Is One Offensive Cleric More Important Than 38 Reasonable Ones?

Category: World Affairs Topics: Google Views: 5823

On October 12th 38 highly respected and theologically diverse clerics from the Muslim world wrote what is widely considered a respectful and engaging "Open Letter" to the Pope in response to his controversial comments about Islam made during his Regensburg address in September. Not only was the letter of historical significance, but it also represented an articulate and reasoned invitation to dialogue from Muslims with the Papacy on matters of theology and faith. The signatories included top scholars from Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, the United States, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Kosovo, Oman, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Iran. 

Around the same time, a single Muslim cleric in Australia, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, delivered a sermon to about 500 followers where he allegedly compared some women who do not dress modestly to uncovered meat being left out for a cat. 

I wonder which story received more news coverage. 

If we follow the Google news aggregator as a gauge, at the height of the news coverage of the Open Letter to the Pope, the story appeared in about 220 different news sites across the world. The only major English language news web site to carry the story on the front page was BBC. Most notably, the major US media outlets almost entirely ignored the event. With the exception of a front page story that week in the Christian Science Monitor and a small story aired on CNN, the letter came and went without much fanfare. 

As the fury over Hilali's remarks continue to gain momentum, according to Google there are currently over 800 news services carrying the story. That is quadruple the coverage of the Open Letter. I would expect this to increase before it subsides. The cleric's remarks are drawing furious reactions from around the globe, and the life of the story is likely being extended by the already tense debate over Muslim women who wear veils in the UK. 

The open letter signed by 38 scholars, who represent all eight major schools of thought in the Islam, is more representative of the global Muslim community than this one lone Australian cleric. However, judging by the prevailing media coverage any casual reader would think the exact opposite. 

When Pat Roberston or Jerry Fallwell make embarrassingly ignorant comments, they are dismissed as the ranting and ravings of old senile men. When any Muslim cleric does something similar, in the court of public opinion Islam is guilty of the offense until proven otherwise. When it comes to the media, Muslims can hardly catch a break. 

The sad reality is that if the 38 scholars who wrote the Open Letter really wanted the world to hear what they had to say, they should have first congregated in Cairo and burned an effigy of the Pope. 

 

Firas Ahmad is Senior Editor of Islamica Magazine

Muslim Scholars letter to Pope Benedict


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  9 Comments   Comment

  1. MJ from USA

    This is a stark reminder that people will always attempt to disparage Islam and that they will never be pleased with us until we follow their deen.

    Scholars and community leaders must learn that pandering to the whims of others, especially the media will bring no good. Read the seerah! Read about Sa'd bin Mu'adh! You will be hard pressed to find examples of either the Prophet (PBUH) or the Sahaba cowtowing to the pressures of the media of the time.

    Of course diplomacy and wisdom must be employed at all times by our Imams, but some times harsh warnings are required. Moreover, Islam will always be attacked regardless of how much we try to sugarcoat our deen for the sake of others.

  2. Ben Jacob from Malaysia

    We need to propagate Islam in the most pleasing way. Let us all do our part - small of big - to spread Islam to mankind but let us pray to Allah Almighty so that He opens more hearts as He gives guidance to whomsoever He pleases. But sometimes, the Hilali's approach gets better attention and results. We should not therefore totally discount the power of provocation. Let us send more provocatives messages into the open so that we can get more attention. The West can be hysterical about them - as always - but let us Muslims keep our head cool.

  3. Mohammad Ataullah from Canada

    I agree with Muslim Egyptian Imam/Cleric. How come we donot talk about number of reported rapes, attack on women and open sexual encounters in western countries including Australia due to exposer, tight pants, bikinis and phonography.

    How come we do not talk about women wearing bikinis, mini skirt, showing of cleaveage, tight pants and phonography showing their meat to men.

    It is women who are attacked by men. Women do not attack men sexually. Allah has given quick arousel in men first, for a reason.

    By women covering themselves brings safety and respect for women. It is for their own good if only they knew.

    Zionist Jew media hype, is only to keep Mulameen on the defensive while they hide what is Satanic evil practiced and written in Zionist Jews' Talmud. Please see

    Talmud: Role of the Talmud in Judaism

    http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/texts/talmud.htm

    THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TALMUD

    A Documented Expos of Jewish racist Hate Literature

    http://www.radioislam.org/islam/english/toread/talmud2.htm

    http://www.revisionisthistory.org/talmudtruth.html

    http://groups.msn.com/TotalTruthSciences/general.msnw?action=get_message&mview=0&ID_Message=425&LastModified=4675528911608093332

    Dark Secrets Inside Bohemian Grove (Reprise) (Alex Jones)

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1358319439993514946

    Alex Jones at American Scholars Symposium

    http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=865804996540880026&q=Zionist+Alex+James

    TerrorStorm Deluxe High Quality (Alex Jones)

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=786048453686176230&sourceid=zeitgeist

    the true face of your enemy... The "global socialist" bankers using money and power to entangle the world, and make us their private slaves. http://www.bcrevolution.ca/bilderberg.htm

    Total Truth Sciences

    http://groups.msn.com/TotalTruthSciences/general.msn

    http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Illuminati/illum-texe.htm

    Shukran Jazilan, Jaza

  4. AlHuseini from US

    there is very good Idea at the end of this article :). this scholars should sign a tready with the Mujahedeen: whenever someone about to blow something, please contact us to give you a note so the nazis propaganda can speak about it.

  5. Ngwa Tonji from Cameroon

    I am a muslim leaving in a non-Islamic state where the comments were made.

    Normally any Good thing about islam in Western societies is "not suppose to be made public" but as long as it is controversial every media has to put it up to gain acceptance from the "big fishes" No doubt 38 scholars are less than 1 scholar.

    We may complain but we muslims must live our lifes in accordance with the example of the prophet Muhammad (saw) and his companions and many will turn to understand and become Muslims. We should be the best in the society and the most honest ones and that will in future over turn the tables.

  6. peace please from Australia

    I am an Australian moslem and feel outraged by the Australian comments about the poor cleric and about moslems in this country. They took out a sentence from a lesson he was giving in Ramadan (few weeks ago) to around 100 people in the mosque. This sentence was taped and was translated out of context and occupied the front page of an Australian newspaper (2 days ago). I feel depressed about the bad response this article received. If you visit the message board of http://www.yahoo.com.au you will know what I am talking about. They have described Mohammad and Islam using a very low language that makes you sick. I often visit your site just for the relief it offers us Moslems. I wish I can reply to their messages but I do not have the knowledge and wisdom to do so. I was hoping may be some of this message readers are able to do so. I am sure when you hear their comments you will have the urge to reply accordingly.

  7. Romesh Chander from USA

    Mr Ahmad:

    Please don't compare Apples with Oranges. The proper comparison is -- who got wider News -- Pope or Islamic Cleric in Australia.

    The pope got wider news coverage in the Islamic world because the issue was more important to the islamic world; the muslim cleric got wider news in the west because the issue of veil is more important in the west.

    If both, Pope and the Australian Cleric, were careful in choosing their words, even if the issues were important, nobody would have noticed their sermons and speeches.

  8. Babandi A. Gumel from U.K

    What do you expect anything which is seen as positive in favour of Islam would never be given prominence that it deserves by the Media. If most of the politicians are against Islam or making deregotary remarks against the teachings the Religious leaders I can say are not. So the Archbishop of Canterbury here in UK voicing his support for the women wearing the veil is a positive development that at least the Religious leaders are trying to set good example for showing religious tolerence in multi-culutural society which the politicians unfortunately are not doing enough.He said in an article written in the Times Newspaper and widely quoted by the Press in UK any Society where there are no visible signs of Religion no crosses,no sidelocks turban or veils is politically dangerous.He warns the politicians not to interfere with Muslim woman's right to wear veil in public.As the Head of the Anglican Church the Archbishop cautions against marching towards secularism in the British Society.In the article Archbishop Rowan Williams said the GOvernment should not become a licensing authority that decides which religious symbols are acceptable.when the scholar expressed his own opinionin Australia which goes contrary to their own naturally it would be given wide coverage while the scholars that want discuss scholarly issues with the pope regarding the two religions would not be given prominence or be taken seriously as it would be seen as favouring Islam.So the Media coverage is not new to us we are all used to hearing all the negative publicity anything positive would never be given prominence. as they say no news is good news when you hear the news about Islam expect it to bethe same negative stuff we daily hear.So it is not new.

  9. Richie from America

    We as muslims should not complain. This western society is Judeo-christian. If we are living in their lands it's our fault. We turn and complain to everything and everyone else except....Allaah!When will we wake up and realise they will never be pleased with anything we do...subhaanallah.