Justified rage

Last night’s Newsnight on BBC2 saw Ayaan Hirsi Ali give her unique insight into the protests by Muslims we’re currently witnessing around the world today. As I listened to the insipid and predictable back and forth between the presenter Kirsty Wark and Ali, I was reminded of a recent article by Michael Muhammad Knight:

When asked to explain Muslim rage, I have an answer, but I already know the response to my answer. A defender of “Western civilization” will tell me, “Yeah, but we aren’t violent. They’re the ones who kill people over religion.” If numbers matter, however, the mythology of “America” kills many, many more people today than any myth of “Islam.” To sustain a pseudo-secular military cult, we have produced a nation of cheerleaders for blood and murder. We speak of the cult’s heroic work as “sacrifice” and say that it’s all for a divine cause of “freedom.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of those cheerleaders Knight refers to. She was on hand to tell us that Western governments should stand firm against those who are protesting and make it clear that freedom of speech will not be curbed due to Muslim sensibilities. She argued that Western leaders should not “indulge” the Muslim countries who are not at the level of Europe and America. When asked if Muslims had the right to be offended, Ali responded by saying freedom of speech included the right to offend. When pressed further about Muslims being offended, Ali was incredulous. She pointed out that the atrocities that happen daily in Muslim countries do not evoke the kind of rage being seen over the film. She claims the Muslims have no credibility when they, for example, refuse to protest over a 14 year-old girl who was recently gang-raped in Pakistan, but instead be enraged at a film made in California. Get your own house in order before you protest our art, was the basic message.

Painting them as backwards, not having the good sense to ignore a film and respect Western enlightenment and having no priorities, serves to dehumanise Muslims. It also distracts from what I think these protests are really about. Western drones patrol the skies, their tanks tend the streets and their soldiers rape and murder Muslims daily. Muslims around the world know full well that their property is not sacred, nor their livelihood, and not even their bodies. But to dishonour the Prophet is the final straw, the violation of the one thing that gives Muslims hope: their religious tradition. It’s disgusting because it demonstrates that nothing is respected; pillaging and murder isn’t enough for these thugs, they will attack the very essence of the Muslim spirit. Knight continues:

That’s what we send out there, at them. This is not simply a world in which one side has a sense of humor and the other does not, or one side is “modern” and “enlightened” while the other side needs to catch up. The modern, enlightened side is burning people alive. Innocence is simply the playground bully calling your mother a slut after already breaking your jaw, and then wondering why you can’t take a joke…But in the big picture, this isn’t really about violent religion vs. nonviolent art; it’s violence vs. violence.

I think it’s important for Muslims to represent these protests correctly and always draw attention to the underlying grievances whenever Muslims protest an insult to Islam.  It’s deeper than just an insult.