An Open Letter to Certain Protesters in the Islamic World

Dear Defenders of Allah, Mohamed (PBUH) and Islam:

I won’t ask the usual obvious questions like why Allah needs you to defend Him, why His Prophet (PBUH) needs you to take his part, or how Islam can be so fragile as to be endangered by silly things Westerners do.  No, I won’t ask those obvious questions.

But I will ask:

Have you ever actual seen the Internet?  Have you ever actually seen the sheer volume of printed material that comes out of the various publishing concerns in the West?  Do you not realize that every single day every single religion in the world is ridiculed, maligned, insulted, questioned, admired, praised, and championed in thousands of new publications and new web pages?

Why do you behave as though a particular YouTube item or a particular cartoon or a wacky backwoods preacher among a million similar videos, cartoons and preachers is some new, particular insult to your God, his Prophet (PBUH) and/or your religion?

I have a suspicion of what the real answer is, and that suspicion arises out of those murderous riots that erupted a few years ago over those ridiculous cartoons.  Do you realize that those cartoons were published one day and ignored and forgotten by everyone except a single Muslim fellow who packed a selection of them around the Islamic world in his brief case, showing them to everyone he could for months — for months! — until finally some Imams with a bit of a voice started screeching about them.  And then the mob rose up, their buttons well and truly pushed.

This time the anniversary of those attacks of 2001 was coming up so, I suspect, an industrious Imam or two started combing through YouTube looking for something with which to push the buttons of the dutiful mob.  And it worked exactly as planned.  The apparently very internet-not-savy crowds reacted as though their God, His Prophet (PBUH) and Islam itself were under some sort of new, unique attack such as had not been seen since Richard the Lionheart faced off against Saladin the Kurd.
But that’s not what actually was being done to Islam.  What actually was being done was some two-bit hack in Southern California made yet another of millions of cheap, embarrassing bigoted basically verbal attacks on a religion.  Is there not an Arabic version of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”?  Surely Mohamed (PBUH) included a sura about that?

I’ve heard it said that somehow this bit of video trash “hurt religious feelings”.  Are your religious feelings seriously that tender?  How were those feelings hurt?  What sort of power do you give to this little California hood that his malignant opinions carry any weight against your religious feelings or the teachings of your Imam?

Or is that it?  Did your Imam tell you that Allah, His Prophet (PBUH) and Islam were being insulted and your religious feelings were being hurt?

But, what do you feel?  Do you feel that your faith in Allah, His Prophet (PBUH) and your faith in Islam itself is somehow compromised or endangered by an ex-con in California making a piece of schlock?  If that is actually the case, I think you might want to take some time to examine the strength of your own belief.

And, these hurt religious feelings:  now that U.S. flags have been burned, buildings have been destroyed and a number of people have lost their lives to your indignant mob-violence — now that all these uplifting religious actions have been taken, do your religious feelings feel better?  What about the thousands of new videos, tracts, web pages, books, cartoons, opinion pieces that have appeared since September 11?  Are they hurting your religious feelings?  Do you need to defend Allah against those?  Do you need to defend Islam against me?

Don’t ask your Imam:  what do you think?

Sincerely,

A guy who thinks you could probably do better things for Allah, His Prophet (PBUH) and Islam (and for yourself, your family, and your nation) than burning down buildings and killing people

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8 comments on “An Open Letter to Certain Protesters in the Islamic World

  1. barnswell says:

    I think it’s a complete red herring to keep banging on about how rubbish the film was. (Haven’t watched it and have zero interest in doing so, but by all accounts I’ve read, people endlessly bend over backwards to say it’s a load of tat). But say it was a work of artistic brilliance like the Satanic Verses, exactly the same reaction would have occurred and did.

    Why isn’t a massive fuss being made about the recent appalling death of eight women civilians in Afghan? Killed by ‘accident’ by a NATO airstrike. NATO?US appears to care very little about things like this. Things like this make *me* incredibly angry…but then I’m not letting some Imam, whip me up into a demented frenzy about a film and want to go out and be violent. (I probably wouldn’t be allowed to go to the mosque in any case being a woman).

    It makes me laugh when we keep being told, ‘violent protest is sweeping across the Muslim world.’. Are Muslim sisters quietly rioting indoors?

    I recently posted on Twitter about a Rushdie interview I heard yesterday, recorded before the recent protests. I’m sure he would agree that the film was a nonsense. But that’s not the point. The artistic worth isn’t cared about. It’s the fact things are made at all and put out into the public domain.

    It’s clash of cultural values. I’m glad I live in the UK and not in a Muslim country where Imams and clerics have power to chain up my mind and body. Though I doubt anyone would be brave enough to publish the Satanic Verses today. But Rushdie says we need to be brave..I’m not sure I’d be brave enough.

    (BTW. Haven’t read the Satanic Verses either. I have a copy, and yesterday read the first page. That’s beautifully written..and I’m going to try to read more like I would any good book.)

    • anhaga says:

      I agree that the quality of the work being “protested” in not really important. The leaders who stir up their followers will use whatever is handy, and, here in the internet age, there’s always some anti-Muslim item near at hand. I don’t expect very many of those who are “protesting” the current video have ever seen it, just as those who issue fatwas about the Satanic Verses have never read it. It’s all about pushing buttons and not at all about “religious feelings”, I think.

      And, yes, the frankly murderous actions of Western militaries in Afghanistan and elsewhere (bombings of civilians and extra-judicial killings by drone, for example) and the horrific treatment of women and minorities in Muslim countries are things that should enrage anyone who considers themselves civilized. But somehow don’t seem to upset many.

  2. barnswell says:

    We have art and culture as a way to live with the knowledge of such things and our essential powerlessness to change those things. But in little ways it can change things a bit. Those clerics know the power of it, and it’s in their interests that minds are closed to it and disparage it and are utterly incapable of understanding it. Rushdie briefly addressed that in saying he thought he’d signalled things clearly enough by referencing the ‘dream’.

    I’m referring to the *certain* protestors you are addressing…but really why are you bothering? Have you ever found reasoned fair argument to have been effective in the face of deep and enduring simple minded literalists? And of course that can easily include certain atheists.

    My main concern is that people will become more and more afraid to write, to make art..even shit videos if they really want because they will fear for their lives. This *must* also apply to many Muslims who want to speak out/make art, but are afraid.

    It stinks and its about time lots and lots of Muslims started speaking out about things to do with their own culture. Maybe gradually they can start to do it a bit more in countries where free speech and expression is at least held up as something to be valued and be proud of, despite the fact of that not always being permitted in reality.

    They need to start mixing more. I’m still the only non Muslim in my street that has any sort of verbal communication with the family two doors down. And I’ve still yet after 3 years or so, been unable to speak to their women folk. Brief glimpses every few months is all I’ve seen…and it really annoys me. But I’m heartened that more and more less strict Muslim women are working in shops and at surgeries etc now. It will gradually change I think here.

    Jesus, lots of us non Muslims want to talk to them and are fed up with being given the cold shoulder by some still.

    • anhaga says:

      Although addressed to certain protesters, my hope is that my post will reach at least one person not blinkered by the clerics.
      On the Satanic verses: I had a first edition back in the days of the initial fatwa. At the University staff and students held a long session at which the entire book was publically read aloud. All I remember about the book from when I read it was that it seemed remarkably inoffensive and unremarkable otherwise.

    • anhaga says:

      Oh, and, that’s just sad that no one talks to the Muslim family on your street and good on you for being neighbourly.

  3. barnswell says:

    Well the moment they moved in they immediately put bars up at the windows. This is a very friendly street. It’s sad that they behave in such a way not to part of a very mixed community where everyone has to do a bit of give and take to be able to get along. It’s been made clear to me that I’m to be ignored by the young men. I tried smiling at them. They looked away and made me feel bad about myself…well I’m only a woman. The only person who will speak to me is the old male head of the family. It is *they* who seek to keep themselves aloof from the rest of us. There are a lot of strict Muslim families though in the UK. This behaviour is quite common. And I’ve given up smiling at women in veils now…I get ignored. I speak from my own experience.

    I’ve read 10 pages now of the Satanic Verses. Don’t really know how to fit that into the remarkable/unremarkable critical scheme though. Seems like playful use of language and dance like, like Gabreel/trickster…Will probably read a few pages every day; that’s the plan.

    • anhaga says:

      It seems here that those who arrive on our shores – from anywhere, not just Muslim countries – seek very much to engage with the larger society. I don’t know why that is exactly, but I’m sure glad it seems to be so.

      • barnswell says:

        You’re missing the point. Other cultures, nationalities races or whatever you call them are integrating. And yes at times there has been a *lot* of problems. But still most people, at least in London, say they love that sense of dynamic rawness that is so edgy. Scary sometimes. But that’s great for creativity. We always have art in common. That’s what I love.

        It’s good you like the way it’s happening in Canada. I like the way it’s happening here..it suits our culture which evolves..and still people from all over the world are pouring into London..they must love something about us.

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