I had a discussion at my college’s MSA today.
It was about current events. #MuslimRage. The video of “The innocence of Muslims”. You know. What’s been on the news. And there were some people who said: “we should pick and choose our battles” and not get upset about everything.
Which I can agree with, yes, people should definitely choose their battles, but it kind of becomes hard when things are pushed towards you, but anyway. Also, apparently even Clinton had something to say about it. And one of the people commented as to how “it’s such a shame that a non-Muslim had to remind us this.”
There was another concurrent theme of the whole, “we should educate people, because there are peaceful Muslims etc etc”.
And I agree with the sentiments, I do. I think it was abhoring that the American ambassador was killed in Libya. I was horrified with the rioting that happened in places like Pakistan. That’s not Islam. That’s not what the Prophet taught us. I saw campaigns erupt on Facebook condemning and shaming fellow Muslims into please, please, please not do what the Prophet wouldn’t do. One of the most famous incidents from the life of Prophet quoted: how he’d walk past peacefully when a woman threw rubbish on him, and the one day she didn’t, he asked after her health. I think that’s a powerful narrative, and is something that most Muslims know about, and can relate to. I also love the campaign of trolling that started on twitter (see #Muslimrage), and it even migrated to tumblr here. Humor is a powerful tool. Violence isn’t always the answer.
One of the things that I keep hearing over, and over, increasingly from both non-Muslim and Muslim commentators is that the Muslims who protest incidents like these (the film of “Innocence of Muslims”, the Danish Cartoons etc.), are too “sensitive”. They need to learn tolerance etc. etc. One of the best counter argument was provided here by blogger Mehreen Kasana:
Also, remember: These protests arranged by Muslims aren’t only about the Islamophobic film (created by an extremist Coptic Christian to pit Jews and Muslims against each other again) but most of the rage comes from the resentment and frustration the Middle East and Central and South Asia have for US foreign policy (which happens to be extremely dishonest, exploitative and violent). Anyone thinking all Muslims are “touchy” is over-simplifying the issue. This film only triggered it once again. I spoke to one of the students in Pakistan who has been protesting other Islamophobic productions and he had a very simple thing to say: “It’s not just the film. It’s everything. Their politics, abuse and mockery for us. We don’t talk about the clash of civilizations; they do. They created the battle of West against East. It’s not just the film. You’re naive to think so.” He had a point.
A lot of commentators, in their zealousness to portray Muslims as a peaceful people overall, forget this point. In today’s world, Muslim are othered. Mocked. They are attacked, not only in the name of free speech, but also attacked and exploited in political, and economical terms. I am not denying that Muslim identities are very interwoven with their national ones in many countries, so it seems that they erupt over “religious issues”, but frankly, I am getting tired of this discourse being set only in terms of religion.
Because may God help the Palestinian who gets angry at their situation, and at Israel (their colonizer), and at America (their colonizer’s ally). May God help the Pakistani who gets angry and protests against the drone attacks that’s happening (which is not even really acknowledged by American politicians or popular media, btw). It is all nice and great to say that when Muslims protest and it turns violent, that is the image that goes out to the world, so we should abstain from it. But who decides what image goes out to the world? Popular media does, first world countries with their monopolies do. I have heard the argument: “well, when, for example, Christians are offended, they don’t go all crazy”. Firstly, they are not. Secondly, when, for example, the Westboro Baptist priest started burning Quran, he was not the face of #ChristianRage. He is not portrayed as the face of Christianity, he is not portrayed as the face of America. Neither was the Norwegian Christian who killed kids. Politicians and media changed their tone the moment they were made aware of his ethnicity, and religion. Priests who sodomized young boys are not the face of Christianity. So then here’s my question, why is there this image of “Muslim radicals”, the mainstream image of Islam? In media which is supposedly “open minded”, and “liberal”, and for the “educated masses” (aka, supposedly not Fox News Watchers).
Because rhetoric shapes politics. Because while Americans are killed by non-state terrorist groups, Muslims are killed by the States. And I am a little tired, that not only are these facts not acknowledge, Muslims are expected to tolerate these facts. Not only am I tired of having to defend over and over, people and places and incidents that are only connected to me because of a common belief, but I am also tired of seeing, over and over, that there is no legitimate discourse when #MuslimRage is talked about. So few popular media talks about drone attacks. So few talk about all the ways in which First World countries still exploit Third World Muslim countries, where these protests are happening.
It stinks of colonialism.
It stinks of colonialism, because not only are First World countries allowed to tell Muslims as a whole, what to get offended at and not get offended at (that is such a supremacist mentality), First World countries are still deciding what image of Muslims gets out on popular media. Yay for Orientalism, Hollywood, and print media, which btw, is not obsolete. It stinks of colonialism because they get away with it. Because both Muslims and non-Muslims often paint it as a black and white picture of “idiot, angry Muslims” vs “educated, secular, peaceful Muslims”.
And I am tired of this. I am tired, and defensive, and aggressive about this. That Muslims, as a whole or as a fraction, are not allowed our hurts and our anger. I am tired, that we are exploited, that we are killed, but we should still have “peaceful protests”. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone violence. But I wish we were treated humanely, we were treated like our First World (white) counterparts. I with that a few people wouldn’t become “the face of Islam”, I wish we were allowed diversity, I wish this didn’t become a linear debate.