Facebook and Muslim Outrage: Gleaning the Wrong Lesson, Again

Category: World Affairs Topics: Freedom Of Speech Channel: Opinion Views: 3811

"Any depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemous by Muslims," wrote Agencies, as reported readily by Aljazeera.net English. The above statement is meant to fully summarize the reason behind the outrage that arises in Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world whenever some provocative 'artist' decides to express his freedom of expression and 'expose' Muslims as anti-democratic. 

Such a simplistic interpretation of such an intricate issue.

There is no denial - and no shame - in the fact that most Muslims hold their Prophet in the highest regard. Despite the continued decrease in the number of faithful in increasingly secularized Western societies, Muslims are clinching even tighter to their faith. However, while the outrage over the latest transgression by some Facebook user and his "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" may appear as a straightforward news story - that of Western values vs Muslim narrow-mindedness - the true underpinnings of the outrage is suspiciously missing. 

The nave depiction by Western media makes it easy for 'freedom of expression' enthusiasts to condemn Muslims for yet again failing the democracy test. 

Demo against the assault on Freedom Flotilla in the front of the white house, on June 1, 2010

The latest Facebook episode is a remake of the same old story. Some ill-intended 'artist', under the guise of freedom of speech, takes on a confrontational mission, knowing fully the response such an act would generate, and perhaps the lives that would be lost. Muslim masses, predictably, respond through angry protests, burning flags, denouncing America, Israel, Zionism, Facebook, Youtube and so on. Strangely, the very governments that are considered US allies tend to be on the forefront of condemning the 'blasphemous' provocations. Muslim masses are thus exploited on all fronts - by the media, by anti-Muslims, by rightwing forces in the West, and their own governments.

This, in turn, gives more ammunition to the Islamaphobes who constantly try to fan the flames in order to validate their racist perception of Muslims. The likes of Daniel Pipes, Alan Dershowitz, and other 'experts' invade our TV screens and take on the responsibility of lecturing the world on Islam. They use the same reductionist and racist language that they have utilized for years in the guise of academic jargon.

Why, though, are these 'academics' and 'intellectuals' eager to discredit Islam? And why are Muslims playing right into their hands?

It behooves us all to remember that some of those who champion freedom of expression are selective in their advocacy. Freedom of expression becomes important when the holiest symbols of Islam and its Prophet are paraded, ridiculed and stereotyped. However, these very advocates are enraged when the opinions being expressed are inconsistent with their own agenda, which is overtly militant and hegemonic, and refuses to take into consideration any honest opinion on Israel and its war crimes against Palestinians. One needs to repeat the way that the respected South African Judge Richard Goldstone, himself Jewish, was depicted for pointing out the horrendous crimes committed in Gaza during Israel's most recent war. More, these individuals seem completely oblivious when Muslims are denied the right to express their own values. When, for example, was the last time a rightwing fanatic stood up for a Muslim woman's right to cover her hair or face?

It must be stated, however, that discrediting Muslims and Islam is not a random strategy. It is very much in tandem with an overriding agenda that has occupied the thinking of many rightwing and Zionist ideologues for years, especially following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the rising of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fervor in various Western countries. The aim is to dehumanize Muslims, to make them seem less civilized, and thus less worthy of equal human rights. In other words, Muslims cannot be treated using the same standards that apply to Westerners, because they have failed to subscribe to Western values. The angry protests in Pakistan are supposedly proof of this. This makes war easy and sanctions morally justifiable.

Why are Muslims playing right into this scenario? Actually, they are not, although it would seem otherwise. The fact is, many Muslims nations are caught between two layers of oppressions: that of outsiders - wars and occupation, interference in their countries' affairs, all forms of humiliation and exploitation - and internal pressures - corruption, oppression and denial of rights, including, yes, freedom of expression, speech, assembly and democracy itself. These rights are also denied by the very countries that are seen as 'pro-American.' 

Under these external and internal pressures, Muslim societies embrace even tighter their everlasting Islamic symbols. Islam, for many Muslims, represents more than just a way of life and an answer to unworldly questions. It also provides a sense of hope, and it helps to maintain a level of solidarity and societal cohesion. The harder people's lives become, the more impoverished, oppressed and abused, the stronger their faith grows. 

Considering all of this, insulting Islam, depicting the Prophet in degrading (or any other) ways, bashing Islamic symbols and values is equivalent to denying Muslim masses with their last and only chance at dignity and hope. 

Those who are under the impression that Muslims are opposed to freedom of expression are only seeing a small part of the picture. Those versed in history understand that it was Muslim advancements in science, art and literature, and their most impressive translations of the great works of ancient civilizations that allowed Europe to bask in the sun of its renaissance. 

Moreover, those who are sensible enough to see the big picture will understand that when a Pakistani woman chants "Death to Facebook" - as pitiful and confusing such phrase may sound - she is not actually referring to a social networking website. Far from it, especially since numerous Muslims have utilized Facebook to share their own ideas with the rest of the world. What the woman is chanting against is the manipulation of freedom of expression to further humiliate her people. She is standing in solidarity with European Muslim communities who are under a most intense attack on their civil rights and liberties. She is angry at the war in Afghanistan, the constant bombing of innocents in Pakistan, the occupation of Iraq, the rape of women and the parading of naked prisoners, the siege in Gaza. She is angry about the Western double standards regarding democracy, about her own oppression and her people's misfortunes. And so much more.

*****

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

 


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  18 Comments   Comment

  1. Imam Salim Chishti from USA

    You can protest all you want but know this. Restrictions on anyone's right to free speech is a restriction on us all and will always come back to haunt you. Tread very carefully.

  2. Conrad from uk

    Screaming blue murder at the cartoons, expressing little if any regret about the death threats, the nation wide censorship, the facebook banning. How sickening, how typical, how alienateing for all non Muslims against such things as the profet cartoons.

    I have some quick questions:

    1 do you believe Muhammed is in heaven

    2 if yes, wouldn't he be completely immune from all troubles

    3 if so, why get so angry if they have failed to upset the very person they were aimed against?

    If only more Muslims would question the wisdom of this ridiculous outrage, why not be more bothered about the millions of facebook members in Pakistsan than to a man who they believe will never be troubled.

    Blaming non muslims in the west, don't blame the muslims who make extreme reactions, but blame the non muslims for provoking it in the first place, what does that achieve?

    Of ourse the western media can be bias and petty, but so is much of the muslim media.

    PEACE

  3. Zahir Salar from United States

    @Ramesh. I will not call you a liar, maybe its old age.

    Read your comment REf. # 54001 Dated 5-31-2010 ."The Naural

    World of Muslims." You did not mention Non-muslim. You said

    "Islam is what muslim do and practice".

  4. Romesh Chander from USAS

    Zahar Salar:

    As usual, you cannot read and cannot think. What I said previously was that to non-muslims, Islam is what muslims do; you forgot the qualifier 'to non-muslims'.

    That shows the level and quality of education.

  5. Arsalaan Ahmad Siddiqi from Pakistan

    why my Muhammad is more important than my facebook

    read my blog at

    blog.jazbati.com

  6. zahir Salar from usa

    Mashallah Ramesh. what a change of heart. Not too long ago you said Islam and muslim means the same to you. Maybe monitoring an Islamic website will do you good after all.

  7. Zahir Salar from usa

    Paagle your double standard is too obvious. At least try to conceal it. In your first paragraph you stated it's ok to say nasty things about the jews as long as it doesnt incite violence. What isn't the same standard apply to muslims? I am not condoning the way ignorant muslim behave, but muslims are humans and some behave ignorant and stupid just like any other religion or culture.

    Just to remind you it is non-muslim and yes incase forgot, Hitler and the NAzi were European whites that killed millions of jews and not Muslims. Yet muslim is the paying the price for European atrocities.

    "Decent western felt sympathy for poor African Americam", I guess you dont think there are decent Muslim. Howevrr, African American can see trough this hypocrisy , this is why Islam is the fastest growing religion among blacks and the rest of the World for that matter.

  8. Maya V from AK

    To Paagle:

    Strange! You see some sporadic crime, and see only that- and ignores and forgets about consistently planned mass murders, oppression happening right in front of you. You are worried about immigration, but not occupation.

  9. Romesh Chander from USA

    It is obvious, the people on this website cannot read. I don't comment on Islam, I comment on the actions of muslims; a very important distinction.

    It is not my job to worry about whether muslims act Islamically or not; that is job of Allah to who they are going to answer, not me.

  10. Yohan Yishai from Bhutan

    Blasphemy against idols is not at all blasphemy on the part of the believers but expression of their conviction with the truth in sincerity and courage to abide by it. What is/are idols but dead objects venerated by the living till the living turn dead like the objects they venerate? But those who believe in God and obey Him transform and turn into His children bearing His morality and character in their being!

    It is blasphemy to lower and treat with contempt that which is high but never blasphemy to declare the low as low. It is fairness in the sense of judgment. None need be sorry for despising the falsehood, nor any need to apologize for honoring the honorable. This is the doctrine of Christ for those beginning with the practice of Islam (which in the West is called Christianity).

  11. paagle from USA

    This article has 2 parts in my view. The first is one-sided and hypocritical. The second is cogent and persuasive, but incomplete. A few points regarding the first half:

    1) Non-Muslims often sympathize with Israel because they see that Jews have rarely been safe in what have become Muslim lands. When this is pointed out, Muslims have many denials and excuses, but also a pertinant reply: the wrongs done to Jews anywhere do not legitimize the wrongs done to the Palestinians. Agreed. So why is it that the author thinks that objections (exclusively verbal) to anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli speech have any bearing on objections (sometimes riotous and even murderous) to depictions of Mohammed? Like the treatment of Jews in Muslim lands vs. the treatment of Palestinians, logically aren't these two separate issues? Besides, people say all sorts of nasty things about Israel in the west. They even say nasty things about Jews. As long as there's no incitement to violence they're free to do so.

    2) The initial depictions of Mohammed occured in Denmark, where after making a movie critical of Muslim treatment of women - using the Koranic verses cited in support of such treatment - a famous artist (Theo Van Gogh) had been killed by a Muslim incubated in the community of Islamic immigrants. At the same time a peaceful Danish ex-Muslim (Ayan Hirsi Ali) recieved multiple threats and required armed guards because she dared to use her experience as a Muslim to criticise the religion. Danes felt quite rightly that their most sacred values - which are apparently not respected by many Muslim immigrants because they're secular - were under assault. Some lashed out with cartoons. The Muslim reaction to cartoons left westerners thinking that Muslims have no respect for freedom of belief (in any meaningful sense) and expressions thereof. It seems to me that non-Muslims have reason to be nervous about Muslim immigration.

  12. Zahir Salar from usa

    RAMESH as usual did not read the whole article and shows his

    ignorance of Islam . The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was

    humilated and was kicked out his own town. His followers was

    even tortured by the pagans and not once did call for retaliation

    and hurting the innocence. Instead he show concern for the

    people who mocked and redicule him when they are down.

    Ramesh unlike other religion Muslim do not worship

    Muhammad (pbuh). So to say "why doesnt he stop the people

    making fun of him ", means you are absolutely ignorant about

    Islam.

    The West with their double standard will not allow any one to say

    anything negative things they care about. When someone in

    Pakistan try to say something about Hitler and the halocaust ,

    Facebook ban his article and told him his article was deem

    offensive to some people. But I guess its OK to offend Muslims.

  13. H.A. from Yathrib

    Grandpa moonlight aka RAMESH CHANDER is losing it as he is getting older (common occurence as human ages).

    I am commenting to question his intellect. Once a smart man, Sir Chander, commenting like Sarah Palin, the ONLY America's symbol of intelligence.

    To educate Ramesh, it's not Muhammad (PUBH) who compalined about worshiping hand-made idols or any type of idols, IT WAS ABRAHAM (PBUH), and who is respected by Jews, Christians, and Muslims and all believers.

    Grandpa Moonlight has a lot learning left in his life. I wish him well.

    To be fair: his comment should be allowed on this website. He is a good man. It's the civilized "aka booze/scotch" that makes him act out once in a while.

  14. Khalifullah S. from India

    To Mr. Romesh: If muslims blaspheme Hindu idols, it is a grievous mistake and we will apologise. Kindky expose the facts and figures so that, in case, somebody had done the mistake unknowingly, let them apologise and not repeat it in future.

  15. Abuhamid from Malaysia

    This Romesh Chander should be ignored by the Admin and his comments banned from Islamicity.com.

    He is just a plain agent provocateur without any aim other than poking fun at Muslims and provoking anger. One day he claims to be a Hindu then an atheist and what not.

    In my country we have many of his kind, always trying to curry favour (getting into the good book) of the enemies of Islam and acting as if he is more bigoted than the most bigoted enemies of the Muslim Ummah. It really is the nature of his kind of people!

  16. Syed Husainy from Canada

    You said it Ramzy! "Bashing Islamic symbols and values is equivalent to denying Muslim masses with their last and only chance to dignity and hope".

    Oppression from all sides, humiliation, denying basic human necessities of life, etc, etc are stoicly tolerated but when it comes to their belief in the Creator and their unsurpassed love for the best person who ever walked on this earth, nothing can hold back the Muslims.

    Message to non-Muslims: Please read the Qur'an and biography of Muhammad (peace be upon him) by an unbiased writer and you will understand why.

  17. Romesh Chander from USA

    Any depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemous by Muslims. True. That means no restrictions on non-muslims, because what is blasphemous to muslims may not be so to non-muslims and vice versa. After all, muslims blaspeme Hindu idols and Hindu Gods all the time in their writings. What is good for gander is also good for goose.

    In this day and age of internet and high-speed communications, nobody has any control anymore. The more muslims complain, the more non-muslim people feel excited to blaspheme. So, the best strategy is to ignore; life is tough. If Mohammed does not like His blasphemy, let Him take revenge on the blasphemous; if He does not, then obviously he did not consider it so.

    Life is tough. Don't be a crybaby. Respect everybody's religion, no matter how different than Islam. If not, then don't be surprised by other people's actions.