Uproar over Gaza, silence over ISIS: Why is the Muslim ‘brotherhood’ not uniform across conflicts?

Most Muslims believe that Israelis have forcefully taken away Palestinians’ land with the aid of the Americans.

Written by Irena Akbar | New Delhi | Updated: August 18, 2014 9:10 am
israel-L Palestinian boys with Hamas supporters hold toy guns and shout slogans to support people in Gaza and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo. (Source: AP)

Last month, my Facebook news feed was flooded with images of broken houses, wailing mothers and dead children of Gaza. Friends were sharing news reports of how Israelis were celebrating this bloodbath. Many of them even replaced their profile or cover picture with banners “Save Gaza”/ “Save Palestine”.

I, too, was affected by the disturbing reports of Israel’s massive crackdown on Gaza civilians, and for some days, even I uploaded a “Save Gaza” banner as my Facebook cover picture.

With the Israel-Gaza conflict now waning, fewer pictures of devastated Gazan families now show up on my news feed. But as one gory episode in the Middle East fades into the background, another emerges. That of the Iraq and Syria-based Sunni militant group ISIS’s massacre of minority Yazidis, Shias and Christians in Iraq.

But the same friends who were crying “death of humanity” over Israel’s ruthlessness are deafeningly silent over the ISIS’s barbarism. A disclaimer here: Much before the ISIS showed its ugliest face so far in its mistreatment of Iraq’s minorities, I had stated on my Facebook wall that as a Sunni Muslim, I abhor the group and all that they declare or do. That was when the group had declared a so-called Islamic caliphate. In the wake of the Yazidi massacre, I again made clear my hatred for ISIS on Facebook.

Of course, I am no holier than thou. There are other Sunni Muslims who have condemned the ISIS. But sadly, the vast majority of them are mum. There are no street protests condemning the ISIS, nor sharing of pictures in solidarity with the victims of ISIS’s terror on my Facebook news feed.

Considering that the ISIS’s attacks on Yazidis and Christians comes immediately after Israel’s attacks on Gazans, this contrast in Sunni Muslims’ reactions appears even starker. Just because one of your own does an evil act, it’s not that bad, huh? If someone else does it, it’s really bad? And if that someone is a Jew supported by an American, it’s worse? These are some questions that Sunni Muslims, or Muslims in general, need to ask themselves.

But first, let’s get some historical background to this. The Israel-Palestine conflict is rooted in history and religion, and most Muslims believe that Israelis have wrongfully and forcefully taken away Palestinians’ land with the support and aid of the Americans. Palestine-Israel even hosts Islam’s third holiest shrine, the Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. The anti-Americanism among Muslims dates to the beginnings of American support for Israel, in the 1940s. So, when trouble erupts in Gaza, the Muslim world erupts in uproar.

The case of Iraq is different. America invaded Iraq in 2003, and left the country in a mess in 2011. The ISIS is a product of that mess, most Muslims think so.

I do believe in the above arguments for Israel/Palestine and Iraq. Indeed, Muslims, whether in Palestine or Iraq, have suffered the most in these conflicts. And their animosity towards Israel and the US makes sense to a certain extent. But it makes no sense, whatever the root of the conflicts in Gaza or Iraq, that one should not condemn the evil acts of one’s own. At this point, I am reminded of another evil act, that of the kidnapping of school girls by a certain Boko Haram in Nigeria. Where were the cries for humanity then among Muslims?

Muslims believe in the concept of ummah, brotherhood and fraternity. If a Muslim in Syria is hurt, a Muslim in Indonesia is bothered. But the concept of brotherhood should work the other way too. If your brother does wrong unto someone else, should you not stand up against him?

There is another worrying pattern. It seems Arab Muslims are viewed by other Muslims as some kind of a special race. True, Islam originated in Arabia but the religion is egalitarian. Muslims are being massacred in Central African Republic but no one is bothered. Is it because the victims are black, and not worthy of such attention? Muslims are being discriminated against in Myanmar. Why is the anguish felt for them so diluted, as compared to the pain felt for Gaza? But of course, nothing could be more evil than Israel and the US for the Muslim, right? And I am yet to see any Arab Muslim display the same pain for a non-Arab one, when the latter is discriminated against, like the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.

A lot of commentators are asking this question: Why are Muslims not protesting against the ISIS? It’s a fair question, no doubt, as the arguments above show. But it’s slightly unfair too. Muslims are always expected to prove that they are anti-terrorism, anti-violence. Why are not Christians expected to rise against the Christian militia in Central African Republic who are massacring the Muslims? Or how about the Buddhists speaking against their government for its mistreatment of Muslims? Why no such expectation from them?

Muslims must stand up against the ISIS. The group must be condemned. However, I do wish, equally, such standing-up was expected from other religious communities when their own do wrong.

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First Published on: August 18, 2014 8:34 am
  1. A
    Azad Murtad
    Aug 18, 2014 at 8:18 am
    Author ji, how can 'good' muslims ,as you call it condemn the isis if they are rote quoting verse and hadiths from the good 'holy' book for their 'holy' actions?
    Reply
    1. K
      KrishnaBhagawan
      Aug 18, 2014 at 3:16 pm
      I was expecting a humane article, but it ended up as a pro-islamic one. Whats the difference beterr you and IS?
      Reply
      1. $
        $30504014
        Aug 20, 2014 at 9:39 pm
        Left Iraq a mess? Do you know why? Because Sadam kept the peace through a brutal dictatorship. The US didn't impose Roman rule. It's the Iraqi people who are killing each other. Don't blame the US. Take responsibility for your own fate.
        Reply
        1. R
          Raj
          Aug 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm
          Interesting article
          Reply
          1. I
            indian
            Aug 18, 2014 at 7:38 am
            perhaps an article to justify silence over iraq
            Reply
            1. D
              Dilip
              Aug 18, 2014 at 8:19 am
              Impartial views...liked this blog.
              Reply
              1. K
                KRISHNASWAMY VENKATASUBRAMANIA
                Aug 20, 2014 at 10:08 am
                Do you mean ISIS is a monster created by US?Do you believe it yourself?But I agree with you on america.One God forsaken country which is so selfish ,it has no morality left.
                Reply
                1. K
                  KRISHNASWAMY VENKATASUBRAMANIA
                  Aug 20, 2014 at 10:00 am
                  That is always mentioned for convenience.If a family finds their sons have gone illegally to join a terror group killing people of other faith,IMMEDIATELY THOSE FAMILIES SHOULD DISOWN SUCH VERMIN.Have they done so?where did those fellows get the money from?
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    KRISHNASWAMY VENKATASUBRAMANIA
                    Aug 20, 2014 at 10:06 am
                    governments may have diplomatic compulsions.But individuals do not have.Here we are talking about people of a religion who have double standards.
                    Reply
                    1. D
                      diemdie
                      Aug 20, 2014 at 3:59 am
                      Well these terrorists have a religion, they fly the flag that expresses their religion, they kill because of what is written on the religion's holly book.You muslims say they dont represent islam, then have them excommunicated have your religious leader revoke their religion from them.
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Ashok Sridharan
                        Aug 18, 2014 at 6:48 am
                        True, its inbent on all communities to speak out when their own do wrong, but Ms. Irena has answered her own question here: Since the Muslim community is vocal about outrages against fellow Muslims elsewhere, its natural that they'll be expected to do likewise when fellow Muslims are the perpetrators.
                        Reply
                        1. J
                          jazz
                          Aug 19, 2014 at 7:59 pm
                          When Israel left Gaza in 2005 they handed over 200 green houses producing and exporting food products where are they now?In Israel every family has bomb shelter in Gaza Hamaz wants women and children to face missiles so that their cause is alive. Their top leaders have bomb shelters.When they were given a chance for peace Hamaz was preparing rockets.They never had clean intention and always wanted their issues to be raised up by violence.
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                          1. B
                            B.D.SINGH
                            Aug 18, 2014 at 9:28 am
                            Muslim world opinion should stop seeing every incident of macres of human being from religious angle. That is why they are silent on macre being committed by ISIS. They should introduce some objectivity in their opinions on all killings and not be selective human right protectors.
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                              BS Murthy
                              Aug 18, 2014 at 6:47 am
                              That's the reason why the Muslim Brotherhood's wailing over Israel actions in Gaza won't bring tears to the non-believers.
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                                Natarajan
                                Aug 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm
                                I have on various occasions highlighted the same issue to some of my Muslim friends. When I show them pictures of attrocities being committed in Syria/Iraq the response now is very predictable: (A) The picture is photoshopped. (B) US is responsible for this mess in Iraq (C) Who gave them the guns??? (D) This is not representative of Islam. As you can see, the response is laced with denial, pointing the finger at someone else and complete non-sense. They talk as if before US invaded Iraq (the first time as well as second time), peace and harmony was at reigning in Iraq, and that Kurdish people were being showered rose petals by Chemical Ali.
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                                1. S
                                  Sai
                                  Aug 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm
                                  That it is so difficult the truth and fact is evident from Sohel's comment and proves the article right.
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    Snowden
                                    Aug 18, 2014 at 7:46 am
                                    That is because other communities do not go on rampage in their own countries at the slightest of issues against their communities in other countries, whereas Muslims do, yet when such a big carnage is happening in Iraq..manifolds worse than what Israel's reaction to Palestine was... there's deafening silence from Muslims all over the world!!
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                                    1. G
                                      Gulshan
                                      Aug 18, 2014 at 11:25 am
                                      Agree with you but the argument is pretty convoluted. You started out asking those following a certain religion to condemn acts of violence by their brethren in other parts of world but then yourself, towards the end, fell prey to very petty religious divide that poses existential threat to humanity.
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                                      1. H
                                        Hari Goyal
                                        Aug 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm
                                        Mr. Sohel, do you feel any thing about Yazidis or other religious minorities?
                                        Reply
                                        1. H
                                          Harish
                                          Aug 18, 2014 at 1:05 pm
                                          Author started with very strong le and strong support for fairness, but later diluted it with biased feeling. Usually a blog should be what one feel rather than what everyone should expected. If the Author feel that some activities by certain group are bad, then it stay bad irrespective of other activities by other group. No need to link two bad things. Terrorist has no religions. Once someone is terrorist, it no longer belong to any religion.
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                                          1. S
                                            Shekhar
                                            Aug 18, 2014 at 7:07 am
                                            Very justified, legitimate and relevant question and somehow logically answered as well. This story holds true for anyone with many friends on fb. I completely concur with what the author has narrated about the difference b/w social media's reaction to Gaza and ISIS. I have many friends from the Middle East and the only one protesting against ISIS is an Iraqi Yazidi friend of mine. As long as our compion will be derived by the religion of the killed and killer, Humanity will die. Blood is all red but may be through the lens of religion it changes its colour.
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