With over a week gone since the Paris attacks, condemnations have been pouring in the world over, including the Muslim world, which has been increasingly denouncing Islamist terrorism in recent times. Less than a decade ago, while the West was clamping down against Islamist militants in the shape of the multi-pronged War on Terror, the Muslim world was still lip-synching to the West’s chorus from the 80s, calling the likes of Taliban and al-Qaeda “freedom fighters”.

The ‘mujahideen’ who were waging jihad against communist Soviet Union in the 80s, were believed to have been indulging in the same war against the capitalist West in the 2000s, according to the popular opinion in the Muslim world. The fact of the matter is that the biggest casualties of radical Islamists’ jihad have been us Muslims, when one factors in the death count and the anti-Muslim backlash that accompanies attacks in the West.

Whether it’s jihadists crashing planes into American buildings, al-Qaeda cell orchestrating coordinated bombings in Madrid’s commuter train system, suicide bombers self-imploding in central London, Lashkar-e-Taiba ‘mujahideen’ targeting south Mumbai, Uighur militants launching car explosions or knife attacks in Beijing, or ISIS militants targeting Paris in coordinated attacks, the backlash against the Muslim community self-manifests wherever radical Islamists orchestrate acts of terror.

Muslims like to sweep this backlash under the broad banner of ‘Islamophobia’, which is captioned with the now universal chants of Islamist violence having ‘nothing to do with Islam’ and/or that Islamist militants aren’t true Muslims – if Muslims at all. It’s common sense by now that ISIS, or other Islamist militants, are not representatives of Islam or Muslims as a whole. This is especially true when one considers the decreasing popularity of ISIS and other radical Islamist organisations in the Muslim world. However, to say that they have ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or to reciprocate their act of excommunication, is not only intellectually dishonest but also self-defeating for the fight against Islamism.

According to a Pew survey 11% of Arab Muslims supported ISIS in the Muslim world by the end of last year, a number that has plummeted in the ongoing year. Even so, in last year’s survey, 24% of the Arab Muslims demonstrated ‘positive’ and ‘positive to some extent’ views or refused to comment on ISIS. That’s nearly a quarter of the Arab Muslim population either supporting ISIS or remaining silent on its atrocities only 12 months ago.

This was after ISIS had closed gates of Fallujah’s smaller Nuaimiyah dam targeting the Shia-dominated south, where 12,000 families lost their homes; captured the cities of Zumar, Sinjar, and Wana in northern Iraq; orchestrated sexual assaults and ethnic cleansing against Yazidis who had to flee up to Mount Sinjar and began pulverising the Libyan city of Derna.

In Pakistan, pro-ISIS graffiti began showing up in September 2014, with Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz – who led a pro-Shariah rally last Friday in defiance of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act (1997) – publically supporting ISIS and praising them during Friday sermons. Aziz’s Jamia Hafsa released a pro-ISIS video in December a few days before the APS attack.

The support that ISIS got from the Muslim world, despite the popular sentiment being against it, was significant enough to enable it to recruit more jihadists for its ‘caliphate’ dream. Even though the support for Islamist militants in Pakistan – among both the masses and the policymakers – witnessed a decline following the APS attack, there is still sufficient sentiment in favour of Islamism in the Muslim world to fuel the likes of ISIS.

Multiple Pew surveys – quoted in this space many times – showcase overwhelming support in the Muslim world for the imposition of Islamic law and the harsh penalties associated with it – the quest for which drives ISIS’ caliphate. For example, as of 2013, 84% of Pakistanis wanted Sharia law imposed in the country, which according to them sanctions capital punishment for blasphemy, ‘adultery’, homosexuality, among other harsher penalties. A similar trend was seen in most of the Muslim world, especially Middle East and South Asia. No doubt the figures would be different in 2015, but are we doing anything to make that decrease more visible?

When we talk about ‘Islamophobia’ – a more appropriate term being Muslimophobia – we obviously talk about the ‘irrational fear’ or prejudice that Muslims in the West have to face. And so, in the aftermath of every Islamist attack, or a case of anti-Muslim bigotry – like Chapel Hill attacks, PEGIDA’s movement, anti-Islam rallies in Australia or vandalisation of mosques all over the world – we attempt to stand by our fellow Muslims in the West by clamouring against ‘Islamophobia’.

What we rigidly refuse to acknowledge is the overwhelming role that we Muslims, our beliefs, and actions in the Muslim world play in fueling anti-Muslim bigotry. Of course, the fact that popular Muslim representatives in the West – the likes of Anjem Chaudhry in the UK for example – have conspicuous Islamist tendencies, further exacerbates the West’s ‘phobia’.

While a lot of our effort is dedicated to being offended by the fact that ISIS chooses to call itself ‘Islamic State’, we need to be focusing on creating the distinction between Muslims, Islam and Islamism. It is the latter that we need to call out in unison with the West, which is the only way Muslimophobia would be countered. We can shout “Islam is the religion of peace” from every pulpit, but advocating beliefs and laws that contradict basic human rights, let alone supporting Islamist militancy, would constantly be the deal-breaker.

Conveniently distancing ourselves from ISIS, even though many of us share their beliefs, or jumping aboard the ‘West created ISIS/Taliban/al-Qaeda’ bandwagon is not going to help our cause. Western states, like all other sovereign entities in humankind’s history, may have preferred their self-interests over ours, by funding Islamist militancy to counter ‘evil communism’, but we should be more self-critical and condemn the part our leaders, policymakers, and masochistic popular opinion played – and continue to play – in our barefaced exploitation.

We must also realise that while communism was the the capitalist West's foe, Islamism is a global enemy, a fatal anathema to us Muslims in particular. While the ‘Islam’ in Islamism might irk many of us, it’s the desire to impose Islam, and the shroud it provides to radical Islamists and dictatorial regimes alike, that is the most frequently cited pretence aggravating Muslim world’s volatility. Unless eagerness to curb Islamism replaces over-defensiveness vis-à-vis Islam, both Islamist terrorism and ‘Islamophobia’ will remain unleashed.

Neither conveniently distancing ourselves from Islamist terrorism, nor mere condemnations of terrorism, would suffice. Muslims need to be at the forefront of the war against jihadism, which has caused more suffering to us than any other community.