When terrorism pulls it off

Islam and the West have had a positive relation in the past. The decline of this interaction today has to do with Muslims, not Islam. Op-ed.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi  ,

Islamic moon
Islamic moon

The very goal of terrorist organizations is not only met when a member sinfully murders innocents in one Western country or another, as happened recently in France and Austria. It is also met when that act brings decision-makers in European countries into conflict with Islam.

Perceiving criminals as exponents of this religion is one of the biggest faux pas of our time. This attitude jeopardizes Islamic-Western relations rather than fostering solidarity against terrorism.

There is this statement that caught my attention about the recent terrorist attack in the Austrian capital, Vienna. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made the following statement to the German newspaper Welt. “I hope we will see an end to this misunderstood tolerance.”

Kurz called on the European Union to focus more on this problem in the future. He said he was convinced that political Islam is a threat to European freedom and way of life. His dissatisfaction is understandable and warranted. But the statement points to a knee-jerk reaction to define relations between the West and Islam.

Terror and its networks represent no political ideology of Islam. They have nothing to do with it. They do not describe it, but rather use it for their own interests. I find it a religious injustice to judge Islam, accepted by about two billion people in the world, on the basis of criminal groups made up of hundreds and even thousands of terrorist elements.

To break with tolerance and coexistence as essential foundations for civilized societies would be a fine victory for violent radicalism. No better gift to organizations formed to nurture the clash of civilizations and whet tensions with Islam.

Policies must be based on the constants that clearly and categorically set Islam and terrorism apart.
Kurz also said he was in touch with French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders to coordinate a common EU approach. He said the issue will be discussed at the next European summit.

Sure it would be good to have coherent European policies to combat the threat of European societies being infiltrated by radical terrorist entities. At the same time, however, these policies must be based on the constants that clearly and categorically set Islam and terrorism apart.

Principles and objectives must be defined so that terrorist organizations cannot use the new European measures or policies to pit Muslim citizens of European countries against those countries and their values.

These countries should not be drawn by anger and resentment to isolate and alienate their Muslim citizens. With almost 50 million people in Europe, Muslims make up a large part of the population of some EU countries, such as in France, where about 5 million Muslims live.

European leaders need to take a positive stance on ending insults to the Islamic religion and addressing the growing problem of Islamophobia. Serious standards must be put in place for the exercise of freedom of expression, so that attacks on religions do not turn into excuses for violating the moral and religious freedoms, rights, and beliefs of people.

Ensuring free speech for all is tightly linked to accountability. It is linked to the very prerequisites of diversity, pluralism and coexistence that ensure that societies live in a safe and peaceful atmosphere and avoid a climate conducive to radicalization.

We must reject attacks on religions as much as we do murderous attacks invoking the defense of Islam or other belief systems.

Unduly waving the flag of Islam is no different than insulting Islam through cartoons or other means. And those who believe that Islam hinders European values and civilization need to look back in history to realize the extent to which Islam and Western societies have had a positive relation in the past. The decline of this interaction in our time has to do with Muslims, not Islam.

Cutting communication and cooperation channels between the Islamic world and the West on the grounds of mutual misunderstanding or tendentious campaigns would play into the hands of terrorist and extremist organizations that wish to set a clash of civilizations in motion.

That is why hate speech and its use to promote and justify terrorism are nothing short of intolerable.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate