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Picking on Muslims is getting dull

  • 12 September 2014

It should be a given that a young child brandishing a severed human head is something that no reasonable person would condone. And yet such is the animosity toward Islam that when one such image was splashed on the front page of The Australian – the son of an Australian 'jihadist' posing with the decapitated head of a Syrian soldier – Muslims were expected to vocalise their horror lest they be taken to approve of it.

As Muslim academic and feminist Susan Carland tweeted at the time, 'If you honestly need me to TELL you that I don't agree with a father getting his young son to hold up a severed head…I kind of want to cry.'

The relentless persecution of minorities, public beheadings of journalists and crucifixions that are a now a daily occurrence in Syria and Iraq are all atrocities that most Muslims find no less terrifying and distressing than the wider community. It is a testament to how 'different' Muslims are considered that some Australians still think many, if not all, Muslims living here are not only unbothered by such atrocities, but actually support them as a legitimate expression of Islam.

This is the reality for Muslims in the age of the war against terror. Condemning terrorism is exhausting. No matter how loudly or often Muslims distance themselves from the actions of groups such as the so-called Islamic State (IS), it is never enough.

That the world's 1.8 billion or so Muslims are expected to rally against every bad deed committed by a stranger who happens to nominally share their faith speaks to the deep distrust with which Muslims are regarded.

It is demoralising to know that people in my own country assume, or at least suspect, that I approve of these atrocities. Whether I like it or not, my religious background and my name tie me to these 'jihadists.' Their actions reflect on me; I feel the permanent weight of expectation to publicly apologise for their actions.

And I do so, knowing full well that to some, nothing I say will make up for the fact that I was born into the Islamic faith. Or, more specifically, I was born into one of the many Islamic faiths.

That a non-practising Alawite Muslim such as myself feels pressured to repeatedly condemn rogue Sunni groups like IS demonstrates both how much the west fears 'otherness', and the extent to which western society is unwilling to