), it is understandable that they are viewed as a nation and not by their religion, but what you have on the ground are Muslims actively fighting other Muslims, defending their minorities against other Muslims. They clearly share the same religion, but not the same values at all.

Those pictures of beautiful and strong Kurdish women are Muslim women. Yes they are Kurds, but do they believe in Allah as strongly as the marauding thugs they are fighting? You bet.

Assyrian minorities are scared of the rise of Kurdistan and see it as both Islamisation and Kurdification of their region, and construe the airlift of Christian minorities by France as complicity in ethnic cleansing. Our Kurdish Muslim heroes. But for now they are the good guys, so they are The Kurds.

It is a little known fact that the hero of Islam, the enemy of the Western Christians, Saladin (Salah Al Din) was in fact, a Kurd.

And yet when Muslim communities are consulted abroad, thousands of miles from atrocities committed by people bearing very little resemblance to them, they are asked whether they support or condemn ISIS. No one has asked a Muslim recently of how proud he felt that his Kurdish co-religionists are actively fighting terror and the demonization of Islam.

Why would you? The people who are fighting terror aren’t Muslims, and even if they are they are either progressive Muslims, conveniently something that does not sound Muslim, or they don’t count because another identity is thrown around, and in the end all that is left of Islam are the bad guys.

Turkey is an Islamic government, but never mind that Turkey has made more progress under AK than any of the previous military/secular administrations, because an Islamic government is scarier than a military dictatorship, regardless of its achievements.

Look at Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was kicked out of office and the first thing the army did was shoot 800 civilians. I was not in Egypt during the Brotherhood’s short but democratically elected time in office, but if they had killed 800 people it would have been a very different story.

At any rate, the reason why people are scared of Muslims is because our enemies are self-defined and further sanctified as Muslims and our allies are not, even and especially when they are.

Just a thought…

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.