Around the world, there is an outpouring of shock over the terrorist attack against patrons of Pulse gay nightclub in Florida. In the wake of heartbreaking violence, commentators are quick to remind the public of how best to respond to terrorism.
As the frequency of these attacks increases, so do the common responses. A growing trend among these is that love is the only antidote for terrorist hatred. Certainly, the victims of these attacks need the utmost love and solidarity. However, showing love toward victims is not the only story put forth by commentators.
In his viral speech about overcoming ISIL with love, Waleed Aly said “preaching hate at a time when what we actually need is more love, you’re helping ISIL.”
The notion that each of us is responsible for moderating our emotional response to terrorism lest we increase the risk of more violence, is precisely the attitude that lies at the heart of victim-blaming.
“You’d better be loving and keep quiet or else you might set him off worse than before” is exactly the kind of psychological manipulation used against battered spouses and partners who are held responsible for domestic violence committed against them.
Expecting those at risk of terrorist violence (the general public) to show solidarity with an ideology that is used to justify violence against them is in essence shifting responsibility away from the attacker’s attitudes and onto the victims’ behaviour.
“Why didn’t you avoid this” victim-blaming is usually used against domestic violence victims, and is now being drawn against victims of terrorist violence. “Why didn’t you just leave?” – “Why didn’t Charlie Hedbo just remove the cartoon?”
In recent months there is a growing number of articles that direct non-Muslims to show solidarity with Islam and Muslim people. “Support your local mosque”, one article instructed. Coincidentally, at the time I was staying right across the road from an elaborate mosque in a small Indonesian village.
While I was welcome to enjoy the prayer songs that rung out across the village, I was nonetheless not welcome inside the mosque — along with the rest of the female population. The mosque also directed me to not wear my bikinis — in a sweltering beachside village. The bikini policy pales in comparison to the debate over whether Balinese women can wear traditional long-sleeve lace-adorned Kebaya dress, but I digress.
In effect, women are being held responsible for showing solidarity with a religion that actively seeks to undermine their rights, lest they be denigrated as phobic or inciting hatred and terrorism against themselves.
Expecting women to sacrifice their freedoms for any religion is tyrannical. And to link the criticism of religion to somehow invoking violence is psychological manipulation of the highest form. This is the “she asked for it” of religious totalitarianism.
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Image credit: AP