By Mehernaz Patel:
One may not be too familiar with Ted Cruz, but in a while, there will be no forgetting the first candidate who announced his run for the 2016 Presidential Election of the United States of America.
I wasn’t too familiar with the man either. Ted Cruz, admirably the first man with a Cuban heritage to serve as a senator from Texas, announced his intention to run for President amidst media fueled frenzy. After announcing his intention to run on twitter, Ted Cruz gave a rousing speech at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Virginia.
Yet, what made his speech interesting was by no means the overall content, in fact, that was pretty standard – a personal adage, a shout out to Jesus Christ, and a talk about the “promise of America.” What made the speech truly rousing, however, was the following:
“Imagine a president who says we will stand up and defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and we will call it by its name. We will defend the United States of America.”
Again, by no means was this the primary content of his speech, no, that was the hope to flourish and grow, which the United States gives to those hailing from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Of course, radical Islamic terrorism – let us call it by its name- does not exist. This is not intended to deny the horrors that the world faces today, this is intended to defeat the belief that terrorism should be associated exclusively with one religion, over and over again. A culturally vibrant community is seen as a homogeneous entity by those who think that it is acceptable to commit unforgivable acts in the name of “radical Islam”.
I know you’ve heard this before; we all have heard this at some point of time or another. The differentiation between Islam and terrorism is a common enough concept that we’ve all understood to observe, and yet the association of terrorism with Islam still goes on. The argument is obviously inaccurate and yet, it still seems to run so deep that there wasn’t even a reaction in the crowd over the statement made by Ted Cruz.
The worst part is that I do not believe it to have been an intentional offence; it was a cry of help from a man in a country looking for a new leadership. It was also aimed at rallying a people against a community that has a minority representation. Also, it was a cry against a diverse, culturally and linguistically complex people, who cannot be viewed by a tunnel vision that is constituted by ignorance and fuelled by unintended bias. This fixation with the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ is currently absolute.
I myself admit to making this association between orthodox Islamic belief and terrorism, but then I constantly correct myself. But to use the words radical-Islamic-terrorism in a neatly strung row brings up some dangerous questions. Not only does it condemn millions of innocent people to the fate of being side-lined by mainstream America, it also dissociates the complex web that is terrorism into a fanatical, religion-based crime demanding no further introspection. Terrorism is economic, social, political, and clearly linguistic. And by neatly pigeonholing it on a public forum, we are simply allowing it more room for growth by ignoring its multiple facets.
Further, Ted Cruz called upon the faithful in America to vote for their values, lamenting that only half of the Christian born individuals are casting votes. And, just like that, Ted Cruz created a potentially devastating opposition.
However futile the effort to dispel islamophobia and misinformation may be, here is an inspirational instance:
“Imagine a young Kurdish combatant who has been trained to defend what she stands for. On a posting while defending herself against the forces of the ISIS , she runs out of ammunition.
This brave woman, who was quoted as having said that one of her comrades is worth a hundred men of ISIS, took her life, refusing to surrender to the enemy forces.”
Or perhaps, this inspirational instance will show the problem with stereotyping terrorism:
“Imagine a bike patrolman in Paris, heading along his daily commute, when shot brutally trying to confront a terrorist who shared his faith.”
These isolated and yet, inseparable incidents, where two individuals – Ceylan Ozalp and Ahmed Merabet – show how terrorist-survivor/victim interactions can play out. These are just two insidents amongst the millions of narratives that could be used to describe the complexity of terrorism. These can be used to describe the bravery of an individual when confronted by other individuals, without resorting to cruel labeling.
Language is a medium of great importance. It is the only way we know for communicating. The framing of it affects an entire species and influences the ways in which they see and act their reality. By framing it as Cruz did, we only problematize the notions surrounding religion, culture, belief, and faith. Moreover, by engaging in this manner we also cause a global pandemic where anything that we – as a “global population” – cannot comprehend gets marginalized.
Clearly, Cruz’s statement was not the best follow up to his proclamation that went – “That’s a diverse crowd!”
Here is a video of Cruz’ announcement speech:
You can find the transcript here.