On Sunday, Barack Obama announced that the U.S. had begun bombing Syria, the seventh Muslim majority state to be targeted in his six year term. Today, Obama gave a green light to Islamophobes all over the world with his UN speech.
Mid-way through the speech Obama claimed “it is time for the world — especially Muslim communities — to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.” Especially Muslim communities.
By claiming Muslims have a special duty to speak out against ISIL, Obama granted non-Muslims with the perceived right to go about forcing Muslims to prove that they’re “loyal” and “moderate.” In doing so, Obama further legitimized mass discrimination against, and suspicion of, Muslims in America and the world at large. This suspicion comes without any reasonable motivator, as most of the more than 1.6 billion Muslims have no control over, or connection to, ISIL.
Obama’s request for condemnation also mistakenly gives the public the impression that Muslims haven’t been condemning ISIL. In fact, Muslims all over the world came out in absolute condemnation of ISIL long before Obama asked them too. Leading Islamic scholars have formed an overwhelming consensus rejecting any theological basis for ISIL’s actions. Muslim states that are typically enemies have managed to unite, to some extent, in their opposition to ISIL. This is not to say that discrimination against Muslims would be justified if we hadn’t been active in condemning ISIL. Yet it does show that Obama is dangerously negligent of the response to ISIL.
This xenophobic baiting has serious consequences for Muslims, who are faced with alarming rates of hate crimes. This is especially true after Muslim outliers commit some sort of violent act that generates public fear and anger. For example, 39 separate incidents of discrimination were reported to a British group monitoring anti-Islamic hate crimes in the three days after ISIL killed British aid worker David Haines. Moreover, hate crimes against Muslims in America rose by 1600 per cent after 9/11.
ISIL’s recent actions, in combination with the ongoing crackdowns on suspected radicals in Western nations, creates the exact sort of climate where hate crimes thrive. Obama was likely well aware of this when he made his problematic request for Muslim condemnation of ISIL. Any future statement Obama makes opposing hate crimes – that are now sure to happen, though they have been already – is meaningless, as he is complicit in them.
Obama’s request, and disregard for the damage it will cause, becomes even more disturbing when looking at his track record with regard to Muslims, especially in the Middle East. As one Twitter user pointed out, “The West has been ‘solving’ problems in the Mideast since at least WWI & every ‘solution’ has been the cause of the next disaster.” The U.S. propped up Saddam Hussein as he slaughtered Iraqis, and then overthrew him, shattering Iraq in the process, over a pack of lies. America empowered Nouri al-Maliki and funded him as he oppressed Sunnis. This led almost directly to IS’ emergence according to many experts.
Obama cannot be blamed for his predecessor’s actions, but his own actions in the region have only made the issue worse. Therefore, Obama has far more explaining to do in regard to ISIL than almost any individual Muslim. This is especially true since ISIL’s victims are largely Muslim. Muslims don’t need non-Muslims to tell them that a group primarily killing Muslims deserves to be condemned. But they do deserve an explanation from figures involved in fostering the conditions for this group’s emergence.
As such, I call on Muslims to ignore Obama’s request for further condemnation. Muslims have already made their stance on ISIL clear, and those who don’t believe it likely never will. If any attention is to be given to those who demand condemnation from Muslims, it should be in order to turn the tables. To point out that supporting foreign policy like Obama’s creates more complicity in ISIL’s emergence than simply calling oneself Muslim. This is the conversation that needs to be had, and Muslims should insist that it takes place.