‘Muhammad’ filmmakers and violent protestors are ‘unrepresentative’: Tariq Ramadan
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 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
by Husain Haqqani
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|
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.
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.
REINFORCING A STEREOTYPE
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?
BAGGAGE OF HISTORY
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.
RAGE ISN'T EXCLUSIVE
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