[guest post by Dana]
In an interesting op-ed, Yasmine Bahrani, a professor of journalism at American University in Dubai, boldly asks: Where are the Muslims protesting the Islamic State? And although there is disagreement to be found, Bahrani does provoke a consideration of the matter.
While Bahrani establishes that she supported recent protests against Israel, she is at a loss to explain the absence of Muslim protests condemning ISIS for their treatment of Yazidis, Christians – and even Muslims.
This is not the first time this question has occurred to me. For years, I have wondered about this absence of public outrage. When I asked about the murder of Iraqi civilians by Sunni and Shiite gangs, my fellow Muslims dodged my questions: “Why did the United States invade Iraq in the first place?” Yes, the U.S. invasion was a mistake. But why is it so hard to take a stand against the killing of women and children? I never got a straight answer.
While noting a few non-Western clerics have spoken out against ISIS, Bahrani points the finger back at Muslims everywhere:
Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets with the passion that we saw at the Gaza rallies in London and Paris. Mainstream Muslims must express our rejection of extremism in clear terms, while doing whatever we can to stop young people from radicalizing.
The common refrain is: “That’s not Islam.” Of course it isn’t. Muslims know that, but we need to understand that others do not. And here’s the problem: To much of the world, the Islamic State, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other such groups do represent the Muslim community. Today, say the word “Islam” and few think of the glories of our history and culture. Rather, they picture masked men with knives. And as long as our condemnations remain tepid, we give the impression that we accept the crimes of murderers whose savvy YouTube productions reach far and wide. Like it or not, the Islamic State is winning the public relations war.
Sadly, mainstream Muslims have no choice but to come to terms with the fact that groups of people are car-bombing, shooting, starving, kidnapping and beheading people in the name of Islam — not to mention blowing up churches and mosques. Where is the anger? Is it possible that the marches in support of Palestinians are well-attended because Muslims hate Israel more than we hate criminal gangs who have hijacked the narrative of our religion?
Of course it’s possible and perhaps even likely. Other than unadulterated fear, how else to explain the lack of thousands of outraged Muslims marching en masse through the streets of Europe and the U.S. expressing the same level of condemnation toward ISIS as they did with Israel? Surely what ISIS is doing can’t be considered less horrible than what protestors believed Israel to be doing. If so, how foolish, because if we’ve learned anything, it’s that ISIS has absolutely no qualms about which group of people they slaughter – including Muslims.
If this was only about hijacking a narrative, it would be one thing, but when that hijacking manifests itself in the mass beheadings, executions, murders and torture of men, women and children from various ethnic and religious groups, along with terminating the lives of any not swearing allegiance, it’s a far more grievous matter than just a PR calamity. Is the priority taking back a religion or condemning this new threat of barbaric inhumanity?
With the world’s considerable Muslim population, an enormous collective display of public outrage and condemnation of ISIS certainly could manifest itself in the streets – as witnessed with Israel.
In perusing hundreds of comments at her post, I did not see anyone who claimed to be a Muslim, actually answer Bahrani’s question.
(On a side note, Bahrani misses or ignores the salient point that it always has been, and likely always will be easy and without risk to condemn Israel from any place in the world.)