THE MEDIA

ORDINARY CITIZENS OF THE WEST FEEL UNDER THREAT TODAY. WHAT IS WRONG WITH SHINING A LITTLE MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON MUSLIMS AND ISLAM?

The spotlight is not the problem but unjust and biased, one-sided coverage is.

Featuring deeply bigoted and belligerent individuals who demonise Muslims and Islam as a religion by spouting all kinds of vitriol using factually incorrect information is a problem when the media ought to examine more closely how these individuals often times speak and write with a seemingly subtle agenda aimed at only justifying the recent series of foreign policy blunders of the West in Muslim- majority countries.

“So why is it so important for pundits and chat show hosts, who are intent on presenting themselves as educated and liberal, to trash Islam with simplifying, blanket statements? . . . More seriously, what is the overriding agenda?

Trashing Islam is about disseminating simplistic ideas that lend support to precise political goals, and it allows supporters of certain aspects of US foreign policy to justify past, present, and future mistakes. If American voters can be given the impression that most Muslims are sexist, homophobic, intolerant fanatics who murder and behead at the drop of a hat, then they may just believe that it is necessary to invade countries in which Muslims are the majority – it hardly matters which country, as long as wrecking its political, economic, and social fabric serves the primary goals of controlling oil resources, profiting from the arms trade, and allowing Israel to feel safe (irrespective of whether its feelings of insecurity correspond to reality)”. (Source: Why is Ben Affleck defending Islam by Lana Asfour, 6 October 2014 on Aljazeera. com/English)

WHY CAN’T THE MEDIA FREELY WRITE ABOUT MUSLIMS AND ISLAM AND ALLOW ANYONE TO SPEAK THEIR MIND ON ISLAM AND THE MUSLIM WORLD?

The media ought to be free to write about Islam and ordinary Muslims but is it too much to ask that the media at the very least get some of its basic facts right, especially when it comes to practices that are rooted in culture versus clear, unambiguous injunctions that condemn such practices such as honour killings, female genital mutilation, women’s dress codes among a wide range of issues, repeatedly misreported by the mainstream press, thus:

“Clumsily creating a tinderbox for anti-Muslim madness’, in the words of James Ragland, columnist at Dallas News. (Source: Muslims are now an organized political force in Irving, James Ragland, Columnist James Ragland, May 2016, Dallas News)

Like the actual Jew-hating Anti-Semites of the past, the Islamophobes of today in the media employ the same timeless tactic of broad-brushing every 1.6 billion Muslim individual into an amorphous and frightening group by hyping what Muslims will take from “us” in terms of law and order, country and jobs. This needs to change. Write about Muslims and Islam; Criticise Muslims if you have to but hold the same standards to people of other faiths and atheists as well.

If the current status quo continues unabated, there is surely more trouble ahead for the West and its Muslim & non-Muslim citizens as the article below very neatly makes a strong case for why people invited to speak ought to be at least vetted on matters of Islam, Middle Eastern a airs, politics and history or else there is nothing but continuing hatred and despair ahead on both sides of the fence:

“While a few knowledgeable individuals have been invited for rare media appearances, all too often the networks have let laziness win out dragging out a cast of “regulars” – former military officers, current or former elected officials, and paid “talking heads”. They may know a few choice Arabic words (Sunni, Shia, Jihadi, etc.) and can use a few of them in a sentence. But experts, they are not . . . To hear these “experts” pontificating about Islam or Arab culture is more than annoying. It’s downright dangerous . . . Instead of making us aware of the enormous complexities involved in these conflict zones, they reduce them to simple and easy clichés . . . America has been down this road before in the Middle East – with tragic results. I fear we may be heading there once again. During the past four decades we’ve been deeply involved across this region, but because we’ve known so little about its peoples, cultures and history – all too often our involvement has spelled disaster . . . To the first they responded — “they hate us because they hate our values and are envious of our success” or “they hate us because they have been taught to hate us” or ” they have failed because their religion is fundamentally backward””. Instead of shattering myths enabling us to see our way forward to bridging the chasm that separated the West from the Arab and Muslim peoples, they accented our fears and contributed to deepening the divide . . . Our political leadership, with most media outlets cheering them on, committed hundreds of thousands of our young men and women to fight and lose their lives in two failed wars. Bush invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq without any real understanding of their history or people – not knowing where we were going and what the consequences of our blunders would be . . . Our polling shows that the overwhelming majority of Arabs love American values and culture, people and products, and the advances Americans have made in science and technology. What they don’t like about us are our policies, which so negatively affect their lives. Far from being fanatics, Arabs tell us that what they value most are their families and their work. They watch TV to be entertained. And their mosque attendance rates are roughly the same as church attendance rates in the U.S.?”. (Source: We need to know more, but the experts aren’t helping by James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute on 18 October 2014, Huffington Post)

SO MUSLIMS WANT THE MEDIA TO STOP WRITING ABOUT ISLAM THEN?

There is nothing better for Muslims than for the media to write about Islam and ordinary Muslims, as long as they are well-balanced with views of Muslims and non-Muslims included, however critical – instead of featuring only quotes by misinformed pundits, known Islamophobes, right-wing politicians among others with a history of bias against Islam and ordinary Muslims.

Journalists too, ought to be able to ask probing questions and should have creativity, fearless expression and polemical inquiry at their disposal but is it too unreasonable for Muslims to ask that one should avoid conflating two or three irrelevant examples to justify a sweeping generalisation about Islam and ordinary Muslims? In fact, free speech should not be restricted. Speech that incites violence should be restricted, a curious exception given when it comes to other minorities but frequently debated when it comes to Muslims.

DO MUSLIMS EXPECT ADVERTORIALS EVERYTIME WE IN THE MEDIA REPORT ABOUT MUSLIMS?

No one needs to read or watch advertorials about Islam or ordinary Muslims but the very least the media can do is try and understand a faith that is embraced by one-fourth the world population by getting its’ facts right before inviting appropriately qualified people on the show or opinion writers who actually understand the subject. The current journalistic one-sided approach of covering Islam and Muslims with hours and hours of biased and misinformed coverage, heavy on talking heads but light on facts is simply not sustainable.

In the precise words of longtime subscriber of the NYT, Nancy Cadet who rightly observed: “The falsehoods and their repercussions live on long after the stories have been corrected or disputed.” (Source: Systematic change needed after faulty Times article by Margaret Sullivan, 18 December 2015, New York Times)

As yet another example of chaos manufactured by the media: It was tailor-made for the anti-immigration press: a crazed man wearing a suicide vest “filled with gasoline and gunpowder” enters a supermarket in a small town in northwestern Spain, shouts “Allahu Akbar!” and opens fire. Mercifully, no one is killed, but customers flee in terror. The story runs in a local paper, is quickly picked up by an assortment of media in the US and the UK, and then shared widely on Twitter and Facebook. Anti-Muslim figures claim, with heads shaking in disapproval, that the attack symbolizes everything that is wrong with Islam. One small problem: it didn’t happen. Yes, a man did enter a supermarket in the town of Ourense and red shots. That, however, is where fact ends and fantasy begins. The suicide vest? Didn’t exist. Shooting at customers? No, he hit some bottles. Crazy lunatic on a rampage? At one point in the surveillance video we can see the man sitting down and eating a banana. Was the town in shock? No. What about his screaming “Allahu Akbar”? It was then reported that this was actually a man from the Basque region “with decreased mental faculties”, and that someone mistook the words he spoke in Euskara (a regional language) for Arabic . . . There was no Bowling Green massacre? Well, OK, but there could have been one, and it would have been a Muslim who did it. In the flexible world of bigotry, we can even condemn people for crimes committed in our minds . . . In one of the more astonishing stories of 2017, last week the German tabloid Bild claimed that on New Year’s Eve in Frankfurt, a huge group of intoxicated Muslim men, most of them refugees, had formed a “rioting sex mob” and assaulted scores of women. The story contained “eyewitness” accounts and even interviews with purported victims. Naturally, it was picked up internationally and spread via social media . . . One week later, however, police in Frankfurt declared that the story was completely false: no such sexual assaults had been reported, the “victim” in question was not even in Frankfurt at the time, and two individuals were now under investigation for starting the false rumors and wasting police resources . . . Bild is the largest-selling newspaper in Europe, with a circulation of about 3m per day, but it has come under attack from other outlets in Germany for stoking anti-immigrant and anti- Muslim flames. When the police announced that the Frankfurt incident was false, Bild published an apology, and claimed that the story, “in no way met the journalistic standards” of the paper. But the fact remains that it was published and reproduced globally, and no quantity of retractions, excuses or apologies from the outlets that ran with it will heal the damage. (Source: Europe’s biggest paper ran a bogus refugee ‘sex mob’ story. What now?, Christian Christensen, 17 February 2017, The Guardian)

HOW CAN YOU BLAME THE MEDIA WHEN MUSLIMS ARE VIOLENT?

In an era where news has more to do with speed than accuracy, the opinion shapers who today control the media has shown itself to be on par with wall street bankers, weapons manufacturers and drug dealers when it comes to ethics. This despite all the grand mission and vision statements that in actual fact is based on a matter that comes out of the lower bottom of a bull.

Using the following as an example, if the majority of airtime can be spent debating the “radicalisation” of young Muslim men, should we not see equal if not more airtime examining the radicalisation of American right-wing Christians? But this is far from the present status quo let alone the deafening silence for example, from the sitting US President Trump every time there is an act of violence by a white supremacist.

BUT JOURNALISTS ARE ONLY DOING THEIR JOBS.

To cite examples of character misrepresentation:
A young Jewish American man [was] charged with pretending to be an Australian-based Islamic State jihadist after a FBI joint investigation with the Australian Federal Police based on information provided by Fairfax Media . . . Joshua Ryne Goldberg, a 20-year old living at his parents’ house in US state of Florida, is accused of posing online as “Australi Witness,” an IS supporter who publicly called for a series of attacks against individuals and events in Western countries. (Source: FBI says ‘Australian IS jihadist’ is actually a Jewish American troll named Joshua Ryne Goldberg by Elise Potaka and Luke McMahon on September 12 2015, Sydney Morning Herald)

In April 2017, three German soldiers, with obvious rightwing extremist conviction’ were arrested after they were caught posing as asylum seekers in a planned terror plot. The plan was to make their attack look like the work of Islamist militants, and the target included the Germany Justice Ministry as well as a few other key landmarks in Germany, based on seized materials as reported by Der Spiegel magazine.

As part of an elaborate plan, one of the soldiers had previously been detained in late January 2017 by Austrian authorities on suspicion of having hidden an illegal gun in a bathroom at Vienna’s main airport in Schwechat . . . and had intended to have the finger prints of a Syrian asylum seeker on the gun, which he wanted to use in a possible attack and leave at the scene. Using a fake identity, the soldiers had also registered as a Syrian refugee to find a target, whom the attack could be blamed upon (Source: ‘Xenophobic’ German soldier, student suspected of planning attack, Apr 27, 2017, Reuters)

This incident was revealed only days after prosecutors in Germany revealed that a German-Russian citizen, Sergei W orchestrated the April 2017 Dortmund bus bombings, detonating three bombs targeting a bus carrying the Borussia Dortmund football team, in an attempt to frame ISIS and to make as much as 3.9 million euros on shares of the company using put options, a stockbroking product that enables the buyer to pro t when the share price of a given company falls. Preying on our fear of ISIS and terrorism, Sergei selfishly committed an act that could have led to loss of many lives.

Earlier in February 2017: The German mass-circulation daily Bild “emphatically” apologised to its readers for an article that said a “mob” of Arab men had sexually assaulted women on New Year’s Eve in a Frankfurt restaurant, after the police said that an investigation had failed to turn up any evidence . . . Bild has a daily circulation of 2.5 million and often sets the tone for political discussions in Germany, and the decision by prosecutors to open an investigation reflects broader concerns in the country about the spreading of false stories and anti-immigrant or anti-European propaganda. (Source: Bild Apologizes for False Article on Sexual Assaults in Frankfurt by Migrants, Melissa Eddy, 16 February 2017, New York Times) The key therefore is to not believe everything reported in the press.

BUT MUSLIMS ALREADY GET PLENTY OF POSITIVE AIRTIME IN THE MEDIA.

Unfortunately, the Muslim culture for the past four decades has been depicted in the media as unchanging and monolithic whereas Muslims are today unfairly portrayed as backwards, irrational and aggressive fanatics. (Source: What is it like to be a Muslim in Britain today? By Emma Howard, 9 July 2014, The Guardian)

 The current media discourse about Islam is filled with essentialist paranoia, fear, and the commentary of people who not only understand little about the religion but are often dismissive of people who do. The media also has a tendency of placing Muslims all in one box. This is not only silly but also harmful especially if the ultimate goal is to understand the problem better. (Source: Can Muslims write about Christianity, 28 July 2013 by Dan Murphy at Christian Science Monitor)

Unfortunately, Islamophobia is not only tolerated on US and European news channels but it is often the default position of large, leading high-pro le media organisations today. (Source: It’s not just Fox News: Islamophobia on cable news is out of control by Max Fisher, 13 January 2015, Vox)

WHILE THERE ARE SOME NEGATIVE REPORTS ABOUT MUSLIMS, MUSLIMS ARE GIVEN FAIR BIT OF COVERAGE AS WELL.

If this is the case, try producing a refutation on any of the following inconvenient yet important questions:

(1) Why are terror attacks in the West given more column inches than attacks in Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan or Beirut when often more lives are lost in Muslim-majority countries?;

(2) What is the common denominator that disqualifies Muslim- majority countries from receiving wall-to-wall coverage granted to attacks in the West when each life lost is just as much a political point made by the terrorists?;

(3) How heinous and violent do acts of terror in Muslim-majority countries need to be for the governments in the West to interrupt almost every high pro le news broadcast to condemn it?;

(4) How many multiples in terms of civilian casualties does an act of terrorism in a Muslim-majority country need to achieve in order for flags to fly at half-mast in the West?;

(5) Where is the act of solidarity at the Tower Bridge, Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House or other monuments when a Muslim- majority country is attacked?;

(6) When a city in the West is attacked, “global” news media reassign leading anchors and journalists providing 24/7 coverage but when Muslims come under attack, the same media outlets do not cover the event with one-tenth the intensity and breadth?;

(7) Where is the outpouring of touching stories about ordinary Muslims or detailed pro les about the heroism of the locals killed when Muslims come under attack?;

(8) When Muslims are killed, why are they brushed aside as casualties of sectarian conflict when these have more to do with politics and less with sectarianism but when citizens of the West are killed, they become universal icons of free speech and liberty when these are often killed as a result of misguided foreign policies of the West?;

(9) Why are European deaths a tragedy while Muslim civilians killed by drones and bombs dusted aside as nothing more than collateral damage?;

(10) Why do ordinary civilians in the West not wear black ribbons or where is the march in solidarity and vigils honouring the dead when the victims of terrorism happen to be in Muslim-majority countries?; &

(11) Why is there no “Pray for Baghdad,” or no “Je Suis Pakistan” on Twitter trending in the West when ordinary Muslims are killed? Nor are there memes on Instagram of unified global grief when Muslims fall victim to terrorism? (Source: Various articles)

PEOPLE IN THE WEST ARE CONCERNED ABOUT MUSLIM CASUALTIES ELSEWHERE.

People in the West let alone in most parts of the World express regret for the civilian deaths in the West but when Muslim civilians are killed there are no memorial services or candlelit vigils on Western television. Why?

In fact decades ago, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky coined the term “worthy and unworthy victims” to differentiate between those whose suffering benefits a particular ideological or political agenda, and those whose suffering does not.(Source: Trump’s silence after the London mosque attack speaks volumes, Christian Christensen, 20 June 2017, The Guardian)

To that end, here are some more pointed (rather uncomfortable) questions from a terrorism expert:

“Would it have been morally different if a plane had own over London on July 7 and dropped four bombs, killing fifty-two civilians?

Would it be any more acceptable if the perpetrators argued that the targets of the raid were police stations, electricity supply lines or key logistical installations rather than civilians, who were only collateral damage?

If four bombs managed to terrorise London and place Britain on edge, what was the effect on the people of Baghdad of hundreds of bombs raining on their city each day during the invasion?

How would you feel if Iraqi troops were walking along your street? They might occasionally break into your home and arrest someone you love.

If they said they invaded Britain to give you a better life, would you welcome their presence?

Is it licit to drop bombs from fifty thousand feet in the e ort to kill terrorists – with predictable widespread deaths of innocents – but immoral for a single suicide bomber to kill the enemy from five feet in the struggle for national liberation, also killing innocents?

No doubt some acts of terrorism are quite indiscriminate and specifically designed to spread fear and demoralization; but what then of Dresden, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki, in which the major purpose of the exercise, was to terrify and demoralise – in modern parlance, to create ‘’shock and awe’’ to win the conflict. (Source: Phil Rees, Author, Dining with Terrorists)

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

CHARLIE HEBDO, MUSLIMS & FREEDOM OF SPEECH

WHY ARE ALL MUSLIMS, ANTI “JE SUIS CHARLIE”?

If I [had responded] to the attacks in Paris by saying, “Je Suis Charlie”, what would I be insinuating? Of course I would be condemning the attacks, but I would also be promoting the mocking of Muhammad [PBUH]. I unequivocally condemn [all] the terrorist attacks in France and pray for the families of the victims. Terrorism has no place in Islam. (Source: Ibrahim Ijaz, San Jose, Letter to The Editor, 15 January 2015, L.A Times)

“The killings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are abhorrent. But let us not forget the daily abhorrence of our wars in the Muslim World, wars that have seen over a million Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Syrians and Yemenis killed and millions more wounded and maimed physically and psychologically, while millions of men, women and children endure another cold winter, homeless and hungry . . . For to believe that the attack in Paris was a tragedy singularly about a cartoon or as an event solely to be defined as an assault on freedom of expression, is to be daft and incongruent with the history and reality of American and Western policy in the Middle East”. (Matthew Hoh, Veterans for Peace (Source: I stand with Charlie Hebdo but I also stand with the victims of Our bombs, January 9 2015, Huffington Post)

BILL MAHER IN EARLY 2015 ASKED: “SINCE THEY WERE PROTESTING ME FOR ONCE SAYING THAT ISLAM IS ‘THE ONLY RELIGION THAT ACTS LIKE THE MAFIA (AND WILL) KILL YOU IF YOU SAY THE WRONG THING OR DRAW THE WRONG PICTURE . . .’ AND THEN TWO JIHADISTS GUNNED DOWN 12 PEOPLE IN PARIS FOR SAYING THE WRONG THING AND DRAWING THE WRONG PICTURE,” HE ASKED: “YOU HAVE TO TELL ME, WHERE DO I GO TO PROTEST YOU?”

No one is denying there are individuals with Muslim names today who will go on a violent rampage if you “say the wrong thing or draw the wrong picture . . .” but why is Islam as a religion on the dock if an individual with a Muslim name does not obey its teachings? Where does it say in the Qur’an, Muslims should kill person X if he/she “says the wrong thing or draws the wrong picture”? Did most ordinary Muslims, Islamic community leaders, Islamic scholars and Islamic countries condemn the Charlie Hebdo killings or celebrate the shootings?

Was it not a French Muslim police officer (Ahmed Merabat), who was gunned down by the self-claimed Muslim attackers who killed 17 people in France in January 2015? Was it not a Muslim supermarket clerk (Lassana Bathily) that saved the lives of 15 French Jews the next day? How is it then “Islam is the only religion that acts like the Mafia”?

People with twisted ideologies are the problem, whether you follow Islam, Christianity (Anders Breivik), Judaism (Baruch Goldstein), Hinduism (RSS), Buddhism (Ashin Wirathu) or for that matter, Atheism (Craig Stephen Hicks – UNC North Carolina). Not religion, not race nor country of origin.

BUT MUSLIMS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHARLIE HEBDO ATTACK.

While the shootings was a global outrage given how 17 lives were mercilessly lost, the fact that the gunmen shamelessly did it “in the name of Islam” helped reinforce the myth that Islam promotes violence. An untruth when again, it was none other than a French Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabat who was the first to arrive on the scene and also killed by the gunmen or the fact that it was a West African Muslim immigrant, Lassana Bathily who saved the lives of 15 Jews the next day. Unfortunately it is too easy broad-brushing Islam and Muslims for the crime of a group of retards who committed a cowardly act of violence in direct contradiction to Islamic teachings of a true Muslim, Muhammad (PBUH).

Also, why do so many people in the West instinctively decide Islam is the reason the Islamic State attacked Paris, but would never attribute the Oklahoma City bombing to the fact that Timothy McVeigh was Catholic? Nobody associates all Seventh-day Adventists with David Koresh, who belonged to a splinter sect, or all of Judaism with Meir Kahane but when a person with a Muslim name is involved, the whole religion of Islam is besmirched. Why?

MUSLIMS LOVE CALLING FOR “RESPECT” FOR THEIR FAITH BUT DO NOT RESPECT CHARLIE HEBDO’S SATIRE OR FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

If freedom of speech is truly valued in the West, why did the French government stop climate change protesters during the summit in December 2015 or why were over 100 Muslims arrested who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks, however anti-Islamic the stance of supporting the killers or the barbaric killings were?

Does this not illustrate how “the French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace”, in the fine words of Gary Trudeau, the first cartoonist recipient of the George Polk Award in April 2015 who said: “Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny – it’s just mean. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech . . .

Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another”. (Source: The Abuse of Satire by Gary Trudeau, 11 April 2015, The Atlantic)

In other words, shouldn’t satire focus on those who are rich, proud and the powerful instead of those who are less fortunate than we are since satire targeting victims of hatred is nothing less than bullying, an act that can never be worth a laugh.

In 2008, the left-leaning satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo fired a cartoonist who illustrated a crude image about President Sarkozy’s son alluding to a Jewish link and yet no one in Paris screamed for the need to defend “the right to freely express themselves”, illustrating apparently there are indeed limits to what can be written and drawn and that not everything can be said.

Unfortunately, when the public over-reaction that is, urge to “defend freedom of expression” in response to the tragic events from January 2015 unfolded, the troubling double standard at play became far too obvious for ordinary Muslims in France and the world over to ignore.

FRANCE AND AUSTRALIA ARE FIRM BELIEVERS IN FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

If this were true then why are people in France prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech at higher rates than those spouting anti-Islamic views, (although Jew-baiting is wrong in every shape and form but by using the example of the double standards at play when it comes to Jews, the objective is very much to highlight the flaws in the system where certain people are criminalized for certain speech while the others have a free reign to o end).

The same argument could be applied to the French pro-Palestinian protesters whose demonstrations against Israel’s assault in Gaza in 2014 were banned. While the fight against anti-Semitism against the Jews is alive and kicking but regrettably, some parts of the West appear to be light years away from recoiling from its subconscious stance on Islamophobia.

In fact, politicians are in favour of provocation and free speech until Muslims exercise those freedoms, it seems (at which point it is quite conveniently called a “debate” like the Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s April 2017 statement about Anzac day for which she was heavily criticised and following a series of events, migrated from Australia to Britain in July 2017).

Given the right wing’s obsession with freedom of speech and their vitriolic rhetoric defending their right to o end, it is more than just interesting when the tables are turned. When something as holy as Anzac Day comes into the mix, then suddenly free speech becomes hate speech and causing offense is actually a big deal. But when it’s Muslims, people of colour, LGBT communities, etcetera, who are the victims, then it’s a whole other issue. Their freedom of speech does not need to be respected then. (Source: Freedom Of Speech Is A White Man’s Privilege by Masrur-Ul Islam Joarder, 28 April 2017, Huffington Post)

This reaction of course is not only limited to Australia but in Europe: Muslims are told to get used to be being offended and provoked by cartoonists but if the French public gets offended, oh well lets get the police to intimidate a woman into undressing in public to prove their worthiness as a free woman (Source: France defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to o end – so why can’t a Muslim woman in a burkini ‘offend’ us too?, Sunny Hundal, 25 August 2016, The Independent), one of many examples of how freedom of speech appears to be a white man’s privilege?

Last but not least, why is it okay to offend Muslims by making fun of its revered Prophet (PBUH) but not the Jews, victims of Jewish concentration camps or deny the Holocaust altogether such as by saying Holocaust was a mere “point of detail” of the second world war or that Nazi gas chambers were merely a “detail” of history. (Note: The Holocaust should not be denied nor any other wartime massacre or victims in history overlooked or mocked). It appears nevertheless Anti- Semitism is treated as a crime, while Islamophobia is tolerated if not given the denial, blind eye treatment.

GROUPS WITH MUSLIM NAMES HAVE CITED VERSES FROM THE QUR’AN BEFORE COMMITTING ACTS OF VIOLENCE WHENEVER MUHAMMAD (PBUH) IS CRITICISED OR MOCKED.

Cherry-picking or citing verses out of context is simply wrong. The Qur’an says in clear terms: “And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace”. (Qur’an 25:63). Yes, there are indeed a minority of Muslims who have zero patience for any criticism against Islam or Muslims but their actions do not represent Islam, especially when the injunction above, always to be read and understood with proper context and detailed interpretation, is crystal clear.

MUSLIMS ARE CLEARLY AGAINST FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

The famous dictum attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, may not be far from the Koranic call for Muslims to “stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for God can best protect both”. (Source: What Muslims must learn from anti-trump protests in America, Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, 5 February 2017, SCMP)

Along a similar vein, Linda Sarsour, a leading Muslim American activist was quoted in an article titled “Muslims Defend Pam Geller’s Right to Hate”, saying “[Pamela] Geller can draw any damn cartoon she wants and I defend her right to do so. I have always fought for her right to be a bigot and I have the right to counter her bigotry with my own speech . . . The only hope is that the media covers our responses with the same zeal they cover the attack.”

But of course this is rarely the case:

“When you attack African-Americans, they call it Racism. When you attack Jews, they call it Anti-Semitism. When you attack women, they call it Sexism. When you attack homosexuality, they call it Intolerance. When you attack your country, they call it Treason. But when you attack the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), they call it freedom of speech and expression.” (Source: Widely circulated Facebook quote, unknown author)

FREE SPEECH IS ALL ABOUT DOING GOOD IN THIS WORLD.

If free speech absolutes were genuinely fighting for fearless freedom of expression and are sincere about doing true and lasting good in this world as they often claim in their defence, aren’t there countless of other urgent issues that these free speech heroes ought to consider giving some coverage to?

From writing about rights of the poor, minorities, disabled people, asylum seekers, working class migrants, rape victims, sex trafficking, teenage pregnancies, capital punishment, violence against women, human rights activists in jail, the role of western pornography in pedophilia, Western arm producers selling weapons to repressive regimes or abandoned army veterans who are sent overseas for war and come home scarred from emotional (PTSD) and/or physical disabilities or the hundreds of LGBTQI killed every year in Christian-majority as well as Muslim-majority countries around the world, – there are hundreds more worthwhile albeit controversial issues that deserve the right to be discussed and yet are very often overlooked by these so-called “free speech absolutes”. Why is that?

In fact, author and American journalist Glenn Greenwald rightly called this the “Bill Maher Complex: thinking you are brave and subversive for mocking the most marginalized while reliably sycophantic to actual power”.

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved