Why is that a simple event organised by an, up to now, insignificant pastor with just 50 followers can instigate world-wide protests and, in the words of the Indonesian president, threatens world peace? Terry Jones and his ilk may be a minority, but, for Muslims and for much of the rest of the world, he epitomises the ignorance, imperialism, and arrogance of the West when dealing with the Muslim world.
Muslims globally are part of a brotherhood that is unlike anything that exists in the West. The ‘Ummah’, the wider Muslim community transcends borders, boundaries and time zones. What the West, in general, find hard to understand is that Muslims still have a sense of sanctity, companionship, and sacredness. The Quran is sacred.
American and British troops are fighting a war in Afghanistan, and with the war in Iraq and the occupation of Palestine, there is a feeling of helplessness among Muslims. How do Muslims help each other and unite the Ummah? Muslims feel that they are being humiliated, with the aid of 24-hour rolling news; their humiliation is beamed un-sanitised into homes all day and night for everyone to see, there is nowhere to hide.
Muslims felt helpless when prisoner abuse pictures came out of Abu Ghuraib. They felt helpless when half a million people died in Iraq and millions more were displaced. Helpless when Israel bombed Lebanon and Gaza as the Arab leaders belly danced around the West. Helpless as drone attacks are carried out in Pakistan and as Guantanamo remains open. Helpless as the Danish cartoons are spread around the world with the West claiming freedom of expression, helpless as Kashmir is occupied, helpless as Bosnian women were raped in rape camps, helpless as Grozny was flattened, helpless as Switzerland bans the building of minarets, helpless as France bans the hijab at schools, helpless in every way imaginable. Is it a wonder that there is so much anger and frustration? Is it wrong for Muslims to feel humiliated, passionate, and insulted? Or should we throw in water boarding and the other forms of torture for good measure?
With Muslim lands being illegally occupied, with constant attacks in the press, a loss of Muslim identity, Muslims see that something that they hold so dear and close to their hearts is being burnt, to insult them, mock them, and dehumanise them further.
The mainstream media has failed once again in its responsibility to represent the diversity it professes to. The Quran burning event has been portrayed ‘wrong’ in the context of the danger posed to Western troops, not wrong in the context that the burning of a text that 1.6bn people around the world hold as sacred is despicable. Diversity in the mainstream media has been is lacking still, not a single voice is heard to try and bring some sort of understanding to the possible reaction to the Quran burning. No historian to contextualise what has been taking place in the Muslim world for the last 100 years. No political analyst, no informed journalist. Instead we are given the narrative via the public school boys’ network with an Orientalist outlook of the world that makes Muslims in the West feel even more marginalised and unrepresented.
Many are left with nothing to do, but to take to the streets and show their anger and frustration. They will fight for what is right and for what they believe in and will end up taking it out on the foreign troops and any sign of Western imperialism.
Middle-class Muslims and non-Muslims alike talk of how Muslims should rise above the prejudice, but it is not that simple and most Muslims do not come from a privileged position to take such a stance. One look at the literacy rate of Afghanistan and the way literacy levels have fallen in Iraq since the US invasion shows that the West’s interventions results in people having to choose between eating and sending their children to school. The mass education that we receive in the West is not widely available to others around the world, and in the West we are not faced with foreign troops on our doorsteps and constant civilian deaths.
Imperialistic wars have seen the Muslim lands divided, lines drawn on maps with no consideration for the people, religious institutions dismantled, cultures destroyed and tyrannical leaders imposed on the people with the American seal of approval. There is only one objective of imperialism as history has continually demonstrated, that is exploiting the resources of the land and gives the impression of stability, democracy and freedom.
The humiliation of the contemporary Muslim world, as some see it, has taken place, largely in the last century. What the imperialistic governments in the West must realise is that occupying countries and killing civilians is one thing, but to attack the religion, the sacred text, the Prophet, will bring out the masses onto the streets to fight. Thousands more will die unnecessarily. It will ignite the Islamic concept of ‘ghayra’, the idea that Muslims love something so much that they are willing to fight and die for it. In the West there is nothing really sacred anymore. It has long been ‘funny’ to joke and mock the prophet of Christianity and disrespect the Christian holy texts, but this idea is completely foreign and abhorrent to Muslims. Mocking what is sacred has not been legitimised and integrated into the culture of the Islamic world.
You will even see the simplest, poorest and non-political Muslim take to the streets because he would much rather his family was insulted than something that he holds so sacred. Even the corrupt, pro-Western Muslim leaders recognise this and know that they have to speak out against any attack on the sanctity of the religion, because their own seat of power would be in grave danger if they did not.
The act of burning the Quran has not come out of nowhere; it is a manifestation of the environment created by the so called ‘war on terror’. The Islamaphobia used by Western leaders to justify their wars has sparked the flames of this fire. That is why Muslims across the world will find it hard to differentiate between one crazy pastor and the American government as a whole. Pastor Jones is a product of the environment created by America, and maybe the fire, the venom, and intolerance has become uncontrollable.Tags: North America
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This post was written by Assed Baig