I’m a brown person, so any time the word “terrorism” makes the rounds, I perk up. In the wake of the Charleston Massacre I’ve seen a certain hashtag, #Whiteterrorism, make its way around progressive corners of the web. Yet I have to wonder: do those who use this term understand the full weight of what it means to be called a terrorist? What do Muslim Americans have to say about calling others by that epithet? Terrorism, from our recent history, is tarnished by its racial connotations. It is, at best, slander used to tell us that we don’t belong. At worst, it is the banner under which the United States Government has terrorized our people with impunity.
Once again, I am unhappy with the fourth estate. This post in particular shares my thoughts on a pretty old Atlantic piece titled something like "What ISIS Really Wants". Compared to other journalism these days, I think it was a relatively good quality article. The Atlantic certainly has reason to be proud of this piece (on my Facebook feed they triumphantly advertised it as a "must-read"). However to me, it's only as good as an article written by a white journalist from the US can really get when talking about politics in the Arab world.
The article's main argument is that in order to effectively counter ISIS, the US government must understand them on a theological (i.e. Islamic) basis. At first glance, I thought it was an interesting and sensible argument: let's try to understand the people who work for ISIS from their perspective. But there's an important difference between understanding from "their" perspective and understanding their "Islamic" perspective. True, the article jumps through the necessary hoops of journalistic balance by giving some space to all the other Muslims out there who condemn ISIS as essentially un-Islamic. But this is a mere mention, and the article suggests ultimately that while we should not implicate all Muslims with the actions of ISIS leadership, there is something undeniably Islamic about the organization thanks to its identification with Koranic scripture and theology.
Alright, I'll admit. Apeshit is a bit of a strong way to describe a very understandable reaction from a very outraged press. This post is inspired in particular by one of Vice's articles on the subject. The outrage, which seems to be reflected in other headlines for articles that I actually haven't read, is over the fact that not only was the WMD threat wildly inflated, but there was no connection whatsoever between Iraq and Al-Qaeda (at least until the U.S./Coalition Forces got in there and created a fucked up power vacuum).
Here's why I'm not happy with the fourth estate today. While the anger is understandable, I think journalists are making a mistake by going after Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld and pillorying them for incompetence. By all means, pillory the politicians. But please, do it well. The incompetence route is a rather lazy justification for the shitshow the U.S. and U.K. keep failing to not make worse in the Persian Gulf. The Vice article seems to imply that the tenuous connection between Iraq and terrorism was sloppy, a poor excuse to ramrod jus ad bellum down the throat of white public opinion. I believe this is only partially true.
I get into Facebook arguments a lot. Recently, it was against a white man ex-Catholic current Marxist who I hung out with in college. He was arguing that Islam is inherently violent and Muslim people cannot be expected to integrate into Western civilization because of their barbaric religious ideology. I'm an ex-Muslim. I argued that he was being ridiculous.
I understand where he's coming from -- at least, I think I understand. First, I imagined myself as a bro. Then I surveyed the world. All of the troublemaking countries where terrorists are fomenting anti-Western violence against other countries as well as their own people are Muslim. In the psychological universe of the bro, there is no difference between correlation and causation. Ergo, the Islamic aspect must be a defining cause of the violence. Not rigorous at all, just blanket generalizations about large swathes of people. It's what bros do all the time, right brah?