Desecrating, then burning the Holy Quran in Sweden has, once again, raised a political storm of condemnation, but also of justification, if not outright approval.
Such acts are protected by law, top Swedish and EU officials have declared.
But why are the rights of those who oppose western agendas, colonialism, imperialism, Zionism and military interventions not equally protected by law?
The Palestine boycott movement, BDS, for example, is constantly fighting in western societies and institutions for the right to use certain language or merely challenge, though non-violently, Israeli occupation and apartheid.
Iranian media offices were shut down in some western countries, and various western-operated satellites removed Iranian Press TV, Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV and other anti-Israel occupation media outlets from their line-ups.
Thousands of Palestinian activists have been banned or censored on western social media platforms for daring to criticize Israeli war crimes in Palestine. The writer of this article is one of many others.
More. As soon as the Russia-Ukraine war began, western governments were asked to completely block Russia Today and other Russian media channels from operating in western capitals, leading to the shutting down of offices, social media channels, removal from YouTube, Google and other search engines and so on.
In February 2022, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: "We will ban the Kremlin’s media machine in the EU".
For some odd reason, all this censorship is, somehow, morally and legally defensible from the viewpoint of the West.
But why is the right to insult Muslims so cherished, so sacred in the view of western governments and laws? And why burn the Quran now?
It is ‘sacred’ simply because Islamophobia exists at the highest levels of governments throughout the West.
Western lawmakers and politicians may argue that the law protects the rights of individuals to burn the Quran but, deep down - sometimes right on the surface - Europe’s ruling elites share the view of those who burn the Quran or desecrate Islamic symbols. Such hate is often blamed on the far right by many of us, but that is only part of the story.
Expectedly, once again, Muslims react by protesting en masse, storm western embassies and burn western countries’ flags. And when this happens, the very western political and intellectual circles that permitted or encouraged hate speech in the first place, take to the stage, juxtaposing, with unmistakable triumph, the West’s democracy and tolerance with Islam’s intolerance and authoritarianism.
How about the timing?
Notice how the Quran is often burned, Islam insulted, or Islamic symbols desecrated whenever the West is undergoing a crisis and is desperate to either ignite an anti-Muslim public frenzy or distract from its own failures.
This has happened numerous times throughout history, ancient and modern.
In the past, whenever Christendom descended into chaos, civil wars and revolutions, European kings, with the support of the Church, would mount one crusade after another in the name of ‘freeing the captive Holy Land from the hordes of the heathens and the Mohammedans’.
More recently, when the US invaded Iraq, or wanted to distract from its splendid failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else in the Muslim world, western provocateurs would rush to the streets to burn the Quran or would insult and ridicule Prophet Mohammed in their newspapers and magazines.
But what crisis is the West now trying to distract from? Ukraine, and the global paradigm shift underway.
NATO is failing to push back or even weaken Russia. The much-touted Ukrainian counter-offensive, featuring the most modern weapons the West has to offer, is a flop at best, a complete disaster at worst.
Moreover, the cracks of division among NATO and western countries are bigger than ever and are widening by the day.
The Wagner mutiny in Rostov, which ignited hope among western governments and elites that Russia’s President Vladmir Putin can be taken down from within, has completely failed. In fact, it has backfired as the mercenary group has been exiled to Belarus and is now stationed at NATO’s own doorsteps.
Worse, Arabs, Muslims, and countries from across the Global South are moving even closer to Moscow and Beijing. Algeria has recently signed a major cooperation agreement with Russia - thus strengthening their influence over the gas markets - and a host of nations are lining up to join BRICS.
In the face of this strategic failure and the complete moral, political and military collapse of the West, a supposed lunatic appears before a mosque in Stockholm, with the made-up altruistic mission of burning the Holy Book of 1.8 billion Muslims. A Western media fanfare immediately follows.
But this individual, and others like him, has little interest in defending freedom of speech. His is a diversionary strategy and, at some level, the actual orchestrators are not lunatics, but clever men, with high paying jobs and political agendas.
Indeed, these blasphemous acts are part and parcel of a larger western agenda, the gist of which is that the West is democratic, tolerant, and essentially good, and the rest are undemocratic, barbaric and essentially wicked.
This false maxim is just another take on the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, when he said, last November, that “Europe is a garden,” while “most of the rest of the world is a jungle.”
The fact that Russia has recently passed laws criminalizing the burning of the Quran, indicates that Moscow, like others, also understands that the issue is purely political - because it is.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net