Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A Jordanian pilot burned to death: who are the victims of Islamic extremism?

The organisation variously known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh or “that ghastly lot terrorising Iraq and Syria”, has apparently burned to death the Jordanian pilot it captured after his plane crashed on a bombing raid against their positions. To make sure the execution was as unpleasant as it could be, it seems the pilot was placed in a metal cage before being drowned in flames.

Muadh al-Kasasbeh with the captors who later
murdered him with all the cruelty they could muster
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on the Koran, but I suspect that it nowhere recommends burning prisoners of war alive. Equally, I’m pretty certain the vast majority of Muslims around the world would be as doubtful as I am that this is principle of Islamic belief. Some Muslims might argue that beheading people, as Daesh has also done, is legitimate since that fine ally of the Democracies, Saudi Arabia, likes to indulge in the practice, but not even that enlightened nation goes so far as to recommend burning.

It is all the more likely that a great many adherents of Islam will be sickened by what has happened, since the victim was as Muslim as his torturers claim to be.

That isn’t actually surprising. Amid all the fear that some new terrorist outrage causes us in the West – and the attack on Charlie Hebdo must have put ice in the blood of most of us – we have a tendency to forget that most terrorist violence, including most Islamic terrorist violence, has Muslims as its victims.

In exactly the same way, when the press was bleating about thuggish young men, many of them black, terrorising poor little old women and stealing their inadequate pensions, it failed to point out that the vast majority of victims of muggings were young men, most of them black. When people lash out in anger and bitterness, justified or not, the victim is likely to be someone standing nearby, who is probably very like them.

So who are the victims of terrorism generally?

According to the Global Terrorism Database, an organisation that really exists, in the US, 50% of all terrorist attacks around the world take place in Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. That’s a piece of information we ought to keep clearly in mind when we evaluate the success of the NATO intervention in Afghanistan.

Overall, where that database has been able to ascertain the faith of the victims, it finds that between 82% and 97% of all victims of terrorism are Muslim.

Over the ten year period after 2004, the US suffered 131 terrorist attacks, of which fewer than 20 were lethal. The UK did less well, principally because of continued unrest in Northern Ireland: over the same period it had 400 attacks, of which most were non-lethal.

Iraq had 12,000. Of those attacks, 8000 were lethal. Again, a useful piece of information when we think about Western intervention in a Muslim country.

Overall, though, the real message is this: the outcry against “Muslims” that goes up when a small number of Islamic fundamentalists carries out an attack, needs to be balanced by a cry of sympathy for the Muslims who make up the vast majority of their victims.

One of the most recent of whom was Lieutenant Muadh al-Kasasbeh. A Muslim burned to death by the self-proclaimed Muslims of Daesh. In what has to be the most shameful terrorist outrage for quite some time.

No comments: