The slaughter of the innocent in Brussels

These attacks are identical to acts of murderous violence targeting identically-innocent people in different cities.

People gather to pay tribute to victims in Brussels after terror attacks
'Terror' and 'War on Terror' are the mirror images of each other, writes Dabashi [EPA]

In the course of the most recent acts of vicious violence targeting innocent people, the Brussels attacks have caused scores of casualties.

“Western Europe was on high alert after attackers launched twin assaults in Belgium’s capital Brussels with bombs ripping through the airport and the underground metro line,” Al Jazeera reported. “More than 30 people were killed and hundreds wounded – many in critical condition.”

Within hours, presumed supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group assumed responsibility via a Twitter account.

“ISIL supporters claim group responsibility for Brussels attacks,” we read in the news. “We have come to you with slaughter.”

This is digital warfare in action, with real victims, paralysing terror, and fictitious responsibilities.

Any dimwitted cuckoo with a Twitter account can tweet “F*** Belgium. Belgium wanted to bomb the Islamic State. Now enjoy what your hands have sown”.

Precisely the same tweets are, in turn, picked up by well-funded, rightwing, Islamophobic propaganda machines to denounce Islam, stigmatise Muslims, and further fuel the fire of xenophobic hatred now best exemplified by choice Republican candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Systematic violence

The vicious cycle therefore perpetuates and exacerbates itself. Murderous criminals commit acts of systemic violence targeting innocent people, and their kindred souls among the proto-Nazi Islamophobes pick up where their brethren have left off to perpetuate a cycle of violence.

ISIL is US and EU militarism by other means, in urban disguise. ISIL is not a response to US or EU militarism. It is a software in the hardware of its machinery of death and destruction.


Innocent people from Brussels to Beirut, from Paris to Istanbul, from Baghdad to San Bernardino, and around the world are then caught in between this vicious circle.

What is needed is a conceptual puncture and a categorical breakage to this vicious cycle. The slaughter of innocent people in Brussels is the extension of the slaughter of the innocent in the Islamic world, not in response to or revenge for it.

When the criminal thugs gather around ISIL’s banner and commit atrocities around the world, they present it as acts of revenge against “Western aggression”. These are not acts of revenge and retaliation. These are identical acts of murderous violence targeting identically innocent people in different sites.

The murderous outfit that calls itself ISIL is the crooked product, the diabolic extension and the ugly shadow of precisely what it is they say they are fighting.

ISIL and Islamophobes

Muslims must not fall into the trap of saying they are innocent and have nothing to do with these acts of violence. Of course they do not. It is like saying they are not responsible for global warming.

There is no logical link between the crime and the declaration of innocence. Even declaring this is not Islam, or Islam is peaceful, or most Muslims are peaceful, is an admission of guilt by association.

Critical thinkers in Europe and the US, too, must stop defending Muslims against such accusations as if the fabricated charges have any legitimacy.

The more Muslims defend themselves, the more well-intentioned people in the United States and European Union keep exonerating Muslims, the more vicious this cycle perpetuates itself.

This is a trap, a conceptual ruse, an analytical canard and a logical fallacy: fabricated by two identically vicious warmongers – ISIL and Islamophobes – to lend themselves non-existent legitimacy.

OPINION: Brussels attacks: How rhetoric radicalises

ISIL is US and EU militarism by other means, in urban disguise. ISIL is not a response to US or EU militarism. It is a software in the hardware of its machinery of death and destruction.

ISIL was not invented by CIA or any other such outfit, as the ridiculous conspiracy theories would have it. ISIL is the logical extension of the US militarism, not its conspiratorial invention.

The victims of US and EU invasions, occupations, bombings, drone strikes and deadly sanctions are identical with the victims of ISIL attacks from Iraq, Syria and Turkey to France, the US and Mali.


We, as innocent people East, West, North and South of this fragile globe, are not fighting on two sides of two opposing ideologies.

We are all – French or Arab, Christian or Muslim, Belgian or Turk – identical victims of only one militant ideology that targets and kills us with identically vicious tenacity.

As we mourn the victims of any act of vicious violence in Brussels or in Beirut, in Paris or in Aleppo, in San Bernardino or in Istanbul, we must remain steadfast not to fall victim to the dimwitted conceptual trap this vicious cycle of violence has devised to perpetuate itself between (“Terror” and “War on Terror”).

“Terror” and “War on Terror” are the mirror images of each other.

We have nothing to do with either of those two vicious ideologies. We – Muslims, Christians, Jews, gentiles, Europeans, Arabs, US citizens or otherwise – are victims of it.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.