Terror – Ours and Theirs

Mohammad Alishan Jafri

The Christ Church massacre(read terror attack) is a blowback of the years of anti-Muslim rhetoric, hate and islamophobia that has been cultivated globally especially by the mainstream media post 9/11. What is no more shocking, is the perpetual silence of both the global and Indian media and their reluctance to use the tabooed “T” word in such cases. It seems to have been reserved only for Muslim perpetrators. We fail to accept that this tag actually benefits these terrorists and harms innocents. We hate ‘our’ terrorists. We denounce them. It’s you who call them ‘ours’. Terrorism can be classified but must not be forced to be owned.

ToI’s first page hypocrisy. Terrorist in Kashmir, gunman in New Zealand. The media still calls sanghi mob lynchers and hate-criminals ‘RSS activists’.

It has been consciously embedded in the memory of media consumers across the world as the sole definition. The pan American definition of Islamic terror as the only and exclusive one, suites many. Thus it has been injected and cemented in common discourse through video games, literature and cinema. Extremist ideologies like Zionism, Hindutva and revivalist Neo-Nazism offer to function as shields against the ‘Muslim terror’ in order to sustain with confidence in highly prejudiced modern societies. They function with greater freedom and go unnoticed under the umbrella of this image. For instance, lynchings in the name of cow protection, evictions in the name of land jihad and murders in the name of love jihad find sympathy in bigoted hearts!

The terror attacks in Bangladesh were allegedly inspired by ‘our’ radical Islamic preacher Dr. Zakir Naik’s lecture. The fact that many within the Muslim community disagree with Naik was conveniently ignored painting him as the sole representative of all Muslims. The media won’t ask that who inspired Brendon Tarrant? He is an “innocent”, “unbearded”, clean shaven non-Muslim Australian citizen(needs no more defence) or maybe a mentally ill white gunman (but not a terrorist). He is not inspired by some firebrand Islamic preacher or religion at all, for that matter. For trolls, his inspiration is Pakistan. Reasonable enough, acknowledging their intellect, however he deeply despised Indians too. Two indians were injured and nine(do not worry all were muslims) are missing since the attack! There is absence of public outrage, media scrutiny and worry for ‘our’ missing fellow countrymen. If reports are to be believed five Indians also got killed in the attack. Contrary to this, you can find ‘your’ fanatics celebrating this massacre. Some are blaming it on immigrants and Muslims themselves. The hypocrisy on terror is detrimental to its eradication. ‘Their’ celebration facilitates ‘our’ radicalisation and vice versa. Their hate kills our reasons to love.

Coming back to the attacker. He is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump- read his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric. It is clear that this gunman(not terrorist) wanted to make the killing extremely entertaining, valorous and memorable (Recall Shambu Regar: unidentified knife-man who became an overnight icon). Fundraise campaigns were organised for Regar. Hundreds of people contributed. His effigy was paraded on Ramnavami
symbolizing ‘your’ valour. Whom did Shambhu Regar, the convicts in Dadri, and the men who terrorised Kashmiris in Lucknow follow? Who garlanded them? Where do they draw support from? Their leader is not Trump. Who is their leader? When someone condemns Regar and Hindutva terror he is reminded to condemn ‘others’ as well. This sympathy renders them as mainstream. Hate them lest they become your face.

Mehdi Hasan is right when he points out that reading the shooter’s(not terrorist) manifesto, he couldn’t help but recall how right-wing pundits in the west have made so many similar statements — and paid no penalty. He then goes on to quote Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Clinton and their rhetorical complicity. The condition in India is no different, rather it’s worse. Today, our politicians, anchors and celebrities can say the most outrageous things against muslims with complete impunity and get away untouched. Muslim is the new jew. World over almost half the Muslims are undeniably the biggest victims of terror, counter-terror, hate, bigotry and lack of sympathy. The rest only bear the vicarious guilt of, ‘My name is Khan and I am not a…’.

Edward Said in his ‘Orientalism’ talks about the west’s perception of Islamic and other eastern societies. The prejudice that Muslims have a particular common character and psyche which sustains their inherent “backwardness” has been reproduced since early Orientalist studies. This western bias dominates India’s majority today and therefore all problems of the Muslims are supposedly because of Muslims. Period.

The perpetrator while killing Muslims wanted to recreate the scene of a war video game. He donned a head cam and live streamed the helplessness of his victims. What must be noted here is that such games are very addictive and satisfying. In many such virtual video games the terrorist is depicted as Muslim. Muslim blood is cheap in both virtual and real worlds!

Mourning is an innate human expression of sorrow. Condemnation of such heinous acts of terror is incomplete unless we fail to acknowledge our own biases and stop the daily islamophobia which pushes Muslims to the wall. As the general election near us we can expect the evergreen islamophobic rhetoric to degrade even more. As the debate around the Ayodhya dispute escalates, India will continue ignoring the pain of those massacred by terror mobs on 06.12.92.

Our society that romantancises with cruelty as valour must relearn to condemn when the victims is ‘our’ and perpetrator is ‘theirs’. Christ Church is a lesson for India. They will kill people in the name of ‘our’ and ‘your’ religion, ideology, nation and safety. Do not fall for their bigoted reasoning. Complicity is akin to sympathy and defending terror is a universal sin. We have many Brendon Tarrants being armed and incited by ‘your’ media. Those who kill people are neither ‘yours’ nor ‘ours’. Disown terror: both ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’ and relearn to love Victims: both ‘yours’ and ‘ours’.

The author is a journalism student at the University of Delhi.

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