It’s 10am on a Tuesday morning, and routinely, I browse through the web for the morning news. I know that I will come across the article soon, because my partner texted me late the night before saying: “Have you heard about Mars1? They’re making a reality show … and after eight years, whoever is left will fly to Mars one way [ticket] to live there. Bloody madness!” My partner hardly reads or watches the news, which means it was definitely a breaking story.
While reading the article, I shook my head dismally. There are allegedly 10 000 people that have already applied to be on this show. What makes someone want to up and leave EARTH? Let alone your job, home, town, city or country. Earth!? Forever!?
Some things are better left unexplained, I thought. But by the end of the day I was thinking that moving to Mars wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. It began (as it usually does when you’re directed to YouTube via a news article to see “actual footage”) when I came across videos on the Boston marathon bombing suspects; brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I had not kept myself updated about the story since the Friday before, but was eager to pick up on the latest about the younger sibling, Dzhokhar, and whether he had recovered from his gunshot wound to the throat.
One video after the other led me deeper into the rabbit hole: From analysis on the photographs taken at the marathon showing government agents with backpacks and ear pieces, family members of the suspects claiming the brothers were framed, group discussions on the unlikelihood that the two could be involved in such terrible acts, Facebook groups opened in support of Dzhokhar and his innocence, to Boston police ignoring questions at a press briefing about why people were told to stay calm before the bombs went off, and so much more.
Now, I do not consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist, advocate for it or an avid reader of it. But I do believe that all opinions must be listened to and given a chance to present their rationale. But commenting on feelings about incidents like the one above is always tricky, especially when you are a Muslim; wait let me rephrase that, when you are human being, but a “Muslim human being”. There is always a concern about how your comments will be received by other people, particularly when it comes to issues of religion or anything that goes “boom”. Because let’s face it, from the maniacs out there who use the Quran as a justification to kill innocent people, to the mainstream media that report mostly biased news against anything that remotely resembles Arab-brown, head-geared, mosque-going people, you have got to be careful not to say anything that would label you a “boomer” or on the other extreme, “blasphemous”. It is for this reason that I have decided to remain anonymous.
I have always been intensely angered at the horrific acts of the few Muslims around the world who have claimed responsibility for the atrocious acts of violence that have left thousands dead in the past 10 or more years all around the world — and I know many others who are too. Have they been so selfish, so brainwashed to not consider the effects their actions would have on the families of those innocent people? Have they never thought about the consequences of their actions on the rest of the Muslims in the world? The fear, marginalisation, victimisation, torture, blackmail — the list goes on — of peaceful Muslims living in the west.
Of course they have not.
On the other hand, but equally disturbing, is all the news reports about the bombings, compared with the many videos and articles that showed other damning evidence, which the media failed to report on. I cannot help but see a resemblance in the way the attack on the twin towers was reported on. News agencies report in, what seems to be, parrot-fashion from US government statements, mostly ignore the citizen journalists, small news agencies, freelancers (and even sometimes conspiracy theorists) when they show evidence of cover-ups, government blackmail etc. Months later when outrage pours onto the streets everywhere in the world, they then decide to report, sympathetically of course, on the very same people that they had initially ignored to give coverage to. By then, thousands have died and their deaths have long been covered up: Iraq invasion 2003.
But this is not about western governments, their hidden agendas and their lack of respect for sovereignty and human rights. And it would be unreasonable to blame anyone for the perpetual killing of innocent people all over the world, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jew, governments, vigilante groups, patriots or even the odd lone wolf. But if you’re a Muslim reading this, chances are that you are blaming the western world, their governments, their laws, and even their people.
But how can we blame them? By “we”, I mean the Muslim community of the world. We sit back and do very little when innocent people in western countries are killed by bombings linked to Muslim fundamentalists — who later claim responsibility for it — contrary to the response we give when Muslims are killed at the hands of western soldiers.
This is no longer about numbers. No buts. No more “but more Muslims die every day”, “but they asked for it”, “but why did they have to break international laws”.
This is all true.
The fact that the US government is the biggest terrorist organisation in the world is true, but really old news. The fact that they detain innocent Muslims in Guantanamo Bay every month is true, but old news. The fact that some western countries are racist towards Arab people is true, but old news, that they steal the wealth and land of Arab people … true, but still old news.
These are harsh, inhuman and despicable realities, but that’s the US government. They will not stop.
But, dear Muslims, neither will suicide bombings, or religious fundamentalism, or beheadings of “Muslim human beings” with no trial or justice. And that is exactly what they want.
What excuses will they have then when they want to invade another Arab country? Who will they target then when the CIA and FBI hunt down innocent people, make mistakes or didn’t kill the “right” target? We have been the scapegoat for western terrorism for so long, blinded by our fears to speak out and condemn, but we dare not think this. We dare not mock the next Muslim, despite the despair that kills us in our hearts for those innocent people who lost their lives in a suicide bombing, despite the imams choosing to speak about the “American cowards” invading Arab countries instead of the women of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan that are raped every day by their husbands.
When did we become a people that turn a blind eye to rape, murder and suicide and then have our beautiful Quran cited to defend these acts?
When did we become as atrocious as the US government?
Save for those who take the time to learn about Islam — not many — it is a “violent religion”. They have a bible, they say, in which “their” God commands them to kill “Christians and Jews”. Is this true? Of course not.
But the chances that you are South African and understand the Arabic language are very slim. You read the Quran in Arabic and automatically assume that you know what God is saying, asking of you, blessing you with. We hear people reciting hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) — but never look up where it came from. We read about the mockery of Islam and are quick to shout “blasphemy”; we read about a US government atrocity and in an instant, can list numbers, places, names and theories.
So the next time another young “Muslim human being” is accused of a suicide bombing or a bomb attack, let’s go to the streets and demand a fair trial. And if he is guilty, let’s go to the streets again and demand that he be sentenced and punished for his actions. When we go to the streets on a Monday because innocent Muslims are being killed in Pakistan, let’s go to the streets on Tuesday because Christian children in American schools are being killed, and Wednesday we take to the streets too in support of justice for an Israeli girl who got caught in the crossfire. When we are mocked about being a violent religion and that we are commanded by God to kill innocent people, then get your Quran out, open that laptop, find the English translation of every Arabic word in that verse that says the contrary, and bring that mocker over to your home for a nice curry to discuss the truth with them.
When will we begin to prove to the world that their perceptions of Islam supporting terrorism are wrong? And if you feel that “Muslims have nothing to prove” then you dare not complain when the generations of Muslims that come after you have lost their faith in fear of persecution or have no leaders to turn to when they must defend their beliefs.
Do we expect the world to open the Quran and learn OUR religion when we do not properly know it ourselves? Do we expect to be protected by our countries when extremist insurgents find excuses to enter our sovereign states and bomb up buildings, with the result that we find unwelcome US military in our peaceful lands? We dare not, dear Muslims. How many more brothers, like the Tsarnaevs, must there be before Muslims can walk through streets in western countries and feel safe, proud and happy about who they are and what their people stand for?
This is our Islam. Let’s own it and not let it be owned. For if we demand that Muslims be protected by global human-rights laws, constitutions, law enforcements, and the Christians and Jews that we live among, then those are the very things that we need to publicly uphold and advocate for, across all races, religions and cultures. For if we dream of a world society that no longer tolerates or fears the systematic torture, lies and manipulation of western governments, then we must refuse to be the scapegoats.
And if our denial will persist, if we will not take responsibility for fixing our own Islam, then I am applicant number ten thousand and one for a no-return ticket to Mars!
* The writer wishes to remain anonymous.