Posted by: sean | September 29, 2006

Islam and hypocrisy

I arrived last night in Beirut, which was a good feeling after being away for so long and considering the circumstances under which I had to leave. Things seem to have picked up here, but the streets still seem much calmer than before the war. Then again, it’s hard to say how much of that is due to the war and how much of that is due to the fact that it’s the first Friday of Ramadan.

When I was in Cyprus, waiting for my connecting flight to Beirut, I talked with a couple from Beirut about the situation in Lebanon and Sudan. I told him how frustrated it makes me that there are no Muslims out marching agains the murder of Muslims in Darfur or the opression of Sahwari people by the Moroccan government. But cartoons in a right wing Danish newspaper set off riots and protests all over the Muslim world.

Normally, Thomas Friedman’s articles annoy me, but I can’t help but agree with him about the state of hypocrisy in Islam today:

This year on the first day of Ramadan, a Sunni suicide bomber in Baghdad killed 35 people who were lining up in a Shiite neighborhood to buy fuel. The same day, the severed heads of nine murdered Iraqi police officers and soldiers were found north of Baghdad.

I don?t get it. How can Muslims blow up other Muslims on their most holy day of the year — in mosques! — and there is barely a peep of protest in the Muslim world, let alone a million Muslim march? Yet Danish cartoons or a papal speech lead to violent protests. If Muslims butchering Muslims — in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan — produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today? It is not an insult to ask that question.

Muslims might say: “Well, what about Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo or Palestine? Let?s talk about all your violent behavior.” To which I would say: “Let’s talk about it! But you’ll have to get in line behind us, because we’re constantly talking about where we?ve gone wrong.” We can?t have a meaningful dialogue if we, too, are not self-critical, but neither can Muslims.

I don’t agree with his conclusion that the Pope shouldn’t apologize — I think he should — but I do agree with him that there is a definite double standard for slights against Muslims. When the West hurts Muslims, the Muslim world comes together to condemn the attack, but when Muslims hurt Muslims, like in Darfur, Iraq and the Western Sahara, the silence is deafening.



  1. I don’t know. I really don’t know. But who is to say that Muslims aren’t critical of themselves? As far as I’m concerned, it is only the Arab Nationalists who always uncritically trumpet the word “we”, as if such radical sects represent each and every Muslim. If anything, the lack of protests regarding inter-Muslim conflicts should give us the opportunity to reflect upon the *polemics* of Islam… but not in the way that the West has for over a century.


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