As the air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets continue, a parallel battle of sorts has been taking place in the ether.
Over the last two weeks, young Muslims from various countries have been posting messages on Twitter and other social media platforms denouncing ISIS' actions as un-Islamic, with the hashtag #notinmyname.
"ISIS does not represent Islam, we condemn it," Malaysian Aizat Amdan (@MuhdAizatAmdan) said in a tweet on Sept 18.
This effort, started by the British group Active Change Foundation, has also attracted derogatory tweets from apparent ISIS supporters. Posted in various languages and apparently originating from a range of nations from India to Indonesia, these counter- tweets deride the "gullible sellouts" and the "coconut Muslims" deemed to be brown on the outside but white on the inside.
Mr Hanif Qadir (@HanifQadir), who heads the foundation which was created to counter violent extremism and terrorism, appeared unperturbed.
"The extremists need to see a united front against them which will push them away from the main body of Muslims," he said on Twitter.
His tweet drew a retort from another Britain-based user, Mr Mizanur Rahman (@Abu_Baraa1) who said: "Where are the #notinmyname videos against the air strikes killing Muslims?"
The online campaign has nevertheless caught on.
Karachi-based Ms Patakha Guddi (@filmyjoyo) posted: "We just want the world to know that #ISIS is not what Islam is. Islam preaches tolerance and compassion for humanity."
Comments like hers come amid concerns that anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise globally as non-Muslims - including those on social media - associate ISIS' brutality with Muslims.
Jordan's King Abdullah echoed such concerns in an interview with US television network CBS earlier this week. Asked whether ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was an Islamic heretic, he replied: "I think to use the word 'Islam' and him in the same sentence is not acceptable. That he even speaks in the name of Islam for me is so horrendous and so shocking."
Jordan, alongside Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, joined the United States in air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria on Tuesday.
The strikes have, however, drawn a mixed response among ordinary people in Muslim- majority countries like Indonesia, prompting their leaders to take a wait-and-see approach to joining the coalition for now.
Addressing cadets at US military academy West Point on Monday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said solutions that rely on military measures alone usually do not resolve the situation.
"To deal with this difficult and complex situation, we will also need to apply soft power or smart power in different doses and forms," he said. Last month, he called on netizens to take the battle against radicals to social media.
Dr Ali Munhanif, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Society at Jakarta's Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, told The Straits Times that ISIS has been adept at rallying support by playing up the perception of Western domination of Muslim countries. "We have to prevent ISIS mushrooming, but the strikes are not productive either," he said.
At the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, fellows Muhammad Haniff Hassan and Mustazah Bahari, who are both Singaporean Islamic scholars, have compiled and posted online a list of Muslim voices from all over the world against the Islamic State.
The list, which is still being updated, has 86 prominent scholars, groups and countries speaking out against ISIS, and just five who explicitly support it. "It is hoped this list would contribute to... those who are looking for information of Muslims' rejection and condemnation of IS," they wrote, referring to the group.
This article was first published on Sep 25, 2014.
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