Westerners Forget – or Don’t Care – That Most Victims of Islamic Extremist Attacks Are Muslim

When the Islamic State attacks Muslim citizens, it’s counting on Western apathy. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

When the Islamic State attacks Muslim citizens, it’s counting on Western apathy. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Recent attacks by Islamist extremists in Istanbul, Iraq, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have been staggering: over 300 dead. Westerners always complain that Muslims don’t speak out enough about atrocities that impact the West. We forget, though, that the vast majority of the victims of Islamic extremists attacks are Muslim noncombatants. Sympathy for them from the West is decidedly lacking.

At the New York Times, Anne Barnard writes:

By Tuesday, Michel Kilo, a Syrian dissident, was leaning wearily over his coffee at a Left Bank cafe, wondering: Where was the global outrage? Where was the outpouring that came after the same terrorist groups unleashed horror in Brussels and here in Paris? In a supposedly globalized world, do nonwhites, non-Christians and non-Westerners count as fully human?

Many Americans no doubt think (anecdotal; no polling evidence) it’s their own fault for failing to police their religion and people. Just as many of us felt about the civil strife (a phrase that hardly does the horrors justice) that broke out in Iraq after the invasion: We gave them their freedom? This is what they are doing with it? Furthermore, writes Ms. Barnard:

In the West, though, there is a tendency in certain quarters, legitimized by some politicians, to conflate extremist Islamist militants with the Muslim societies that are often their primary victims, or to dismiss Muslim countries as inherently violent.

But, she writes, “the relative indifference after so many deaths caused by the very groups that have plagued the West is more than a matter of hurt feelings.” In fact – and this may be as new to you as it was to me – this might help explain why Islamist extremists have few qualms about killing their own kind (Sunnis) as well as Shiites:

One of the primary goals of the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups is to drive a wedge between Sunni Muslims and the wider world, to fuel alienation as a recruiting tool. And when that world appears to show less empathy for the victims of attacks in Muslim nations, who have borne the brunt of the Islamic State’s massacres and predatory rule, it seems to prove their point.

In other words, the Islamic State and other Islamic extremists are leveraging our apathy against us.