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Selective Muslim Silence

Where is the sane moderate peace loving Muslim world? Why is its voice so rarely raised in condemnation of Islamist atrocities? It is a question which has been raised in ever increasing urgency since 9/11 and not only by Westerners. A few Muslim commentators have raised it too, but they remained the exception rather than the rule. Last time I raised the issue, it was in the context of a number of cased involving the charge of “insulting Islam,” a charge which led to anti-Coptic riots as well as to the imprisoning a 78-year old Iranian Ayatolla and an Afghani editor of a woman’s magazine.

An Indonesian (and Harvard graduate) editor responded by directing me to an article published in Islamica after the brutal public murder of Theo Van Gogh. It focused not on the disturbing phenomena of Islamic extremism but on the Dutch response to it characterized as “Islamophobia.” Muslims are no more responsible for the murder of Van Gogh it argued than mothers are responsible for Susan Smith drowning her children. Of course, I am not familiar with any organization of mothers encouraging mothers to drown their children, arguing that doing so would assure their place in heaven or supporting the death sentence for people who insult motherhood. I have yet to meet a judge who has sent to prison a person who wrote a book considered critical of mothers.

Leaders of Muslim countries have similarly shirked responsibility for the actions of their extremists. “The Arab world's silence is deafening,” wrote the St. Petersburg Times editors after the recent Iranian president’s declaration that “ Israel must be wiped off the map.” This silence (with the notable exception of the Palestinian Authority) seemed strange even to Muslim analysts. After all, Ahmadinejad’s speech was an attack of Muslim governments which have moved towards accommodation with Israel. So some pundit suggested that "Arab states may be pleased if Iran is further isolated.” If so, they covered it rather well. When the UNSC gathered to condemn this unprecedented attack of one UN member against another, it was Muslim Algeria which not only failed to condemn Iran but made sure that the resolution will “condemn” but not “strongly condemn” that extremist country. Extrapolation from the case of Israel is misleading, some would argue. Perhaps, but Arab states offered similar protection to Syria following the murder of Hariri and remain silent about the mass murder in Darfur.

However, the same Muslim countries, organizations and pundits can be plenty vocal and aggressive when in comes to protecting Islamists from the consequences of their own actions. In fact, they often support their causes. As human rights activist Abu Khwala explains, “fighting infidels until they either convert to Islam or submit to Muslims as 'Dhimmis' is still considered by Islamists to be a religious duty." Hence, any actions undertaken by Muslims towards that end must be vehemently defended with a total disregard of the means used and that is precisely what supposedly non Islamist Muslim leaders do.

Consider the following headline: "Muslim embassies complain over Mohammed caricatures." It all started with editors of Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper hearing reports that artists were reluctant to illustrate a book on Mohammed for fear of Muslim retribution. So, they asked cartoonists to send them drawings of Muhammad. “The cartoons,” they argue, “were a test of whether the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression in Denmark.” It should be noted that Denmark, unlike Germany, has no laws prescribing free speech. In fact, for years Nazis and Islamists have used Denmark as a safe haven from which to continue to promote their heinous totalitarian ideologies.

Islamists may be happy to exploit Danish freedoms and publish material demeaning to Christians and Jews but what is good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander. The Muslim response came fast and furious. The Danish imam Raed Hlayhel dismissed arguments about free press arguing that "This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims. Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world." This same Imam shocked Danes when he said in a sermon during Friday prayer, that Danish women's behavior and dress invited rape. In any case, Muslim organizations not only protested vigorously. The cartoonists received death threats which led to the arrest of a 17 year old. Threats to bomb the building led to the positioning of security guards around it.

The affair was not only reminiscent of the Salman Rushdie affair but for the first time, as Danish political science professor Mehdi Mozaffari points out “acts of private individuals, and not the Danish state, could lead to the country falling prey to a terrorist attack.” The Middle East Times reports:

Last week as many as 5,000 Muslims demonstrated in Copenhagen against the paper and the drawings, which depicted Prophet Mohammed in different settings. In one of the drawings he appeared with a turban shaped like a bomb strapped to his head.

Meanwhile, an Islamic group calling itself Glory Brigades in Northern Europe issued threats against Jyllands-Posten and Denmark on the Website www.internet-haganah.us, Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported in its online edition.

AFP was unable to find the link and it was unclear whether it was later removed from the site, but Berlingske Tidende said in its report that it showed Copenhagen images with the caption: "The Mujahideen have numerous targets in Denmark. Very soon you will regret this."

Suddenly, the ever silent Muslims states found their tongues. 11 ambassadors including those from a number of Arab countries, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Indonesia entered the fray not to calm the excesses of their coreligionists or condemn the threats of violence but to complain about the cartoons and Danish Islamophobia! The Turkish ambassador even seconded the Imam’s sentiments, berating the paper for “abusing Islam in the name of democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.” T he ambassadors wrote a letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen notifying him that they were offended by the caricatures, demanding an official apology from the newspaper and asking for a special audience “to express their concern about what they perceive as anti-Muslim and anti-Islam campaigns in the press and certain far-right political circles.“ The Prime Minister turned down the request for a meeting pointing out that he (unlike Arab tyrants whose papers are full of anti-Semitic propaganda) has no control over the press.

At first, the Egyptian Ambassador Mona Omar Attia embarked on a direct political attack against the Prime Minister by telling a Danish news broadcast that the group planned to meet to discuss contacting other parliamentary leaders, some of whom had urged the PM to meet with the ambassadors. Eventully, a decision was reached “to let international Muslim groups take over the cause, allowing groups such as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to try to influence the prime minister.” “It's out of our hands,” said Egyptian ambassador Attia, “Now it is moving up to the international level. Therefore, we will not try to contact Denmark's political leaders.” One could imagine that “the Arab League will weigh in soon.”

So, here we are: part of the Muslim community is in the thrall of a totalitarian ideology which turns young Muslims into human bombs. Photos of Muslim and non Muslim civilian body parts flying in the middle of markets, mosques, discos and hotels have become routine. Beheadings of Christian and Jewish men and women are no longer surprising. And what do the ever-silent and passive-defensive Muslim countries, Organization of Islamic Conference and the Arab League vociferously condemn? They are condemning the publication of cartoons featuring Muhammad in a Danish paper. The absurdity of this action is only matched by its hypocrisy.