The Blame Game: How Muslims and refugees are being scapegoated for the actions of ISIS

A Guest Post by Tangerine Dream

It’s been two weeks since the horrific attacks in Paris and there’s been an ugly racist backlash against Muslims living in the west and refugees escaping from war in the Middle East. Already there have been over 60 recorded attacks against Muslims in Scotland: The Strathclyde Union Muslim Students Association received death threats, a woman and her young child were assaulted in Thorliebank, 2 students were attacked at Edinburgh Uni and a Muslim Community Centre in Bishopbriggs was the subject of an arson attack. Several countries in the EU have closed their doors to refugees for fear they might be terrorists. This is unacceptable and plays into ISIS’s hands, it’s exactly what they wanted to happen. They want to create divisions between Muslims and non Muslims in the West as part of their strategy to eliminate what they call the ‘grey zone’, parts of the world where Muslims and non-Muslims co-exist.


The fire at Bishopbriggs Cultural Centre is being treated as a deliberate act

ISIS want us to turn on our Muslim friends, colleagues, and neighbours, so that we feel isolated and marginalised from society, in the hope that we will leave the west in order to live under their so called ‘Islamic State’. I’ve put that in quotes because ISIS are following a perverted version of Islam and are not Muslims; what they stand for is not what Islam stands for. The majority of Muslims are disgusted and horrified at what ISIS are doing – most of it is directed at Muslims and those who stay in Muslim majority countries.

The Muslim community and refugees fleeing from war do not deserve to be treated like this; we haven’t done anything wrong, and we are not to blame.  We’re not one homogeneous group of people with identical views, to collectively punish us is deeply unfair and ignorant.

However it’s not just ISIS that are to blame for the rise in attacks against Muslims and the backlash against refugees. The media and the government are guilty for demonising and othering us. Using the term ‘migrants’ is not accurate and minimises the plight of refugees fleeing from the Middle East. The Sun misleadingly said that 1 in 5 British Muslims have sympathy for jihadi – that’s total bullshit, it perpetuates the idea that Muslims are radically different from others and that we should be shunned.


Twitter offered more reliable stats than The Sun, as usual.

People have been fleeing Syria for years, but it’s only now that large numbers of refugees are arriving or trying to arrive in Europe that the media has began to take notice. So far this year, more than 750,000 refugees have arrived in the EU compared to 280,000 for the whole of 2014. It was easier for people to ignore that this was happening when it wasn’t in front of us. People were crushed to death trying to get into the UK through the Euro Tunnel and our government responded disgustingly by saying that they will give France £7 million to help with security in Calais instead of, y’know, actually helping them.

Prior to the large scale media interest, Cameron described refugees as a ‘swarm‘. This narrative just plays into the dangerous message that they are not worthy of being helped or even being seen as people. After the tragic pictures of Aylan Kurdi and the ensuing public sympathy towards refugees, he half-heartedly changed his tune and announced that he would accept a pitiful 20,000 refugees into the UK over the course of the next five years but then also opted out of a EU scheme that would see its member states relocate 120,000 refugees in Europe.


Whilst they are reluctant to take in more refugees, the Tory government are desperate to vote through proposals to bomb Syria, as though that will somehow fix the problem. More people will die, and it will create more refugees who will not be welcome in Europe despite our governments making the situation worse.

It’s important to understand the conditions that has allowed ISIS to thrive. Western intervention in the Middle East means hundreds of thousands of people are suffering and have lost their families, homes, community and lives. The 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq destabilised the whole region, allowing ISIS to get a stronghold in areas of Iraq and Syria. Innocent civilians don’t deserve to suffer from the blow back of the West’s actions in the Middle East. The blood of refugees is on the hands of the west and they have a responsibility to deal with the consequences of their actions. Blindly allowing our government to bomb Syria in the hope that this will solve things is dangerous and misguided.


The never ending conveyor belt of war

There was a huge level of public support and sympathy following the attacks in France. I was saddened by what had happened but what stuck out to me was the eurocentric selective remembrance. Attacks like those in Paris are a regular occurrence in the Middle East with hardly any news coverage to speak of.  Facebook doesn’t ask you if you want their flag on your face to show support and western politicians don’t offer their support and help like they do when this happens in the west. It’s hypocritical to feel sympathy for people dying in the west and turn a blind eye when it happens elsewhere and this attitude reflects just how institutionally racist the UK is.

Refugees and the Muslim community were also being targeted by the Paris attacks – and finally recognising this and refusing to stand by while the Muslim community is scapegoated will undermine Islamic State’s goals for conflict and division. We can’t allow the grey zone to get smaller, we need to remember that Muslims and refugees do not have responsibility for the actions of ISIS. The other option is, of course, that we help IS achieve their goals, by becoming exactly as racist as the terrorists want us to be.


Further Reading:

Beyond an image: Practical ways to support refugees

Will bombs bring peace to the Middle East?

Photos: Thousands rally in Glasgow to say #RefugeesWelcome


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