In the wake of the terrible attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, media mogul Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter to place the blame in the hands of the peaceful majority of Muslims, saying: ‘until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible’.
The opinions Murdoch shares on Twitter are often abhorrent and occasionally delusional. However, to suggest that peaceful Muslims share responsibility for such terrible actions is both dangerous and spiteful. In reality, ordinary members of the Muslim community share no more responsibility for the actions of extremists than anyone else.
Murdoch’s tweet created a reasonable amount of controversy and a backlash from numerous figures, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. In reaction to Murdoch, Rowling sarcastically stated: ‘The Spanish Inquisition was my fault, as is all Christian fundamentalist violence’. Although this is a mocking of Murdoch’s opinion, she makes an interesting point about the double standards society holds in regards to extremism and violent attacks.
On the 22nd of July 2011, in Norway, Anders Breivik, killed 77 people and injured 319 in a far-right terrorist attack. He claimed to be fighting in the name of Christianity, referring to himself as a ‘modern-day crusader’, much like those behind the Charlie Hebdo attack who professed to be fighting for Islam. Both Christian and Muslim institutions shun any notion that these attackers are carrying out violence in the name of any religion.
Despite the similarities between the two situations, there was no suggestion that ordinary Christians should have been held responsible in the wake of Breivik’s attacks. Why do figures such as Murdoch hold a dual moral standard for Muslims and Christians?
The answer is unclear; it is not as if average Muslims are benefiting from these extremist actions such as those seen in Paris this month. In fact, in can be argued that it is ‘normal’ Muslims that are the worst affected by Islamic extremism. A 2009 study by the Combating Terrorism Centre found that Al-Qaeda kills eight times for Muslims and non-Muslims. In addition to this, extremist attacks on Western countries also heighten any existing anti-Islamic sentiment from the rest of the population.
This Islamophobia caused by extremism will only serve to increase the marginalisation of Muslim communities in the West. Evidently it is ridiculous to suggest that Muslims should be held responsible for actions they are the worst affected by.
Murdoch later attempted to slightly backtrack on his previous comments by saying that he ‘certainly did not mean all Muslims [were] responsible for Paris attack. But Muslim community must debate and confront extremism’. This attempt at some form of redemption is simply confusing; if all Muslims are not responsible, then why should the Muslim community be responsible for debate and confronting extremism more than the rest of society? Must the Christian community debate and confront Christian-fuelled violence, such as the ongoing anti-Muslim violence in the Central African Republic?
The answer is no in both cases. The people committing or condoning these acts of violence should be held responsible, and the whole of society must debate and confront extremism, not just certain groups. The Muslim community deserve an apology for having fingers pointed at them by figures like Rupert Murdoch.