Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Islamic fury against the USA: some Muslim views

‘Muhammad’ filmmakers and violent protestors are ‘unrepresentative’: Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan
Tariq Ramadan (Arabic: طارق رمضان‎; born 26 August 1962) is a Swiss academic and writer. He is also a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University. He advocates the study and re-interpretation of Islamic texts, and emphasizes the heterogeneous nature of Western Muslims. (source: Wikipedia)


by Matt Pickles, Sep 25, 2012 (source)

The world’s media have pored over the Islamaphobic ‘Muhammad’ video, and the resulting violence in Muslim-majority countries, over the past week.

Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, says that both film and violence merely represent ‘two populisms’ and, in a post on OUP Blog, calls for the ‘great majority of citizens caught between two populisms’ to speak out against extremism.

Professor Ramadan stresses that the violent demonstrations do not represent Islam. ‘Such actions are simply anti-Islamic and against Muslim values,’ he writes. ‘The demonstrations were in fact first organised by a tiny group of Salafi literalists who were attempting to direct popular emotions against the United States and the West in order to gain for themselves a central religious and political role.

‘We should not confuse this tiny minority who are using a populist religious discourse, with the millions of Arabs, and mainly Muslims, who took to the streets during the Arab uprisings in a non-violent way to call for freedom, justice and dignity.’

Professor Ramadan urges that people look at the factors underlying the violence, rather than just focusing on the incriminating video. ‘Whilst nothing can justify the popular violence, we must try to understand why the people are reacting so intensely,’ he says.

‘One can see that American and European Muslims, through the successive controversies in Denmark, the Netherlands, France and now the United States, are not reacting violently. Instead they take a peaceful, critical stance in spite of feeling hurt by the cartoons or the video.

‘However in the southern Muslim-majority countries, the majority of people face poverty, unemployment, corruption and sometimes lack of social and political hope.'

He adds: 'From day-to-day they rely very much on their belief, the meaning of their life and the sacred in order to survive, so when they see the ‘rich and comfortable’ people of the West mocking and ridiculing what they consider to be sacred, they are doubly offended.’

Professor Ramadan says that the media and public are focusing on a clash between the extreme ends of two populisms. ‘If we look at what is happening with the West today and the Muslim-majority countries, the great majority of citizens are caught between two populisms,’ he writes.

‘We can see now that in the United States as well as in Europe we have the tea party, the neo-conservatives, and the new evangelists that are now creating a new enemy of Islam and the Muslims — portraying them as “a cancer”, aliens and foreign citizens, outsiders within, who are threatening the very essence of Western culture. All the rhetoric is based upon fear, racism, bigotry and very often Islamophobia.

‘On the other side we have minority Muslim groups who are indulging in a similar religious populism, advocating the fact that “we are more Muslim when we are non-Western” or clearly against the West. There is no other way but to enter into a kind of ‘clash’.’

Professor Ramadan concludes with a call to the majority of people in between these two extremes. He says: ‘It is therefore critical today for the citizens caught in between these two populisms to become more vocal themselves, to create a kind of new ‘we’ in the name of the same values they advocate: proactive coexistence, mutual respect, and knowledge of one another.

‘The common challenges are education, poverty, social justice, and understanding. The people should not be misled nor fool themselves into recognising those who are truly in the wrong. This is the very message of the Arab Muslims.

‘Millions of people in the South are showing that they cherish the same values as Western citizens. Let us celebrate this in a reasonable way and not be driven by blind emotions.’

You can read Professor Ramadan’s full post, '5 things we should know about the Libyan and Egyptian demonstrations', on the OUP Blog.


The thesis of the following essay by Husain Haqqani, scholar and former Pakistani ambassador to the US, is persuasive and important.

Husain Haqqani

Husain Haqqani or Hussain Haqqani (Urdu: حسین حقّانی) (born July 1, 1956) is the former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, appointed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in April 2008. He resigned on November 22, 2011. Previously, he has held numerous high-ranking positions in and out of government, including as adviser to three former Pakistani prime ministers and as envoy to Sri Lanka, and has been a prominent journalist, scholar and educator. His appointment in 2008 marked a return to government service after being exiled in 1999 following criticisms against the government of then-President Pervez Musharraf. He is currently a Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He is co-editor of Hudson's signature journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. Haqqani rejoined Hudson in 2012 after serving as Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States. He is also the Director of the Center of International Relations, and a Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Boston University.  (source: Wikipedia)


Manipulated Outrage and Misplaced Fury

Wall Street Journal

September 14, 2012 (source1, source2)

by Husain Haqqani

The attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions this week—beginning in Egypt and Libya, and moving to Yemen and other Muslim countries—came under cover of riots against an obscure online video insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. But the mob violence and assaults should be seen for what they really are: an effort by Islamists to garner support and mobilize their base by exacerbating anti-Western sentiments.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to calm Muslims Thursday by denouncing the video, she was unwittingly playing along with the ruse the radicals set up. The United States would have been better off focusing on the only outrage that was of legitimate interest to the American government: the lack of respect—shown by a complaisant Egyptian government and other Islamists—for U.S. diplomatic missions.

Protests orchestrated on the pretext of slights and offenses against Islam have been part of Islamist strategy for decades. Iran's ayatollahs built an entire revolution around anti-Americanism. While the Iranian revolution was underway in 1979, Pakistan's Islamists whipped up crowds by spreading rumors that the Americans had forcibly occupied Islam's most sacred site, the Ka'aba or the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Pakistani protesters burned the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

Violent demonstrations in many parts of the Muslim world after the 1989 fatwa—or religious condemnation—of a novel by Salman Rushdie, or after the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, also did not represent spontaneous outrage. In each case, the insult to Islam or its prophet was first publicized by Islamists themselves so they could use it as justification for planned violence.

Once mourning over the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and others subsides, we will hear familiar arguments in the West. Some will rightly say that Islamist sensibilities cannot and should not lead to self-censorship here. Others will point out that freedom of expression should not be equated with a freedom to offend. They will say: Just as a non-Jew, out of respect for other religious beliefs, does not exercise his freedom to desecrate a Torah scroll, similar respect should be extended to Muslims and what they deem sacred.

But this debate, as thoughtful as it may be, is a distraction from what is really going on. It ignores the political intent of Islamists for whom every perceived affront to Islam is an opportunity to exploit a wedge issue for their own empowerment.

As for affronts, the Western mainstream is, by and large, quite respectful toward Muslims, millions of whom have adopted Europe and North America as their home and enjoy all the freedoms the West has to offer, including the freedom to worship. Insignificant or unnoticed videos and publications would have no impact on anyone, anywhere, if the Islamists did not choose to publicize them for radical effect.

And insults, real or hyped, are not the problem. At the heart of Muslim street violence is the frustration of the world's Muslims over their steady decline for three centuries, a decline that has coincided with the rise and spread of the West's military, economic and intellectual prowess.

During the 800 years of Muslim ascendancy beginning in the eighth century—in Southern Europe, North Africa and much of Western Asia—Muslims did not riot to protest non-Muslim insults against Islam or its prophet. There is no historic record of random attacks against non-Muslim targets in retaliation for a non-Muslim insulting Prophet Muhammad, though there are many books derogatory toward Islam's prophet that were written in the era of Islam's great empires. Muslims under Turkey's Ottomans, for example, did not attack non-Muslim envoys (the medieval equivalent of today's embassies) or churches upon hearing of real or rumored European sacrilege against their religion.

Clearly, then, violent responses to perceived injury are not integral to Islam. A religion is what its followers make it, and Muslims opting for violence have chosen to paint their faith as one that is prone to anger. Frustration with their inability to succeed in the competition between nations also has led some Muslims to seek symbolic victories.

Yet the momentary triumph of burning another country's flag or setting on fire a Western business or embassy building is a poor but widespread substitute for global success that eludes the modern world's 1.5 billion Muslims. Violent protest represents the lower rung of the ladder of rage; terrorism is its higher form.

Islamists almost by definition have a vested interest in continuously fanning the flames of Muslim victimhood. For Islamists, wrath against the West is the basis for their claim to the support of Muslim masses, taking attention away from societal political and economic failures. For example, the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference account for one-fifth of the world's population but their combined gross domestic product is less than 7% of global output—a harsh reality for which Islamists offer no solution.

Even after recent developments that were labeled the Arab Spring, few Muslim-majority countries either fulfill—or look likely to—the criteria for freedom set by the independent group Freedom House. Mainstream discourse among Muslims blames everyone but themselves for this situation. The image of an ascendant West belittling Islam with the view to eliminate it serves as a convenient explanation for Muslim weakness.

Once the Muslim world embraces freedom of expression, it will be able to recognize the value of that freedom even for those who offend Muslim sensibilities. More important: Only in a free democratic environment will the world's Muslims be able to debate the causes of their powerlessness, which stirs in them greater anger than any specific action on the part of Islam's Western detractors.

Until then, the U.S. would do well to remember Osama bin Laden's comment not long after the Sept. 11 attacks: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." America should do nothing that enables Islamists to portray the nation as the weak horse.


Ambassador Husain Haqqani is a Hudson Institute Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia. He served as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2008-2011 and is widely credited with managing a difficult partnership during a critical phase in the global war on terrorism.


The last gasp of Islamic hate (here), by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, former Dutch politician and ex-Muslim born in Somalia, is well worth reading.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali


I know something about the subject. In 1989, when I was 19, I piously, even gleefully, participated in a rally in Kenya to burn Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses. I had never read it.

Later, having fled an arranged marriage to the Netherlands, I broke from fundamentalism. By the time of Sept. 11, 2001, I still considered myself a Muslim, though a passive one; I believed the principles but not the practice. After learning that it was Muslims who had hijacked airplanes and flown them into buildings in New York and Washington, I called for fellow believers to reflect on how our religion could have inspired these atrocious acts. A few months later, I confessed in a television interview that I had been secularized.

The change had consequences. Asked about the poor integration of Muslim immigrants into Holland’s civic culture, I recommended the emancipation of girls and women from a religious practice that motivates parents to remove them from school as teenagers and marry them off. Through emancipation, Muslim integration into Dutch society would come faster and endure. But I soon learned that by making such statements, I had unwittingly blasphemed three times: by associating terrorist attacks with a theology that inspired it; by drawing critical attention to the treatment of women in Islam; and—the worst blasphemy of all—by leaving the Muslim faith.

That was just the beginning of the adventure. When I eventually entered politics and campaigned for a seat in the Dutch Parliament, the atheist-liberal Dutch elite was thrown into total confusion: I was either praised as a Voltaire or condemned as a diva desperate for attention. The week before I was sworn into Parliament, I gave an interview to an obscure paper in the Netherlands that caused an uproar. Dutch Muslim organizations had been demanding that the age of marriage be lowered from 18 to 15, touting the Prophet Muhammad as their moral guide. In response, I suggested that some of the actions of the prophet might be considered criminal under Dutch law. This prompted a delegation of ambassadors from Turkey, Malaysia, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia to knock on the door of my party leader shortly after I took my seat in the legislature, demanding my eviction from Parliament for hurting the feelings of Muslims—those not only in Holland, but everywhere in the world, all 1.5 billion of them.

But that was nothing compared with what happened when I made a short film with Theo van Gogh (titled Submission) that drew attention to the direct link between the Quran and the plight of Muslim women. In revenge for this act of free thinking, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan man, murdered van Gogh—shooting him eight times and stabbing him with two knives, one of which pinned a note to his body threatening the West, Jews, and me. As he was dying, my friend Theo reportedly asked his assailant, “Can’t we talk about this?” It’s a question that has haunted me ever since, often in bed at night. One side proposing a conversation; the other side thrusting a blade.

Now I knew what it was like to be a combatant in the clash of civilizations. Having renounced Islam and openly criticized its political manifestations, I was condemned to a life cordoned off from the rest of society. 


Read more here


Understanding Rage, and its antidote

Today Online, Sep 20, 2012 (source)

by  Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib 

Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib

- Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib is an interfaith activist and a Programme Consultant with the Muis Academy, an institution of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore that provides niche programmes in Islamic learning and contemporary issues in Islam.


Just days ago, I was asked over a dinner conversation with several interfaith practitioners: "Why are Muslims such an angry people?" The riots over the film Innocence of Muslims was certainly on their minds. It took me a while to respond.

First, there is an unstated presumption that most, if not all, Muslims are prone to anger.

Second, a string of incidents from recent decades seems to suggest that any form of provocation to the Muslim faith is sure to lead to riots and vengeful killings across the Muslim world.

Who could forget the death fatwa issued on British novelist Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses, which denigrates the founder of Islam, Mohammed; and a similar response to the Danish Jyllands-Posten's cartoon in 2005?

It seems as if provocations directed at Muslims have heightened in the last few years. In 2008, Dutch film-maker Geert Wilders released his movie Fitna, which depicted the Quran as evil and promoting hatred and violence.

Two years later, Terry Jones, pastor of a small church in America called for a Quran-burning day that sparked worldwide protests and violence.

Yes, perhaps Muslims have a legitimate basis to feel angry. There is a sense of injustice felt when hate-speech is disguised in the garb of free speech. More so, when there is rising Islamophobia perpetuated by extremists in Europe and America. The shocking massacre by Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik who held anti-Islam views is a case in point.


Yet, I also feel unease over the way some Muslims have responded to these provocations.

The worldwide violence that occurred in cities ranging from Islamabad to Jakarta to Sydney ironically reinforces the very stereotype that the low-budget film Innocence of Muslims, seeks to perpetuate: That Islam is a religion of violence. Never mind that the film is crude and aesthetically hopeless; no serious viewer would find it convincing, only an already warped and prejudiced mind.

When American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others were killed in Benghazi, Libya, during protests over the film, it raised the whole issue of what some have been calling the "Muslim rage".

This face of Islam - that of vengeance and violence in the face of provocation - is alien to me. How can a person proclaiming daily the invocation "In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate" spout so much hate and violence in a single breath?

How does one call oneself a follower of "Islam" - a derivative of the Arabic root word "salam", meaning "peace" - yet be so willing to commit acts of violence at the first instance of provocation? There is a disjuncture between the acts of these Muslims and the tradition of Islam that more than a billion Muslims around the world have been brought up in.

If one claims to protect the dignity of the beloved Prophet Mohammed, why not take a leaf or two from the manner in which Mohammed treated those who hurled insults at him? Never had the Prophet acted in ways other than compassion.

In one instance out of the many, he tended to a Jewish woman when she was too ill to continue hurling garbage at him. Even in the capture of Mecca, he provided amnesty and granted forgiveness to his enemies among the Quraysh tribe bent on destroying him. "Keep to forgiveness," God commanded Mohammed, "and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant."

If such was the ethical quality and mission of Mohammed, why do those who claim to be his most ardent believers not display the same mercy and compassion in the face of adversity?


The answer, I believe, lies in the tumultuous relationship that the Muslim world has had with some of the forces that shape modern global society.

First, there is the baggage of colonialism that continues to haunt the Muslim psyche. A people once dominated and relegated to an "inferior status" in the ladder of civilisation will eventually subvert that very narrative and adopt a diametrically opposite set of categories - that of its own "superiority" and the "bankruptcy of the West".

Anti-West sentiments are part of the burning coal for Muslim reactionary movements. The occasional insults to Islam are mere triggers to a deeper trauma resulting from centuries of domination and humiliation.

Second, post-colonial developments in the Muslim world have not brought reprieve but further injury. The failure of democratic ideas and social justice to take root across many Muslim-majority countries were a further blow to the psyche.

This would eventually take the form of erratic displays of rage and anger - a way, as social psychologists would impute, of not dealing with one's own inadequacy, frustration and exclusion from being part of a creative process for positive social change.

Third, the ascendency of extremists within the political institution of democratic governments in Europe and America, as well as within the Religious Right dominated by Christian conservatives, exacerbate the situation through their drumming of Islam as the antithesis of Western civilisation, an enemy of modernity and an evil religion out to dominate the world.

Such views unfortunately inform or eventually seep into many of the policies that determine how Western governments deal with the Arab Muslim world.

The result can only be a pitting of two contrasting ideologies - the "clash of civilisation" thesis promulgated by American political theorist and consultant to the US State Department, Samuel Huntington.


The question posed at the dinner table led me to re-examine what has gone wrong within the Muslim world today. I do not see the vengeful and violent act of several thousand Muslims across the globe as representative of the Islamic faith.

To me, there is no such thing as an exclusively "Muslim rage". There is only rage, which is a type of violent anger that all humans are capable of. And to understand this rage is to delve into the nexus of history, politics and even psychology. Theology cannot answer why some Muslims respond with anger and violence.

One cannot solve the problem of extremism through mere appeal to "right Islam" as opposed to "wrong Islam". One must dig deeper for the solution, and it is not just about having the "moderates" speak up. It is about ensuring that peace-loving people of all persuasions find each other and provide mutual support in an increasingly volatile and polarised world.

Extremists tend to feed off each other. The last thing we want is for them to dictate the terms of engagement for the rest of us. We must reach out to the progressive elements within each faith community, and build bridges to strengthen the common good for all of us.

In this, there is hope and joy that might quell the hate and anger within all of us.


Avoid seeing the "Muslim world" as a whole: here


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