For years, the Muslim reaction to the Israeli government’s criminal acts against defenseless Palestinians was silence, silence and more silence. Sure, a few public statements of condemnation may have been issued now and then by Muslim governments, and some aid may have been sent to Gaza. But the occupation of Palestinian lands was never sincerely addressed, and in all these years it has never been a serious concern.
People in the Islamic world have much to concern them, but they should still care more than they have about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Even in recent years, when the actions of some opportunistic terrorist leaders have drawn so much attention, we should not have allowed our own attentions to stray from humanitarian disasters such as the occupation of Palestine.
There have long been such terrorist leaders. It used to be Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Afghan Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, called himself a caliph, a leader of all Muslims. Today, another man with a different name and a different—Al-Qaeda-inspired—terrorist group has also declared himself caliph. While these men claim to be acting in the name of Islam, at the same time they and their followers are actually killing thousands upon thousands of innocent people. They would have to be paranoid and delusional to believe that such actions constituted a mission from God.
We know what the Taliban did to Afghanistan and the Afghan people, and how they became one of the most brutal governments of the 1990s, committing such atrocities as the massacre of the Hazara Shi’ites and the execution of thousands of their political opponents. The memories of 9/11, of those horrifying attacks on the United States that killed more than 3,000 people, are still fresh in our minds. And today, those seeds of terrorism have spread and continue to confront us. Right now, another group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has emerged, and it has adopted the aims and goals of the Taliban: to establish an “Islamic State” and fight their fellow Muslims.
But while these horrifying monsters commit their unthinkable acts, they cannot hear the screams of Palestinian children dying in aerial bombardments.
If these terrorists are so adamant about their Islamic faith and the justice of their acts, why don’t they hear those cries? Why don’t they feel the oppression of Muslims in other states, such as the Muslim minority in Burma, who are oppressed and even murdered because of their religion? What prompts these fighters to go to Syria and Iraq, instead of going to Israel or Burma or all the other places where their brothers and sisters in the Islamic faith are oppressed?
I am, of course, not encouraging these fighters to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to ask a simple question so we can understand what makes places like Iraq and Afghanistan so attractive to jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and now ISIS.
In truth, what they say about fighting for Islam against infidels is merely a cover. Otherwise, they could use real issues facing Muslims around the world to display their true faith in Islam and their compassion for believers. We should be alarmed about how ISIS and other militant groups in the region threaten our religion under the pretext of the unification of Muslim lands. So long as such conflicts continue, repressive regimes can use them as a pretext to crush their opposition and the Muslim minorities in their countries.