Friday, January 19, 2007

Nora Boustany, in an article in yesterday's Washington Post titled "Arab World Outraged Over Hangings in Iraq," wrote about Arab reactions to the executions of Saddam Hussein and two other in recent days. Most Arab commentators were indeed outraged; the word "barbaric" summarized the nature of most of the comments, while many observers conveniently forgot the details of Hussein's bloody reign and chose to recycle him as a dignified "martyr."

To me, the most interesting paragraph in Ms Boustany's article read: "In commenting on the beheading of Ibrahim (Saddam's half-brother), none of the Arab commentators mentioned the shock many around the world experienced when foreigners were being kidnapped in Baghdad and beheaded by insurgents, often with grisly videotapes appearing on the Internet."

To me, this says just about all that needs to be said about the nature of the conflict in Iraq and how the Islamic world looks at non-Muslims. While the actual number of insanely violent, ultra-radical Islamists may be relatively small, their activities are condoned, if not actively supported, by many mainstream Muslims. A CNN report on radical Islamists in Britain quoted a British extremist named Omar Brooks as saying that, "Prophet Mohammed's message to nonbelievers is: 'I come to slaughter all of you,'" and, "'We are the Muslims. We drink the blood of the enemy, and we can face them anywhere. That is Islam and that is jihad.'"

It amazes me that the so-called mainstream Muslim world allows this sort of wildly racist and violent rhetoric to go unchallenged. The voices of peace and moderation are muted, few, and far between. The killing of Muslims is a crime, while the grisly murder of Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims is religiously sanctioned and leads to paradise.

The CNN report quotes an English Imam named Usama Hasan as saying it makes him 'furious' when radicals quote the Quran out of context to justify killing of innocents. "It's a 'very tiny' minority with such beliefs, he said, but 'it only takes a handful, of course, to create devastation...Many people are terrified of Muslims. They are terrified of a brother walking down the road with his eastern dress and his hat and his beard, because they have seen these images associated with suicide bombers,' he said. 'It is up to us to dispel that fear -- to smile at people to tell them that ... the message of Islam is not about bits of cloth. It is not about the beard or head scarf or the face veil or violence. It is about peace.'"

Imam Husan may represent the silent majority of Muslims. But unless he and others like him speak up as loudly as the radicals, unless they challenge the violent rhetoric and the twisted theological justifications for bloody religious bigotry, they are worse than useless - they are nothing more than silent supporters of the worst dregs of humanity. Muslims who rail against being singled out for additional security screening, who object to the view of themselves as wild-eyed radicals, have only themselves to blame until they step up to the challenge of facing down those who willingly and happily slaughter those who don't share their views.

Perhaps the so-called 'mainstream Muslims' will take on this challenge. But, as with so many other things, I'm not holding my breath.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece, my friend. Of course in many of the countries of the world, Muslims bringing a message of peace are likely to find themselves the object of violence. Salman Rushdie still can't go down the street for a pack of cigarettes. For years he had to live with the brave and kind family of Christopher Hitchens (the best left-winger on earth). Here in America you generally don't have to give a second thought to your public comments. Sadly, there are many countries, many of them Muslim, where a kind speech can make your children orphans.