Genocide in Iraq


Editor’s Note: Anouar Majid’s critique of ISIS is also a critique of many in the Islamic world who are too quiet about the crimes being done in the name of Islam. For that reason, we at Tikkun have to consider his views, just as we ask the Jewish world to consider our views about many in the Jewish world who are too quiet about the Israeli use of violence in Gaza. What worries us is the degree to which Majid may be willing to abandon Islam entirely, something we are not willing to do in regard to Judaism.
Tangier, Morocco:
When the world awoke to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some wondered why no one had taken the previous destruction of the 6th-century Buddha statutes in Bamiyan, Afghanistan seriously. Those attacks should have warranted a massive airstrike on the Taliban government and its supporters. Blowing up a part of our history in such a cavalier fashion amounted to a crime against humanity, but enlightened people shrugged their shoulders, chalked up such behavior to backward Muslim extremists and moved on. They should have known better. Who knows? Immediate military intervention could have spared us many years of strife and sorrow.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now known only as the Islamic State, did the same a couple of weeks ago when they detonated the tomb of the biblical and Qur’anic prophet Jonah in Mosul. It was one of their many attacks of pre- or non-Islamic monuments and even people. For the caliphate-crazed Wahhabi-inspired fanatics who trampled on the heritage of a city that was more than 6,000 years old when Islam was born, such monuments, as well as Christians or any group of people who are not like them, are desecrations that that have to be violently uprooted. It should, therefore, come as no surprise at all that ISIS is now waging a genocidal war against the Yazidis, a people whose religion has remained an enigma for centuries. Like many Muslims, ISIS considers the Yazidis as ungodly and must, therefore, be eliminated.

Credit: Creative Commons

Such violence comes on top of a Sunni dirty war against the Shia, Sufis, and secular Muslims, but what is striking about the whole situation is that the so-called “moderate Muslims,” who don’t hesitate to protest against many injustices, remain deafeningly silent about the atrocities inflicted on minorities in their midst. They may be eloquently loud when they perceive threats to their interests, but I have never seen them exhibit the slightest concern for the tragedy of others. In some cases, they simply remain blissfully unaware or conveniently indifferent.
I do not mean to suggest that Muslims are the only ones engaged in such wanton violations of human dignity because Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others have all shown murderous inclinations to wipe out diversity in the name of some God-given purity. But what is singular about Muslims these days is they produce no discernible dissenting voices, like, say, the editor and people of Tikkun. Most Arabs and Muslims love Noam Chomsky for his courageous stance against his own nation’s actions in the world. Fine. But where is the Muslim or Arab Chomsky? When a Westerner criticizes aspects of Arab and Islamic culture (even if out of genuine love for those cultures), he or she is instantly branded with the epithet of “Orientalist,” a single word that blends Western cultural arrogance and imperialism.
This time, the United States returned to Iraq to push back ISIS and hopefully avert another 9/11 scenario. But it’s still morally disturbing for any thinking and caring person to just sit on the sidelines and watch or make a private comment when the lives of a whole people are threatened with annihilation. We must stop and defeat ISIS now and launch a merciless attack on the ideology that inspires their brutal ways. For unless the views of ISIS are countered forcefully and unapologetically, the organization will return under a different name to cause similar or more mayhem.
To pre-empt such a grim future, we need to understand that the kind of Islam that ISIS espouses is a danger to human civilization and must be resisted on all fronts and by all people until it has no place to hide. I say this because, in my opinion, the horrors of ISIS are a matter of degree only, for their sin is one of attempting to execute the dreams of distant lords safe in their luxurious abodes. They are the contractors for a harsh Sunni theology. They are the builders of projects that are doomed to fail in our imperfect world and sure, therefore, to engender endless pain. I bet many moderate Muslims watch ISIS with bemused interest, for, at some level, they know they share more spiritually with Muslim extremists than they do with any other religious group.
This is why Islam, with its vast corpus and many contradictions, must be reinterpreted in order to provide meaning to people living in the here-and-now. Most importantly, well-meaning Muslims need to have a new approach to their faith if they want, in the words of the American Declaration of Independence, to appeal to a “decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” They need to be serious interlocutors, not endless complainers about the wrongs (real or imaginary) done to them.
Anouar Majid is the author of five critically acclaimed books on Islam and the West and the novel Si Yussef. He edits the online publication, whose mission is to enlarge the debate on Islam and its history. He also maintains the blog


8 thoughts on “Genocide in Iraq

  1. The Editor says: “What worries us is the degree to which Majid may be willing to abandon Islam entirely…”
    My question is “Why are you worried?”
    My own sense is that the world would be a better place if fewer people of any religion had “faith” — were active, serious about transcendental certainties based on one dogma etc (as opposed to observing religion as ancient family tradition which makes total sense.) I am heartened by Ms. Majid.

  2. Anouar, thankyou for your article and the courage it takes to write. It made me ponder the power of extremists of any faith… the fundamentalists of Christianity, the militarists of Judaism, and the ISIS of Islam. What fuels their power other than the simplicity of the faith and the black and white thinking which is so tempting. And I also ponder the silence of the moderates… where were liberal Christians when gay and lesbians were being persecuted in the name of Jesus, they are now on the bandwagon when we are safe and successful. Where are the Jews in the middle of this war… probably struggling with the complexities of the situation and how do moderate Muslims come out of the closet and speak openly about their love of tolerance and inclusivity in the face of this fundamentalist movement. Rilke says love the questions and not worry about the answers.

  3. We need more voices like Dr. Majid’s. More discussions with such courage.
    After all our time on earth, we as a people are still so mired in fear. It is heartbreaking.

  4. Dr Majid is unfortunately a lone voice is a sea of violence, he sees the truth,he suggests the way…..where are his comrades ?

  5. Thank you very much for this Artikel. I was searching for something like that, wondering, why all Muslims Keep so silent, instead of crying and shouting and potest and demonstrate up on this group, that takes all the wonderful and holy Spirit out of Islam

  6. Thank you for sharing your voice Anouar!
    I think there are a number of reasons why this may be the case. I have spent the last 2 years in Indonesia, a secular state of 200+ Muslims who are still weary to speak out.
    In 1965 a largely unknown genocide occurred of some 1.000.000 million Indonesians, supposedly communist (and Muslim!) and or Chinese Indonesians. Joshua Oppenheimer made a documentary about this genocide which is probably the most eye-opening documentary every made on the topic of genocide called “The Act of Killing”, Joshua co-directed the docuumentary and worked with an Indonesian crew who are all anonymous for fear of retribution:
    Indonesia today is a budding democracy which just had its 3rd democratic election and for the first time elected a non army candidate. The new elect Joko Widodo AKA Jokowi is a normal person from humble kampung background, happens to be Muslim, happens to be a Metallica fan. And he wants to open an Indonesian embassy in Palestine. But this country was occupied by my country Holland for 350 years and has just come out of decades of dictatorial oppression – sponsored by the USA.
    The fear of speaking out against the establishment is still here and whilst many people will speak out in person – many will not due to what I suspect is a historical fear of retribution. Indonesia is making great progress and has made ISIS officially an illegal organisation in Indonesia. Border control is now monitoring people travelling to destinations close to Iraq and Syria:
    A lot of the Muslim Arab countries do not allow free speech. So being a dissenting voice may bring substantial risk and may require a lot of courage. However the advent of the internet allowed me to find you and Tikkun and there are voices that are now starting to be heard – not just from Muslim’s in countries with freedom of speech but also in Arab regions. One that I just saw the other day was Dhiyaa Al-Musawi from Bahrein. Interestingly his dissenting voice was already available 7 years ago when his interview was first posted on YouTube. This interview despite the fact that it took place 7 years ago is still very relevant:
    I think we will see more and more of this with internet maturing and how we use Facebook. People are getting tired of posting photos or their food. So yes you can have 3000 friends online, Whats next? This is what we are seeing now is how people are starting to mature online. Less vanity publishing. Yep you can post a pic. Yep you can post a comment. It is no longer new and people like in life are starting to explore putting meaning into what is now second nature.
    I loved finding Tikkun today – applause to you. Loved finding and reading your post Anouar and you have brought light into my day – a Dutch guy in Jakarta – so the law of averages would indicate you would have brought light to others – even if they do not reply.
    People self-aggregate. Rant for Peace and Reason is self-aggregating here on Tikkun. I was not here yesterday – but I am today. This positive group psychology collective can grow and hence its voice can grow to counter exactly the silence that you refer to.
    You are not alone. And the internet is an unprecedented opportunity to harvest more voices like yours – which is mine – because you said what I think and so does Tikkun.
    Keep the voice going all at Tikkun and Anouar!

  7. Very disappointing article. The article ignores the reality in most Muslim countries that are ruled by dictators. We saw what happened when Muslims tried to change things in Egypt. USA, in violation of its own laws, has supported (money and arms) the overthrow of a elected government and the subsequent brutal killing of those who spoke up. Then using the guise of Arab spring the governments in Libya and Yemen have been toppled and it is still being attempted in Syria. We all know what has been done in Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction.
    To be sure ISIS is a scourge on Muslims everywhere. But nearly all Muslim societies are very weak at present not having been able to shed off the age of colonialism which still exists in the form of governments controlled by outsiders.
    If we pull back and look at the world at large today, by far the largest number of displaced people living as refugees are Muslims. This is a strong indicator of the weakness of their societies. While Muslims must bear some responsibility and will have to find a way to reform their societies the very active manipulations by ‘western powers’ to keep things as they are must be recognized. And as such there are very strong deterrents for most Muslims to speak up on this or other issues. Either the author is really that ignorant to not know these realities in Muslim lands or is simply no different from the mud slingers on Fox news in the fomenting of Islamophobia.

  8. I am new to looking at Tikkun and find this a very disappointing article. The whole spirit of Tikkun or healing is to offer constructive comments even when they are critical. This article simply regurgitates the ideas made popular right now by those fomenting Islamophobia. Simply look at the other comments on this article and you see that. Except for one person who has actually lived in a Muslim nation and offers a far more incisive view of what is happening there, it would be as if one is reading a FOX news blog.
    Here in USA the largest Muslim organization is ISNA and a look at their website will show they have consistently continued to publish positions on all events of violence. They have condemned the killing (it is interesting that when a ‘Muslim’ is the perpetrator it is reported as an act of terrorism while when the guilty party is not Muslim the media at large most often goes to great lengths to avoid using the term terrorism) of civilians here and abroad in all cases where the perpetrators claim to be Muslims. Similarly the largest social activist Muslim organization here is the much maligned CAIR. CAIR presently spends the vast majority of its resources helping the increasing number of Muslims in USA facing acts of violence based on the growing Islamophobia and in making the public aware of the growing Islamophobia. CAIR too has consistently condemned all acts of violence committed by those claiming to be Muslims and they are sent to all news outlets and
    posted on their website.
    As Mr Kraker points out in his comments, there is a heavy price to pay for being vocal in many Muslim countries that have never been able to fully get rid of the yoke of colonialism. Colonialism exists today in the form of repressive governments that receive money and weapons from western nations who talk of democracy but spend their resources to protect their ‘interests’ which inevitably involve people living under repression (not just in Muslim countries). Yet even with that there are voices in most Muslim countries among the journalist that report and write critiques about issues within their country as well as abroad. If one wants to hear these voices, they are not that hard to find on the internet.
    I state all this background but do not want it to be taken as apology or excuse for the state of Muslims. I think there is still a responsibility on Muslims to do better by themselves and as part of the wider issues and offering constructive criticism, in the spirit of Tikkun, would be a good thing. But how on earth can anyone think that this article offers any constructive ideas baffles me. For the staff of Tikkun I have 2 questions to consider: 1. If this article was written in the same vein about Israel would you have published it? I think not. Even if you do not have good background about Muslim societies it should be clear to any editor that this article is full of broad criticism and in some cases stretching the point too far. I say this because you do write an editorial at the top to distance somewhat from the opinions in this article. Islam is no more to blame for the gross actions of certain groups and individuals than Judaism would be for the
    at times heinous actions of the Nation of Israel or the actions past and present of certain people of Christain faith (or hindus or buddhists). So why publish such rubbish when the topic is concerning Muslims? Could you not find any better written article by a Muslim (or someone familiar with the issues)?
    2. If you do not have the resources to find good articles critical of what Muslims are or are not doing does that justify publishing a poor article? Seems to be contrary to the spirit of Tikkun. There are plenty of people here and abroad among whom you can find someone with the editorial credentials to help find quality articles. I would suggest doing that before publishing pieces that only serve to reinforce misconceptions. There is no need for you to do that. FOX news and others are doing a pretty good job of it already.

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