Islam: The Pantomime Villain and Rally Cry of a Misinformed World

Islam: The Pantomime Villain and Rally Cry of a Misinformed World

On January 27th 2017, the man with the most powerful office on earth, the United States president Donald Trump, by just the strokes of his pen, banned over 200 million people across 7 countries— Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen—in an executive order from legally entering the U.S. on a temporary basis, with Syria receiving the indefinite ban. Though that ban has since been stayed by a U.S. federal judge and then consolidated by a 9th circuit Appeal Court in San Francisco, voting unanimously in full and total repudiation of the ban on the grounds of it having no constitutional precedence. If the 45th president of the U.S. temperament and penchant for being impatient with his responses is anything to go by, we have not seen the last of this ban. But what was most interesting to see was the reaction this move stirred. The name throwing, the side taking, the criticisms, the defence, the information and misinformation shared, was vibrant and telling of the true nature of political and religious divide of not just U.S. citizens, but the world.

In the campaign trail, Trump bandied a Muslim ban around, proposing a ban on all Muslims wanting to migrate or come into the U.S. until they could “figure out” what was going on. So it was little surprise when the ban on these countries—predominantly Muslim countries—was rolled out by the White House, it was seen as a malevolent test drive by Trump to make good on his promise to ban all Muslims from entering the country. But election campaign aside, and anyone or most unbiased people who have no background knowledge of Trump’s past comments would most likely have seen the ban for what it is:  not a religious or “Muslim Ban”, but a ban on 7 countries that happen to have Islam as their main religion. There are well over 40 other countries in the World with Islam as their main religion and Muslims as the majority. For the opposition it was difficult not to see this as a denial of entry to people based on their religious affiliation, and sincerely it was a hard point to refute. The entire roll out and PR was handled in a very clumsy way. The U.S. President was naïve in revealing an “implicit bias” to this executive order. The executive order, which didn’t just prohibit entry of citizens from these countries including valid Green Card and visa holders, but also suspended the U.S. refugee programme for 120 days; has a section that directs that upon resumption of the refugee program, the U.S. Homeland Security “to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” That is tantamount to religious discrimination. Trump, in an attempt to clarify to the public said of the U.S. refugee program “if you were Muslim you could come in but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible. I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”, also arguing that Obama did a similar thing in 2011 when he suspended the U.S. Iraq refugee program for 6 months. But that did nothing but reinforce the stance and opposition—especially on the left wing of this “outrageous Muslim ban”.

This was not a Muslim ban. Let us look away from the political exaggeration. There are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and 3-plus million adherents of Islam in the U.S., it would take pogroms and ethno-religious cleansing of the proportions of The Holocaust to “ban” Muslims (including those residing already) from the United States. But this was more than about a ban. For the opposition it was seen as an attack on globalization, xenophobic and an insult to the U.S.’ dizzying history with immigrants. But most importantly, it was a rally cry for liberals and an opportunity to stand up to both mainstream and extreme conservatism. Protests erupted across the world against this ban with many decrying how it undermines the positive contributions of immigration. Since 9/11, Islam, at times frivolously, has been deployed by cynics as the pantomime villain; the force of darkness, relentless in its global Jihad to impose its ideology upon humankind. To be fair—looking past the conquest rich history of the religion— in recent times it is hard to ignore the religious demagogues that have risen and radicalized many with their perverse and medieval fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Islam, like most other religion, provides the tenets that guide its adherent’s daily lifestyle. There exists a fine line, if any these days, between lifestyle and politics. This sensitive overlap has been exploited and manipulated for years by radical extremist and Islamic fanatics for political points, leading to the rise of terror organizations like the Taliban, The Islamic State(ISIS/ISIL), Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, etc. These groups have blurred the line between religion and government, merging state and faith as one single ideology, and radical Islam as its campaign.  Verbal fisticuffs have been thrown back and forth about the moral and appropriateness of the appellation “Islamic Terror”, an issue addressed in the second part of this article. In the world today, there are 8 countries where Sharia Law is practiced in full covering personal status issues as well as criminal proceedings, and many more with partial implementation of the law. It begs the question, where does Islam stand, as faith or as government?

Whatever side you weigh on the debate, the realities remain that these terror groups are not beheading or blowing up people in the name of Jesus, or Buddha, or Krishna; the burden of the acts however “un-Islamic” it may be, still has its roots from Islam as a religion, and as such demands a great deal of responsibility from the Muslim community to tackle.  That said, Islam has been much objectified and politicized to the point of polarization by belligerent political wings; exploited by politicians—amongst others, across the world to monger fear amongst the less patient masses, and used by the more politically liberal as some modern-day social justice movement for religious tolerance and inclusion, leaving a conflicted and badly misinformed world, compelled to take a side while terror rages on.

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