Another year. Another cartoon lampooning the Prophet. Another terrorist attack by the “violent” Muslim. And another round of condemnation of the attack by the “moderate” Muslim.
Yes, the “moderate” Muslim has performed her “duty” of condemning the acts of her “violent” co-religionists. She has told her non-Muslim friends and colleagues that she doesn’t support the terrorists who murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. But she has also explained to them that she is deeply offended by the obnoxious cartoons. Depicting the Prophet naked, crouching, with genitals exposed? It’s unfunny, nonsensical and nothing but bigotry hiding behind freedom of expression. It’s not even satire. Satire is meant to convey a message in a funny, irreverent way. But can somebody please explain to the “moderate” Muslim what message such a cartoon is trying to convey? Because satire requires wit and a sense of humour. And she, as a Muslim, lacks both. Even if she is “moderate”.
But freedom of expression includes the freedom to offend. Well, she has the freedom to feel offended, too. Agreed, both are exercising their respective freedoms. But no, her friends say that “‘moderate’ Muslims need to condemn violence by your radicalised youth even more”. There’s way too much terror being unleashed by Muslims worldwide, thanks to the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Taliban and Boko Haram. So, “your voice needs to be louder, more forceful”, she is told.
This “demand”, however, irks the “moderate” Muslim. Each time a terror attack is carried out by “violent” Muslims, the “moderate” Muslim does stand up. After the latest Paris attack, the heads of at least four Muslim-majority states — Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Palestine — took part in the solidarity march. On Facebook, Muslims are sharing videos explaining that the Prophet never attacked poets and artists who routinely insulted him.
In offices and colleges worldwide, the “moderate” Muslim has been condemning acts of terror carried out by her “violent” co-religionists since 9/11, including 7/7 and 26/11. In recent years, social media has given voice to the invisible, ordinary “moderate” Muslim. After the IS made its ugly debut in the theatre of terror last year, a group of British Muslims released “Not in My Name”, an online video in which they say they don’t want terror to be committed in their name. It set off the Twitter hashtag “NotInMyName”, which had many Muslims tweeting against the IS.
Muslim organisations, too, have denounced terrorism. The Darul-Uloom Deoband had issued a fatwa some years back condemning terrorism. After 26/11, Muslim actors wore black bands on Eid, which fell on December 10 that year, and said they wouldn’t celebrate the festival in solidarity with the terror victims.
“Moderate” Muslims are now sick of condemning. Their condemnation has plateaued and they are now laughing at demands for denunciation of all acts of terror. In a blogpost now gone viral among Muslims, American Muslim blogger Daniel Haqiqatjou writes, “According to my calculations, we need to be denouncing things at 50 times the volume and at least 20 times the speed to meet all the demand… That’s why I am developing the world’s first Muslim denunciation app: The iCondemn®!”
“Moderate” Muslims are now asking “moderate” non-Muslims to reciprocate and condemn crimes committed by their “violent” co-religionists against Muslims. Yes, the neat boxes of “moderate” and “violent” need to be extended to other religious communities too. Have “moderate” Buddhists condemned the atrocities of “violent” Buddhists against Muslims in Myanmar and Sri Lanka? Did “moderate” Jews condemn the massacre of Arab Muslims in Gaza last year? (There were plenty of stories about Israeli tweeps celebrating the massacre of “stinking Arabs”).
Did “moderate” Hindus condemn “violent” Hindus for the 2013 anti-Muslim Muzaffarnagar riots? Have “moderate” Christians condemned the deaths of millions of Iraqis in the “war on terror”? If they have all condemned, have they condemned enough, to the satisfaction of the “moderate” Muslim? A few days ago, J.K. Rowling shot back at Rupert Murdoch’s tweet asking “all Muslims to take responsibility for jihadist cancer” with her tweet, “The Spanish Inquisition was my fault, as is all Christian fundamentalist violence. Oh, and Jim Bakker.”
But this can set off a vicious “I condemn-you condemn” cycle. So, it’s best to stop this business of demanding condemnation from all Muslims when a few idiots commit an act of terror.
In the latest context of the freedom of speech, the “moderate” Muslim, too, is questioning the hypocrisy of it all. Why did Charlie Hebdo sack cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for his anti-Semitic remark? Why did France ban pro-Palestine demonstrations last year in the wake of the Gaza siege? Why was John Galliano, chief designer of French fashion house Dior, sacked for his allegedly anti-Semitic rant in 2011? Why did Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons of the Prophet (with creepy smiles and his turban shaped as a bomb) in 2005, decide not to print anti-Christ images and vowed not to publish Holocaust caricatures? Why was Prince Harry made to apologise for sporting the Swastika on his Halloween costume some years back? Why was Michael Jackson asked to delete anti-Semitic lyrics from his song “They don’t care about us”? When the West is so careful about not hurting Jewish/ Christian sentiments, why are Muslims expected not to be outraged at clearly Islamophobic cartoons?
Let’s not be selective or hypocritical in the debate surrounding freedom of expression and demand for condemnation from “moderate” Muslims.