Muslims need to say ‘not in my name’

  • GeoffEditorial
The success BDS has had in South Africa and elsewhere in making the phrase “apartheid Israel” familiar and acceptable, underlines the importance of what things are called - particularly in the social media age, where a name or acronym can go viral in seconds and affect the perceptions of millions.
by Geoff Sifrin | Jul 08, 2015


BDS knows what it is doing - it’s a powerful strategy. The name may be wrong, implying things that are not true, or giving a superficial gloss to something very complex, but the damage is hard to undo once the label has been attached.

Peaceful Muslims have that problem today in a huge way as the world is flooded with ghastly images of terrorists cutting off the heads of innocent people, mowing down tourists on a beach in Tunisia, and other similar acts, and broadcasting loudly that they are doing it in the name of Islam.

But if the label is false, why don’t peaceful Muslims protest loudly? It is a question that puzzles non-Muslims. Silence is understood as acquiescence, whether intended or not.

Last Saturday a reaction came from a strange source: the Egyptian foreign ministry. It instructed journalists not to link the terrorism of Islamic State to Islam when reporting on it, because it would “tarnish the image” of the religion. It came after a string of barbaric acts perpetrated in France, Kuwait, Tunisia and in Sinai by IS-inspired groups and individuals.

Older South African whites remember their discomfort during apartheid when they travelled overseas and were accused of being evil racists. Apartheid was being perpetrated in their name. Saying they were not responsible, that they were just living their own lives, was not good enough. They had to shout out their opposition, declare loudly that it was “not in their name”.

Do the actions of IS reflect what Islam is - the beheadings of journalists, the slaughter of innocent tourists, the suicide bombings and all the other ghastly deeds we’ve seen lately which make it feel as if the world has gone mad?

Most Muslims would say emphatically no. Islam is a religion of peace, we are often told.

Egypt’s “guide” to journalists was issued several days after a series of co-ordinated attacks by an IS-affiliated group that killed dozens in the Sinai Peninsula.

It said religious terms must be avoided in referring to the Islamic State group, as these "tarnish the image of Islam as it falsely attaches the horrendous acts of these extremist groups to the Islamic faith". The terminologies used "should not be associated with any religion or affiliated with any faith, even if these groups falsely claim to base their horrifying acts on religion and associate their gruesome deeds with faith".

Terms that may be used when describing terrorist groups, said the guide, were: Terrorists, extremists, criminals, savages, murderers, killer, slayers, assassins and so forth. Terms that should not be used were Islamists, Islamic State, Jihadists, and fundamentalists.

The truth is that most victims of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims are other Muslims, which makes it even more complex – it becomes one interpretation of Islam battling against another. According to Haaretz, “In 2013, nearly 18 000 people were murdered in terror attacks, and in 2014 the number crossed 32 000. Almost all of them were Muslims. In addition, there are the victims of the wars in the Muslim world, so the estimates are that 132 000 – 174 000 Muslims were killed in 2014.”

According to different surveys, an absolute majority of Muslims worldwide, including those in Egypt, oppose the Islamist State.

We can’t expect all South African Muslims to take up arms and rush off to the Middle East or wherever else to fight against IS to clear the name of Islam. Most South African whites who hated apartheid, lived their lives within it, brought up families, and so on. Peaceful Muslim families are similarly entitled to be allowed to live their lives unhindered as long as they don’t harm others.

But it would be good to hear Muslims say more loudly and clearly that they oppose IS, what it does and stands for. Their own “not in my name” statement.

  • Geoff Sifrin is former editor of the SAJR. He writes this column in his personal capacity.


  1. 5 adam levy 09 Jul
    Perhaps they are waiting for more Jews to join the 'Not in my name campaign' where Israel commits horrendous atrocities in the name of Jews. Action which seem to be supported by most Jews. Geoff - when will you see the hypocrisy in this position.

    Users are reminded that “Adam Levy” is not the writer’s real name and that Jewish Report has never been able to verify anything about him – other than that he is radically anti-Israel. He is, however, entitled to share his views in terms of our COMMENT GUIDELINES    -MODERATOR

  2. 4 Choni 09 Jul
    Problem is  that in the vast majority of cases  it is in their name, but they will not admit it.
  3. 3 nat cheiman 09 Jul
    Read the Qúran; The atrocities are most definitely in their name. In fact Chistians, Jews, Hindus, Agnostics etc are to be dealt with in the exact way that Isis are dealing with their victims.
    Moreover, if you read the Qúran, as Adam Levy probably does on a daily basis, then you will see Islams approach to animals including dogs and cats.
    I would be interested to know if Adam Levy has a dog or a cat (innocent question Adam).
    BDS is anti semitic, anti Israel but the time will come when their views are no longer permitted on campuses around the world.People like Desai, and Dlamini spew out hatred daily toward Jews .That also, will end soon. 
    My advice to Levy is "wait and see what happens when Hamas fires more rockets ". Gaza now looks like Disney land compared to what it will look like after the next war.
    And Isis will be an historical relic too, after they tangle with Israel.
  4. 2 Jonni 10 Jul
    Benjamin Pogrund a well known Human Rights Activist both in South Africa and in Israel and former Deputy Editor of the anti apartheid newspaper The Rand Daily Mail, has nothing but contempt for those who name Israel an Apartheid state.
    As he has said " Use of the apartheid label is at best ignorant and naive and at worst cynical and manipulative"

    Adam Levy sounds like such a person .

  5. 1 Gary Selikow 11 Jul
    Everything Israel does to defend herself IS IN MY NAME


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