Opinion

Christchurch shocks you but not the carnage in the Middle East and Africa

War on terror must carry blame for making killing of Muslims acceptable to most people

24 March 2019 - 00:05 By SURAYA DADOO


In trying to understand why that gunman killed Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, commentators have been pointing to Donald Trump and his empowering of white nationalism and neo-Nazism. But as the news cycle developed over the week, a fundamental part of the story has been missing: how the war on terror has enabled and normalised the violent Islamophobia that underpinned the Christchurch massacre.
Trump is a scapegoat. For almost two decades the world has watched silently as Muslims were being bombed and killed in mosques, schools and hospitals from Fallujah to Mogadishu, Mosul to Kandahar. The perpetrators weren't members of some far-right fringe group.
George W Bush - largely seen as the architect of the war on terror- dropped 70,000 bombs mainly on Iraq and Afghanistan during his two terms in office: 24 bombs a day. The suave, mic-dropping, smooth-talking Nobel peace prize winner, Barack Obama, approved of 10 times more air strikes than Bush, dropping 34 bombs a day on Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Obama oversaw more strikes in his first year than Bush carried out during his entire presidency.
But can we at least console ourselves with the knowledge that these nonstop bombings - many of them carried out by unmanned drones - were killing the bad guys out to harm the US? Nope.
According to journalist David DeGraw, militant leaders on the US's "kill list" accounted for just 2% of drone-related deaths. Shockingly, more than 80% of them have never even been identified and the CIA's own documents have shown that they are not even aware of who they are killing.
Countries like India, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Myanmar have appropriated Washington's war on terror to further their own expansionist interests.
Over the past five years Saudi Arabia has killed almost 50,000 Yemenis in its "war on terror" efforts in the Middle East's poorest country.
Israel has killed at least 10,000 Palestinians in its "anti-terror" operations since 2000. Under the leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, more than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed in Myanmar one of the most vicious campaigns of ethnic cleansing in recent history.
India has stationed at least 500,000 troops in occupied Kashmir, with some rights groups estimating 100,000 Kashmiri Muslims have been killed there. Throughout it all, there has been little outrage - let alone repercussions - from the media, civil society or governments in these countries.
It seems as if the citizens of these countries didn't mind who their governments killed, as long as they were told that the people being killed posed a threat - either demographic or terror.
Wasn't this the Christchurch shooter's justification too? If the leaders of the free world have been able to indiscriminately kill "dangerous" Muslims at mosques, weddings, funerals and schools with no repercussions, why wouldn't he also want to get in on the action?
While the shedding of Muslim blood in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Kashmir and Yemen has gone by virtually unnoticed and been dismissed as something that happens in "those" parts of the world, the Christchurch attack has shocked the world. The fact that it has taken place in a "civilised" country like New Zealand, explains Hafsa Kanjwal, creates a discourse that places value on Muslim lives in the West but continues to render Muslim victims of war on terror violence elsewhere invisible.
Kanjwal is right. Take the example of Christchurch terror victim Atta Mohammed Elyan. Elyan and his family are originally from the occupied Palestinian territories. If Elyan had been killed in one of the 166 mosques in the Gaza Strip that Israel bombed during 2014 you probably wouldn't even know his name, let alone the name of the mosque. Dignity for the dead seems to be reserved only for those who die in Western countries. In the Middle East and Africa, the dead, it seems, have no story to tell.
The war on terror's violence against Muslims isn't just about the drone strikes and bombs. There's also Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram Prison, black sites, secret interrogation, torture, extraordinary rendition across countries, and the continuous surveillance of all things Muslim.
We've been forced to "discipline" beards and hijabs, police niqabs, and "tame" the Friday sermons. From Tooting to Jackson Heights, Fordsburg to Lakemba, some of our leaders have been convinced that we need to be spied on. We must be what Ugandan political scientist Mahmood Mamdani calls the "good Muslim": the integrated, always-ready-to-condemn, apolitical, safe Muslim.
Islamophobia isn't just about the tossing of a pig's head into a mosque or the tug on a man's beard or woman's hijab. Though these are clear expressions of anti-Muslim prejudice, what we must address is state-sponsored violence against Muslims. The global war on terror, writes Maha Hilal, is the blueprint for violence against Muslims.
New Zealand is about a war on terror built upon the dehumanisation of Muslims. The road to Christchurch began in Baghdad and runs through Kunduz, Tripoli, Sana'a, Rakhine and Gaza City.
You can't call out Trump's preposterous Muslim ban, his rhetoric, and his emboldening of white supremacy without first looking at his indiscriminate bombing of Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
According to US defence department figures cited by TruthDig columnist Lee Camp, the US military under Trump dropped 44,096 bombs in 2017 alone. The vast majority of those targets were Muslim. Shouldn't that feature prominently in discussions about violence against Muslims?
If we are serious we must challenge the endless bombing of untermensch in Muslim-majority countries.
The support from non-Muslims has been incredible for interfaith relations, but as long as we ignore how states are normalising violence against Muslims, then we are overlooking what got us to Christchurch in the first place.
• Dadoo is an independent writer based in Johannesburg. Follow her on Twitter: @Suraya_Dadoo

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