Several days ago in New York, an American journalist, who is also a friend, asked me about extremism in Islam and about some extremist fighters who became famed as terrorists. He specifically wanted to know what makes a group of people in the Muslim world raise arms against another Muslim group.
We were talking about Afghanistan, Pakistan and the unsettled Iraq, where around 2,500 people lost their lives during the past four months in a wave of sectarian and religious violence and the struggle over power. We were talking about the young girls who were brutally killed in Pakistan on their way to school and about the mother and her children who were killed in an explosion on a side road.
All I want to do is stir a discussion over the reasons that make places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria more attractive to jihadistsCamelia Entekhabi-Fard
When a suicide bomber in the region blows himself up at a mall, he kills many innocents who are mostly Muslims. Random explosions aim to reap the biggest number of victims who have nothing to do with any party or with any armed confrontations. Many of these victims don't work with the government either. They are civilians, with most of them leaving nothing behind to support their families which end up suffering after losing their only source of financial support.
As a Muslim woman myself, I am left heartbroken by what Muslims do to one another. I cried when I saw the photos of the girls in a school bus that came under Taliban fire in Pakistan. I threw up when I saw a fighter from the Syrian opposition eating the organs of another human in Syria. I felt sick when I saw scenes of amputated heads and slaughtering in Iraq and scenes of massive murders in Afghanistan's Bamyan.
Taliban in Syria
Several days ago, Taliban announced the opening of a center in Syria to fight Bashar al-Assad's troops. My American friend, and the U.S. and western media in general, were shocked over the Taliban's interference in Syria! Can anyone rationally explain to the world what a terrorist movement like the Taliban is doing in Syria? Does Syria represent a new arena that attracts all sects, groups and ideologies? Taliban made Afghan people's lives miserable and difficult. Does it want to do the same to the Syrians? Who requested its help? Was it the Free Syrian Army that considers itself moderate among the opposition parties? Was it the al-Nusra Front or another party? The revolting parties in Syria are supposed to be Syrian democratic parties seeking to achieve a change towards more democracy and freedom. Taliban still lives in the stone age, and it does not hesitate to kill women and children for the simplest of reasons such as those linked to the right to education. Has it now become the Syrians' savior? There's no doubt that whoever requested Taliban's help in Syria and whoever allowed it into the country are most probably naive people.
During the discussion, my American friend asked me about the reason that made Taliban decide to go to Syria for jihad at a time when Muslims in Burma are badly treated and are subject to the most hideous types of murder and torture by Buddhists. Why didn't Taliban go for the Muslims' aid in Burma?
I am not calling for jihad here or there. All I want to do is stir a discussion over the reasons that make places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria more attractive to jihadists, like al-Qaeda and Taliban, than any other place!
On July 11, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced his deep concern over the humanitarian ordeal Rohingya Muslims are subjected to in Burma, and he called for granting them full citizenship. In a speech addressing diplomats at the U.N. headquarters, Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned about the sectarian violence that led to the murder of around 200 and migration of 140,000 Rohingya Muslims during the past year. Rohingya Muslims are deprived of citizenship rights and plenty of other rights in Burma that treats them as illegal refugees from Bangladesh.
Taliban and al-Qaeda must know these facts. So why didn't they feel sorrow towards these Muslims in Burma who, according to the U.N., are subject to the most brutal forms of persecution in the world? I jokingly told my friend that Taliban does not have televisions and does not read newspapers so it has perhaps not heard about Muslims in Burma.
Jihad against "infidels" is nothing but a show for some parties, including Taliban and al-Qaeda. All they do is look for excuses to justify the horrible murders they mostly commit against innocent people. If they had cared about Muslims, they would not have killed Sunni people just because they disagree with them. This is what they did with 15-year-old female student Malala Yousafzai when they stopped the school bus she was on in Swat District in Pakistan and shot her in the head only because she insists to resume her educational studies.
Let's take a look at Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria as examples. What's the importance of freedom for the people at a time when they fear for lives when they go to the market? When people sit in a restaurant waiting for Iftar during the holy month of Ramadan and someone detonates an explosive package near them, is this the religion that gave its name to peace?
I told my friend: If I had had the power, I would've sent all these extremists to hard labor prisons.
This article was first published in the Saudi-based al-Watan on July 17, 2013.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard