Despite our Western-centric views on terrorism, it is an unavoidable fact that the vast majority of casualties from Muslim terrorists are other Muslims.
It should come as a surprise to no one that humans are tribal in nature. We tend to associate with, marry, and defend those who are like us. By ‘like’ I mean based on race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. We see the world in categories and herd ourselves with those who are from our susbset.
There is probably something evolutionary or genetic in all this. A long time ago, a large array of threats forced us to seek protection from those who would indeed give us shelter (based on some of the criteria listed above). In an era of limited resources decisions had to be made on whom to include in those to be ‘saved’ and those who were most akin to us would count. As for all the others, well I guess they were on their own.
I think this prejudice still reigns in modern society. We pay attention to things that resonate with us and ignore those that do not. This applies to our news consumption. Stories about people in far away lands are simply not as interesting as we have a hard time identifying with those people (there are exceptions of course as when clever campaigns draw our gaze to mass events like tsunamis or earthquakes ‘over there’ but even these peter out quickly).
I think this prejudice still reigns in modern society. We pay attention to things that resonate with us and ignore those that do not.
Something similar happens when we are talking about terrorism. There are far too many attacks on any given day – as this series is trying to demonstrate – for anyone to keep track of, let alone ponder and react to. If, however, an attack happens close to home, i.e. one in which one of ‘us’ is killed or injured, then we perk up our ears. This is all in keeping with human nature.
Islamist extremists, for example, are keen to kill as many of ‘us’ as possible. When their actions are not foiled and dead and wounded ensue, we are blanketed with news coverage and ‘analysis’. These events become ‘newsworthy’.
What would you say if I told you that the vast majority of victims of attacks perpetrated by Muslim terrorists were other Muslims and that the attacks occur elsewhere (i.e. not in the West)? It’s true.
If you look at any given day in the calendar you will see that a number of terrorist attacks occur somewhere in the world. It should not strike you as odd that the vast majority of these take place in countries that are predominantly Muslim, e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria… As a result, the vast majority of victims are themselves Muslim. Not ‘Westerners’.
Car bombing of Shia pilgrims in Iraq
For instance, on January 3, 2013 at least 28 people were killed and 35 were wounded when a car bomb exploded in Iraq’s Babil Province. The targets were pilgrims returning from the holy city of Karbala, where Shiites observe the end of the 40-day annual mourning period for the death of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
What is important to add to the context of this incident is the fact that the victims were Shia Muslims: the perpetrators were most certainly Sunni Muslims. This is a theme that is repeated on countless occasions in the terrorist world. Most Islamist extremist groups are Sunni and these terrorists have an inordinate amount of hate for Shia Muslims. I will probably return to this theme in future articles for Today in Terrorism.
Had anyone heard of this atrocity? Oh, it did make the New York Times and other news services I’d wager. But I would also bet it faded away quickly afterwards. After all, the dead and wounded were all from ‘their’ group.
Terrorism is terrorism and victims are victims, regardless of pedigree. We might want to remember that.