ISIS, FIFA, and Other Acronyms of Terror

by Aqeela Naqvi

As of now, many of us have seen the raging devastation that is unfolding across the plains of Iraq. ISIS, a terrorist organization, has invaded the country and is making its way through cities, wreaking havoc. I am no expert in politics, nor do I pretend to fully understand the complexity of the situation, so I will stick to what I know in saying that what is happening in Iraq is many things: bone-chilling, tear-jerking, heart-rending. But the one thing it is NOT (which also happens to be the one thing the media would have us believe), is a sectarian conflict based on religion.

Contrary to what is being broadcast on news stations across the world, it is NOT a civil war of “Shi’a” vs. “Sunni”; rather, it is struggle of “Iraqis” vs. “foreign terrorists.” The moment the public accepts that it is a sectarian problem is the moment it falls prey to agenda-ed ideas of “Let’s intervene and stop the Muz-lims from killing each other.” And the moment Muslims accept that it is a war between sects is the moment foreign wolves snarl, “Divide and conquer.” The goals of ISIS are not defined by religion—because though they claim to be Muslim (a claim bolstered by the media’s branding of them as ‘Islamists’ while ignoring the circumstances that sparked their extremism), their ideological framework is based in nothing else than the lunacy which has been the sacred covenant of the Hitlers, Saddams, McVeighs, and other senseless killers throughout history.

The Iraqi people have united in defense of their country; they know it, and it’s time that we knew it as well: it is not religion, but hidden agendas, that preach of a God that is pleased by the murder of His creation—and that the sanctity of Sunni blood is as sacred as Shi’a is as sacred as Christian is as sacred as Kurdish is as sacred as Jewish is as sacred as the blood of any human being that exists on this earth. Their struggle shows us that as Muslims, we MUST unite—must learn to hold each other’s hands not just now when we’re drowning, but also in the future when we, God-willing, reach the safety of the shore. And the unity of Iraqis, no matter their creed, shows that as humans, we are a family, and we must take a stand against any who would seek to commit fratricide.

The Big Suits of the world prepare to stand behind microphones, painting on crooked smiles to hide the wicked tongues underneath, to tell us that we must ‘intervene’ and ‘liberate’ from ‘barbarism’ and ‘terrorism.’ That our drones and airstrikes will save the lives of innocents (apart from the innocents our drones would tear apart, of course). That the olive-skinned Other across the world must be calling for our help.

But do not believe them.

Iraq is burning, and those with the most to gain from its ashes would rain down gasoline from the sky while convincing you they are pouring down water.

To all the false puppeteers, I say this: Iraq is not your battlefield. It is not your international playground. It is not your free pass to a glistening ocean of jet-black oil. And it is not your culturally-arid tongue’s drawled out, casually thrown around, vocabulary word-of-the-decade, “Eye-rack.”

It is “Ee-raaq,” that beautiful word which curls backwards in your mouth like a wave and is stopped suddenly and beautifully by the awe-inspiring cliff of its composition. It is a people nourished by the sweat of honorable labor and the blood of dignified sacrifice, who are not afraid to protect their country, to give their lives to defend the holy shrines that represent noble values of Truth and Justice—because those buried in them, great men such as the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Hussain, and his brother Abbas, themselves entered that eternal sleep so that humanity might awaken and oppose each generation’s tyrants; might break free of the shackles of oppression.

It is a nation, a land of martyrs and dignity,
the beautiful child of ancient soil, Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization,

and it will not bow to your will.

Ours is a generation that has grown old on the mantra of “War on Terror”—but is yet unable to identify who the ‘terror’ that is being warred against actually is. It is a generation that has grown so accustomed to death statistics, that the Iraqis reported to have been killed in a mass execution yesterday does little more than elicit a sigh and moment of silence, before being forgotten.

It is a generation that turns corpses into ghosts before they’ve even been buried.

When I was younger and more deceived by the façade of a fairer world, I used to sit in history class learning about the Native American Trail of Tears, the corralling of Japanese-Americans in internment camps, the millions of Jews and other innocents burned alive in gas chambers, the African American freedom fighters forced to the ground by police dogs and hoses—all while the world sat by and watched. And I was baffled in my wondering: how come no one said anything?

But now when I see such cruelties happening, see the same pictures of mangled limbs and hollow faces, and then see the world change the channel—I understand why such atrocities could ever be committed. It is not so much the gun or tank that kills as it is the turning away of faces, the willful ignorance of those who think they exist on the outside of the conflict. The lunatics may be the ones holding the gun, but it is our silence that pulls the trigger. As W.B. Yeats puts it, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

Whether it’s one innocent killed or a thousand, the blankness of empty eyes speaks to one thing: the absolute moral decay and utter degradation of man. If this isn’t a holocaust, then what is? Have we forgotten how to feel? Are our hearts dead? Just because we are thousands of miles away, do we not hear the screams, such bloodcurdling screams…

Have we forgotten? The world is falling to pieces while we engage in celebrations. It may be Father’s Day, and while there is nothing wrong in appreciating the men who have raised us, instead of celebrating them alone, how about we also celebrate the values they taught us to stand for? Not the selfish upholding of the individual, but the selfless empathy of the pain of others. We may be sitting with or remembering our fathers in the security of our homes—but what of those children whose fathers are being gathered and shot like cattle?

Have we forgotten the despair of that young girl named Sakina who wandered a dark night a thousand years ago, looking for the body of her father Hussain…a father who gave his life so that oppression like this would be silenced before it could rear its ugly head and roar?

Cities are burning while we distract ourselves with entertainment, tune out the pain until there is only static in our minds; while we go to parties or sit on couches watching games played in stadiums built on the bodies of the poor. (Tangent that I will save for another rant—because although I love the game, I will not be an active supporter of an organization or a government that razes forests or displaces people to build modern-day colosseums. Because to me, the death of one Brazilian protestor fighting for the right to exist with dignity is as tragic as the death of an Iraqi civilian. Their oppressors wear gloves tinted the same shade of red.)

Have we forgotten?

There is a conscience in us that is urging us to search our souls, to distinguish between what is false and what is true; and to have the courage to accept and uphold the truth no matter what the cost.

Have we forgotten?
Or do we choose just not to remember?

Gunshots ring through the sky and we close our eyes, as if doing so might convince us that what we hear is not bullets, but the persistent patter of rain.

Such, is the great and terrible power of willful ignorance.