Last week I went to an Indonesian cinema to watch the movie called Neerja, which tells the heroic and true story of Neerja Bhanot, a 22 year old Indian flight attendant. During a flight from India to the US, her plane makes a stopover in Pakistan where a group Palestinians of the Islamic Abu Nidal organization hijacks the airplane. Neerja courageously saves the lives of almost every passenger, but she herself doesn’t survive the hijacking.
The movie provides a detailed description of how the terrorists prepare themselves mentally for the hijack. Before they attack the airplane they gather one more time and pray together to Allah. Thereafter, phrases like Insha Allah and Allahu Akbar are repeatedly used during hijacking.
When it was made clear to the audience that the movie characterized the terrorists as Muslims, a tumult occurred in the cinema. People stated loudly that these barbarians absolutely cannot be Muslims and more specifically that they themselves have nothing to do with those people. I also heard someone suggest that this showed once more how Americans always display Muslims in a negative way. However, the movie Neerja is entirely written, directed and produced by Indians.
I was surprised by the commotion. The terrorists pray to Allah and are inspired and motivated by verses from the Holy Quran. Obviously we aren’t dealing with good Muslims here, but certainly they are Muslims.
This denying and avoiding attitude among Muslims can also be recognized concerning the problematic situation with IS in the Middle East and towards other terrorist organizations such as Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.
Many terrorists, but also radicalising and already radicalised youngsters, find justification and motivation in Islam. They are Muslims, just like me and one billion others.
It’s easy to insist that these terrorists aren’t Muslims and have nothing to do with us. But let’s have a look at it from a different perspective. How are we ever going to solve the problems with Islam-related terrorism? Who is going to stop those radicalized youngsters who play the heroic terrorist? Well meant Western bombs have proven to be counterproductive. The terrorists see every interference by Western countries as provocation and strengthen themselves, both in number and determination.
One billion people live peacefully in accordance with Islamic customs and traditions. A group of only a few thousand people is terrorizing the world, which they claim is in accordance to those same customs and traditions. Does this prove that Islam as a religion is the problem? No, it only shows that a small group of Muslims chose the wrong path within Islam. One billion Muslims didn’t choose this wrong path and therefore they hold the key to the solution.
Islam presents itself often as the “religion of peace” and this is a great opportunity to demonstrate it. I would like to suggest the following to my Muslim brothers and sisters. Don’t see the fact that a group of terrorists is following your religion as an accusation addressed to you. That they are Muslims too doesn’t confirm that Islam is a bad religion and it doesn’t say anything at all about you as an individual. Try to see it as a chance, a last resort to reach this group of lost brothers and sisters.
A sense of futility combined with misinterpretation of and focus on just a small part of the Holy Quran, make from an everyday person a terrorist. Proper knowledge of Islam will take away the feeling of futility and make space for a peaceful and meaningful life. Western bombs won’t bring our Muslim brothers and sisters back on the right path, adequate knowledge and a correct interpretation of Islam will. Let’s not give up on our brothers and sisters, we better bomb them with our experience and knowledge.
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