Repudiation of the West does not define Islam

Guest contribution by Deanna Othman

On May 1, Foreign Policy magazine published a piece by Yair Shamir with the headline “Our Shared Islamist Enemy: From Boston to Israel, radicals are attempting to destroy Western culture.”

Shamir’s piece endeavors to draw baseless parallels between the Boston Marathon bombings and the resistance of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation, what he inaccurately portrays as an “aggressive and offensive jihad, unconnected to any particular conflict or borders, which conjoins Islamist terror groups around the world.” His unabashedly Zionist agenda rears its head through this opportunistic attempt to play into the media circus surrounding the Boston bombings.

His ludicrous argument essentially states that the problem is not Hamas or Al Qaeda, the problem is not Osama Bin Laden or Dzokhar Tsarnaev: the problem is Islam.

Unfortunately, the Boston bombings have given virulent propagandists and Islamophobes a field day. While various pundits and media personalities jumped to the Tsarnaev brothers’ religious identities as the singular motive for their alleged acts of violence, they focused on them as individuals, and how their thought processes could have been perverted by purported religious radicalization. What makes Shamir’s contention particularly disturbing is his sweeping generalization that all groups and individuals affiliated with Islam, from Hamas to the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Tsarnaevs and Sayyid Qutb, all had a particular end in mind—the obliteration of Western culture.

Shamir attempts to disengage all incidents of violence from the influences of time period, geography, culture, national interest and socioeconomic disparities. To Shamir, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been battered, beaten, occupied, oppressed, starved, shot or colonized—your only purpose for resistance or violence, which are the same to Shamir, is Islam. Whether you are acting alone or as part of a group, whether you seek to harm or kill civilians or occupying soldiers, in Shamir’s world, your goal is the same: to eliminate the West.

Glossing over more than 60 years of military occupation in the case of Palestine, an issue that Shamir convolutedly connects to the Boston bombings only with the tenuous thread of religious commonality, he asserts, “There is little that is reactive about this belief system – it is not aimed at defending its rights, but at conquering the world of the disbelievers.”

When did the Palestinian-Israeli conflict become about conquering disbelievers? Even opponents of Palestinian self-determination would at least agree that Palestinians believe they are defending their rights, whether or not they believe they should be afforded those rights or not.

Shamir’s unfounded argument glaringly displays his belief in the dichotomy between East and West, the incompatibility of Islam with modernity and an apocalyptic foreshadowing of the clash of civilizations, àla Samuel Huntington.

“In the West, we can understand a person who fights with every breath against tyranny and oppression. We were raised on the heroic struggles against Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. However, we cannot understand someone whose goal is to maim and murder innocents in the name of their religion,” Shamir says.

Apparently, Shamir does not understand that Palestinians, as well as others who have resisted in the name of attaining freedom from an occupying force, fight not to main and murder in the name of religion, but to achieve independence from an occupying force, such as Israel. And individuals who murder and maim independent of any terrorist group act as themselves, and numerous factors contribute to such heinous actions.

Shamir says that we cannot explain away and rationalize acts of violence committed by Muslims because “we in the West” simply cannot comprehend such a mindset. Yet he places Israel, a nation in the East, among the West. He conveniently repositions and aligns Israel with the West, yet he is not able to rationalize the fact that maybe, just maybe, all Muslims who commit acts of violence are not acting because of an inherent hatred of Western culture.

Shamir cannot rationalize, but he sure can generalize.

A repudiation of Western culture is not at the heart of all acts of violence by Muslims. To explain them as such is to ignore the underlying causes, whether they are at the societal or individual levels.

Fortunately, Shamir digs his own grave by the end of the piece. While condemning Muslims and Islam throughout the duration of his article as intrinsically belligerent and fundamentally inclined toward the annihilation of the West, he employs the same rhetoric he denounces Muslims for using.

“If we in the West wish to stand in the way of this malevolent terror, we must first understand its vision, its true nature, and its goals. Only then can it be conquered.”

I think Shamir let us all know who wants to conquer whom.

Deanna Othman

Deanna Othman is a Palestinian American from Chicago, IL. She currently works as the assistant editor of Islamic Horizons magazine and serves on the editorial board of the Chicago Crescent. Deanna is also a member of the Chicago Executive Committee for the American Muslims for Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @deannaothman.

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