I noticed on Facebook that some of my friends in London had marked themselves safe. Baffled, I checked the news and read that there was an attack in London, a city that attracts me for its intellectual freedom. I contacted a few people I know there and found that even those who lived close to London Bridge didn’t know what was going on. I could sense their petrified state, maybe because of my experience of living in Kashmir, where we are used to gun-fights and other attacks. Later we discovered that the attackers were Muslim and I was not surprised. The question that’s always disturbing me when I hear the news of any attack in the world: why does it always feel as if there is a Muslim name behind each attack? Is it because of these terrorists that the world is seeing us Muslims as Others? Or is it something about the religion? How did these attackers turn into extremists? Is it because of the injustices by the powerful?
I hear the deleterious answers to all these questions in my head. Our world, instead of blaming a particular community, should identify the root causes of the problems which forced these Muslims, if that’s what they call themselves, to abandon the teachings of the Qur'an and turn into extremists. Everyone has a freedom to choose a world for himself. If they are fighting for an Islamic State or if they are thirsty for some misplaced revenge, it is their individual choice, not the choice of all Muslims.
I noticed Facebook never asks us to mark ourselves safe; is it because we are less important? Or that the attacks are part of normal daily life in my country? It was impressive to hear that Imams refused to say funeral prayers for the “indefensible” attackers, in an effort to root out extremism. But the problem with the world is that of generalising, they comprehend every Muslim as a potential threat, they put all Muslims under suspicion. This probably gained prominence right from the attacks of 9/11 in US.
The situation is like that of Indians who see every Kashmiri as a rebel, as a suspect and people who are ignorant and less important; as well as Pakistan, to whom we all are freedom fighters. Both are incorrect. This continuous threat, the indifference that the world is levelling at Muslims is spearheading into creating more differences and injustice. Is this a fight between West and East? It seems instead to be between people in power and the others. The recent National Investigation Agency (NIA) raids on Kashmiri Separatists for receiving money from Pakistan make some Indians label all Kashmiri Muslims as perpetrators.
The Indian media is at war with Kashmiris: an analyst, Gaurav Arya, on the infamous Arnab Goswami news show, while discussing NIA raids, made bizarre comments concerning their thinking about the Kashmiri question: “half of the time Kashmir is under lockdown, half of the time they are stone pelting, still they don’t have any case of malnutrition, no farmer suicide, everyone has red-rosy cheeks there. I want to understand where is this money coming from? If half of the time your business is shut down, your markets are closed, there is terrorist activity, why is everybody looking so healthy there. To throw rocks they need energy, how do they get food, who is funding them (Kashmiris). In Kashmir even when their crops are damaged they don’t commit suicide like in India (Hyderabad, Telangana, Maharastra).”
The anchor went to the extreme by suggesting a prison like Guantanamo Bay should be built for Kashmiri separatists. Soon social media was filled with sarcastic comments and pictures showing red/pink cheeks of Kashmiris to make fun of the Indian media. These news channels are creating an image of Kashmir, a discourse, which generate more voids and coldness along with disappointment in the people of Kashmir, like the news reports of world media against Muslims after the London attack. I wonder why the government banned all the Pakistani news channels and spared these “extremist” news channels.
Watching the turbulent situation across the world with the impact of modern knowledge some Muslims, mostly youngsters, renounce their religion. Many believe deviant interpretations of Islam have led to downfall. Hidden atheist movements are emerging, though they aren’t publicly declared. With so many turning their back on the faith is it time to update the Islamic message?
Muddasir Ramzan studied English Literature. He was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He can be reached at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com