Posts Tagged ‘Islamophobia’

They Set A Koran On Fire…And Nothing Happened

In Musings On Confusions, The Daily Discussion on September 7, 2010 at 11:53 am

Ironically, tradition suggests that burning is one of the best ways of disposing pages of holy texts. As this video attempts to demonstrate an apparent act of ‘Christian’ faith, I can’t help but be amused by the sheer anti-climactic end of the video.

Nothing happens.

Much bluster, doom-and-gloom, the devil-is-amongst-us, talk ends with a guy desperately pouring petrol on a copy of the Koran and watching it burn with a rather lame flame. And yet nothing happens. The video ends. That is it. The world remains unchanged.

There are thousands preparing to demonstrate against the burning of the Koran on September 11th, 2010. I ask, why bother?

The faith, for those who truly believe, exists not merely in the printed pages, but as a divinely offered gift, in word and poetry that transcends its physical manifestation. It was for this reason the Koran was not even printed in the earliest years of the faith. It is why millions memorize it. It is meant to be spoken, sung and expressed. Like texts of all faiths, it lives in the heart and the soul, above the physical, and written into the existential.

Much as burning the flag does not dismantle the republic, burning a copy of a book will not affect the religion, nor the belief of those committed to it. So let them burn the Koran I say. These impotent acts of ignorance, these overt gestures of hate, these carefully crafted theatrics, have little or nothing to do with the religions they attack, the objects they desecrate or the faiths they in fact claim to be defending and acting on behalf of.

Watch the video again.

Notice that when the Koran is set on fire, nothing happens.

Nothing changes.

Nothing is lost.

Nothing is revealed.

Nothing is desecrated.

The world, the faiths, the believers, the committed, the message, the text remain unchanged.

We dishonor ourselves with these petty protests, while remaining silent in the face of genuine crimes. As the United States of America, my home and adopted nation, continues its brutalities  in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, retains its torture centers around the globe, hides behind false legalisms to maintain Guantanamo and a regime of torture, abducts and assassinates even its own citizens at will and at the behest of powerful individuals, surrounds itself with costumes of ‘christian charity’, we would do well to remember the things that we should be protesting against.

There are genuine crimes being committed in our names, and thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives being torn apart. There are genuine issues we should march out against, raise our voices against, stand against. Cheap and impotent acts of desecration are unworthy of our attention for they mean nothing, and affect nothing.

Sleepless In Lucknow Or How The Jaipur Literary Festival Became A Nightmare I Want To Wake Up From

In Musings On Confusions, Our Wars, The Daily Discussion on February 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Lets begin by celebrating overt and rabid racism – Ayaan Hirsi Ali was at the Jaipur Literary Festival and I was left bereft with incredulity at the idiocy of the event organizers. Rather than create a genuinely interesting and intellectually serious environment around writers, thinkers, activists and intellectuals, the festival seems to prefer polemicist, celebrities, second class ‘European’ award winners, starlets, and of course, a lovely collection of Islamophobes and reductive racists.

Ms. Hirsi Ali, a woman famous for veiling her ignorance behind sweeping generalizations, ethnocentric simplicities, categorical accusations, outright inaccuracies, outrageous fear mongering and a very seductive racism masquerading as ‘free speech’, received great support from Mr. Dhume in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. In a piece called India’s Group Think on Islam Mr. Dhume waxed lyrical about Ms. Hirsi Ali’s appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival with paragraphs such as:

Speaking to a packed hall, with her burly bodyguard unobtrusively off-stage, Ms. Hirsi Ali spoke about Islam—and its problems with individualism, women’s rights and sexuality—with a frankness unfamiliar to most Indians. She described the faith she was born into as “a dangerous, totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion.” She argued against the moral relativism that has prevented Western intellectuals from scrutinizing Islam as they do Christianity and Judaism.

Ah yes, that hideous cult that has infested people for centuries can now be discussed with greater honesty and ‘Enlightenment’ inspired intelligence particularly since it seems that these animals called ‘Muslims’ seem to have no intellectual, theological, artistic, creative, poetic, philosophical, scientific, literary or other capability within them.

Mr. Dhume points out (rather desperately) that she was not alone at the festival and in fact, among the ‘mainstream’ voices helping the world and now India reach a consensus on the ugliness and diseased nature of all Muslims was the fabulously fashionable Mr. Tunku Varadarajan. I have written about his earlier and his fine insights into the collective mindset of the hundreds of millions of Muslims that infest this earth. You can read my comments about his writings in a piece called Going Muslim At Fort Hood Or How Rabid Simplicities Masquerading As Insight Just Sell More Magazines.

Everyone seems to be asking the one question that we are supposed to believe is gaining greater and greater consensus around the globalized-free-market-capitalism believing world: what are we going to do about these M**ther F**king Muslim terrorists out to destroy our way of life and our return-on-equity?

Of course Ms. Ali is now a ‘scholar’ at the American Enterprise Institute, an organization that boasts such intellectual luminaries as Lynne Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Irving Kristol, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Yoo (yes, that is the same Yoo of the Torturers-R-Us club) and others who recently gave us the Iraq invasion, justifications for torture and many other fine achievements that I can’t think of.

And perhaps all this would be quite amusing if for one small problem; that their idiocies and posturing as free speech advocates hinders a genuine and serious engagement on matters of human rights, justice, equality and liberty not only with the Muslim countries they criticize, but within the very European and North American ones they live in. Their well-funded yet empty diatribes reduce a complex human polity that in fact Islam represents to simple and frankly untenable sweeping and general statements that can’t stand the test of even the most cursory examination.

Their hate ridden reductive polemics not only encourages and emboldens the most extremists of religious reactionaries (of all colors Jewish, Christian and Muslim) to grab the podium in support or defence, but also erases the voices of the genuinely liberal and intellectually creative from both within the religious and secular Muslim communities and others are otherwise engaged in matters of justice, rights, social policies etc. within. By harping their inanities, they provoke inanities and erase acts such as those by Cairo-based activist Hossam Bahgat who recently argued, using Sharia processes, for the rights of people converting from Islam to other beliefs. Such contestations over Sharia, and the laws and mores of society, are commonplace in all nations, including (shockingly!) Muslim ones. Instead, by arguing that ‘Islam’ is totalitarian, fixed, unchanging, backward, evil, destructive, ill-liberal etc. etc. these so-called ‘Enlightenment’ speakers are indulging in the most unenlightened of arguments.

Societies, and yes, even Muslim societies, are best understood through a careful examination of their political, social, economic and, yes, imperialist realities, and not through reductive and frankly racist discussions about ‘the Muslim mind’ or the suggestion of their robot-like collective mindset that seems to have a fibre-optic cable connection to the Koran from which it takes all its decisions and actions.

But instead we seem to have a group of rather popular social ‘celebrities’ who argue that unlike other human beings, anyone or anything ‘Islam’ is inhuman, and lacks any kind of social, economic, political, and emotional reality and are forced as in some ‘totalitarian’ nightmare to unthinkingly and absolutely carry out the statements and phrases of their holy books. Muslims are less human and more zombie like. Islam, and only Islam, explains all their behaviors. And particularly their pathologies. There is no other explanation because they do not posses human traits, frailties, weaknesses, sensitivities, habits and propensities. So an abusive husband, who happens to be of Muslim background, can only be abusive because he is Muslim and his religion and holy book tells him to beat his woman. An angry employee who kills and has a Muslim background (like the Fort Hood killers) can only have done so because the Koran taught him so. They are never described as criminals, and their acts are never just crimes – They are vast conspiracies to overthrow our liberal and gentle way of life, each just one drop in a tidal wave of overly fertile, massively fucking, rapidly reproducing pathogens of which we were fortunate to have caught/arrested/killed one in time, but must remain aware of the others. But hey, if the person is not Muslim, then an abusive husband is just an individual criminal, a gun-toting bulldozer driver who destorys a village , just an angry and lone person. Their weekly church attendance, their teenage year Bible classes, are not relevant. How could they be, for they are not Muslim.

Mr. Dhume is happy to see that India too is coming around to the world’s view on Islam. Writing for the right-wing and fiercely ideological The Wall Street Journal his attempts to suggest that a minority, fringe perspective as somehow enveloping the greater world, is not surprising. This is the same journal that continues to sell us now laughably ridiculous idea of the unstoppable progress of free-market capitalism just as that very model has collapsed on its face and is in fact no longer in effect as most all the great bastion of capitalism are effectively nationalized institutions surviving on government/public charity.

In fact, if anything, despite the silly and infantile discussions pervading in Europe today, the world is developing in the opposite direction. It is beginning to see that there are infact social, political, economic i.e secular histories to understand, and that among a polity that includes dozens of nations, hundreds of cultures, millions of peoples, and tens of millions of ideas on spirituality and life, there is a greater need of intelligent and carefully considered dialogue.

To encourage India, a nation with a deep heritage of tolerance, acceptance, syncretism and pluralism, to adopt the hideously racist, divisive, reductive and xenophobic ideas of what is really a lunatic fringe, and to suggest that this in fact is a pre-requisite for its greater ‘integration’ into the modern world, is frankly insulting and outright ridiculous. It is also quite disgusting for it is purely propagandist i.e. lacking all substance and using fantasy, seductive simplicities and rhetoric to obfuscate and bamboozle.

What makes all these diatribes even more ridiculous is the daily evidence of the crimes of the very so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘free’ societies these paid-by-the-hour polemicist claim to be defending. The liberalism of the United States of America, the very liberalism and freedoms that Ms. Hirsi Ali seems to suggest are under threat by something she calls ‘Islam’ have in fact been torn asunder by our very own political, military, intelligence and now corporate mercenary institutions. And yet, the luminaries at the American Enterprise Institute, and Ms Hirsi ‘I the Enlightenment’ Ali, seem to have nothing to say about it.

Thankfully, there remain some real journalists and some real intelligence in the USA.

Chris Hedges discusses the destruction of the American justice system at the hands of ‘The War Against Terror’. Aafia Siddiqui has become the poster child of a system that has gone horribly wrong, particular since it was handed over to ‘pay by the head’ private mercenaries determined to capture anyone and anything they could label as a terrorist. Including women and children. In a piece called The Terror-Industrial Complex Chris Hedges points out that…

The threat posed by Islamic extremists, while real, is also wildly overblown, used to foster a climate of fear and political passivity, as well as pump billions of dollars into the hands of the military, private contractors, intelligence agencies and repressive client governments including that of Pakistan…Terrorism, however, is a very good business. The number of extremists who are planning to carry out terrorist attacks is minuscule, but there are vast departments and legions of ambitious intelligence and military officers who desperately need to strike a tangible blow against terrorism, real or imagined, to promote their careers as well as justify obscene expenditures and a flagrant abuse of power.

The writer Petra Bartosiewicz has carried out an investigation into the abuses of the military and the CIA/FBI in the rendition, disappearance, torture, accusation and trial of Aafia Siddiqui. In a piece called The Intelligence Factory – How America Makes Its Enemies Disappear tells us that:

The continued political appetite for a global war on terror has led to a commodification of “actionable intelligence,” which is a product, chiefly, of human prisoners like Aafia Siddiqui. Because this war, by definition, has no physical or temporal boundaries, the demand for such intelligence has no limit. But the world contains a relatively small number of terrorists and an even smaller number of terrorist plots. Our demand for intelligence far outstrips the supply of prisoners. Where the United States itself has been unable to meet that demand, therefore, it has embraced a solution that is the essence of globalization. We outsource the work to countries, like Pakistan, whose political circumstances allow them to produce prisoners with far greater efficiency.

And what does this efficiency get us? Nothing short of cold-blooded murder, as Bartosiewicz reminds us of one consequence of this hunger for terror suspects:

Saud Memon, a Pakistani businessman rumored to own the plot of land where the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was murdered, was arrested in 2003, held by the United States at an unknown location until 2006, then “released” to Pakistan, where in April 2007 he finally emerged, badly beaten and weighing just eighty pounds, on the doorstep of his Karachi home. He died a few weeks later.

The entire piece makes for sober reading.

But these are things that Ms. Hirsi Ali, so in love with the tiresome clichés of ‘the Enlightenment’ – an epoch of European history that owes a huge debt to the Islamic caliphate of Cordoba and the light of the Muslim intellectuals, artists, scientists, philosophers, writers, poets, travelers, musicians and others that helped push back Europe’s darkest ages (see at least Jack Goody’s Islam In Europe if nothing else for goodness sake!), can’t seem to find reason to discuss. To say nothing about the fact that so-called Enlightenment values that she continues to parrot were reserved for a few European citizens, and were in fact argued away from the ‘lesser’ peoples including those whose heritage she shares. Rarely has a philosophical – reflected in the works of Kant, Mill, Voltaire and so many others, been so evident in its sheer hypocrisy. The values it espoused were not for all, and certainly not for the lesser nations of peoples. It was an exclusive club, a selective, racially determined one. Ms. Hirsi Ali has nothing to say about this, but perhaps this quote from Kant will refresh her memory:

“Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of the whites. The yellow Indians are far below them and at the lowest point are a part of the American peoples.” (from Eze, E.C. Race and Enlightenment)

And don’t even get me started on James Steward Mill.

It is Islam that is the greatest danger to civilization as we know it. Not war, not torture, not injustice, not pain, not suffering, not displacement, not occupations, not uranium-tipped bombs, not rendition programs, not torture prisons, not contorted judicial systems, not war machines that have budgets larger than the GDPs of most nations, not pre-emptive strikes.

No, it isn’t any of this.

I will say it again; that their idiocies and posturing as free speech advocates hinders a genuine and serious engagement on matters of human rights, justice, equality and liberty not only with the Muslim countries they criticize, but within the very European and North American ones they live in. They distract from the works of those who are seriously engaged in their societies and communities and addressing issues of rights, justice and equality. Arab and Muslim societies are as complex, contested and constructed as any other any where in the world. And just as our societies in Europe and the America’s have their social, political, religious and other struggles, so do they. But these strangely castrated intellectuals like Ms Hirsi Ali with their hate ridden reductive polemics not only forces the most extremists of reactionaries to grab the podiums, but erase the voices of the genuinely liberal and intellectually creative from both within the religious and secular Muslim communities and others who are otherwise engaged in matters of justice, rights, social policies etc. within. Their arguments are not criticism, and not interesting. They are simply stupidities and polemics that evade serious questions, scholarship and most importantly compassion and humanity towards those they are determined to reduce, ridicule and relegate to non-human status.

I will also add this; that they are incomplete and inconsistent. There is much to criticize about the extremists, misogynist, fundamentalist and illiterate in Muslim societies around the world. But these criticisms cannot be selectively applied to just Islam, but in fact apply to all religions as we know them. At this very moment extreme violence and murder is being carried out in the name of a concocted Judaism, while Christian soldiers, proud to overtly talk about their ‘greater god’ are in occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. We have Christian ministers who repeated blame homosexuals and ‘liberals’ for hurricanes and earthquakes, rabbis who sanction the murder of the children of ‘the other’, and Popes who in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence encourage people to continue to have unprotected sex. As she stood on the podiums of Jaipur, she did not remember that powerful influence of India’s Hindutva groups, whose crimes in Ahmedabad and countless other acts of ‘communal violence’ have yet to be accounted for. She did not remember the xenophobia of the Shiv Sena, which even as she stood there shedding the spotlight on herself, was practicing the worst for of xenophobic racism against the citizens of this very nation. That a xenophobic, violent and racist party in fact held the reins of power in this country for at least 8 years before its citizens finally tired of its policies and incompetence and threw it out of office. They rejected this ‘consensus’ that Mr. Dhume so wants to suggest is taking over India.

Instead, she spewed venom on Pakistan, yes, because it was Muslim, and also failed to remember that its people have also been engaged in a struggle against the extremists with an alacrity and determination and who saw all religious parties defeated in the 2008 elections. Ms Hirsi Ali, such a lover of liberty and justice, has continued to remain silent on the racist and brutal policies of the state of Israel and its deeply fundamentalist and extremist Jewish society that celebrates the murder of Christian and Muslim Palestinians. But then again, they do pay her bills and perhaps that is the greater liberal trait of all.

We can criticize, but we have to be consistent and we have to be intelligent. Sadly, these celebrities at the festival lacked both.

Now, I just have to figure out what the organizers of the Jaipur Festival were thinking, and when and if, they will decide to make it a genuinely interesting yet complex, nuanced yet insightful, festival. One that can tell the difference between genuine criticism and genuine racism. Or will it just become a right-wing-lunatic gathering that finds more eloquent and articulate ways to push its racist, derogatory and denigrating values and voice. We will see.

Are You Happy To See Me Or Is That A Minaret In Your Lederhosen?

In Musings On Confusions, The Daily Discussion on December 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

The decision is stupid, disgraceful and racist. I have expressed my views on it in an earlier post called Welcome To The Islamic Republic of Switzerland Or Do You Want Your Burqa In Black Or Blue?

Today Jon Stewart of The Daily Show just calls it as it is:

more about “Single Prayer Option: The Daily Show …“, posted with vodpod

Welcome To The Islamic Republic Of Switzerland – Do You Want Your Burqa In Black Or Blue?

In Musings On Confusions, The Daily Discussion on November 30, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Update: 30th November 2009

The vote to ban the minaret was passed. Switzerland, long pretending to be a liberal, democratic nation that respected the rights to the free practice of all faiths, has revealed its ugly underbelly. Amnesty International has already declared the country in violation of the right to the free practice of religion. Their statement was unequivocal:

“Contrary to the claims of the initiators of the referendum, a general prohibition of the construction of minarets would violate the right of Muslims in Switzerland to manifest their religion,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“A ban on the construction of minarets while, for example, allowing those of church spires would constitute discrimination on the basis of religion.”

And even if it wasn’t, it entire campaign reflects a loving immersion in the joys of bigotry, and ahistorical idiocy.

The campaign to ban the minaret fed off irrational and hideous fears of the bogeyman of Islam, and a deep-seated and seriously bigoted depiction of the faith, its history, its community and its ideals. Suffice it to remind the idiots in Switzerland, that their own Christian steeple traces its own history to the Islamic minaret. Our friends at Chapati Mystery kindly posted a piece written by the historian Richard J. H. Gottheil. called “The Origin and History of the Minaret” in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Mar., 1910): 152-4. where he points out that:

It seems to me, therefore, that a possible explanation of the sudden appearance of the campanile in Italy during the eighth and ninth centuries, would be that they are due to Mohammedan influence. Whether this influence came from Egypt, or from Syria and Mesopotamia, or even from the Maghreb, is a point upon which I should not like to insist. But this much does seem to follow from a study of history of the monuments, that the old idea of the Ziggurat or tower in some way connected with worship at a shrine has filtered down to us through the Mohammedan minaret and finds its expression to-day in our church steeple.

To say nothing to these illiterates that Islam and the Muslims have been an integral part and influence on Europe, and have had a presence there, since nearly 700 years. Europe’s ability to extricate itself from the horrors of the dark ages, and to pull itself onto the path of the enlightenment, could only have happened because of the deep-seated Islamic presence and influence on her culture, knowledge, society, intelligentsia, and politics. To say nothing about the introduction of decent hygiene!

Juan Cole penned an angry piece, title Bigotry Wins in Switzerland, in response to the Swiss-cheese-like thinking that led to this dark moment in European history. He reminds us that:

Switzerland is said to be 5 percent Muslim, and of course this proportion is a recent phenomenon there and so unsettling to some. But Islam is not new to Europe. Parts of what is now Spain were Muslim for 700 years, and much of the eastern stretches of what is now the European Union were ruled by Muslims for centuries and had significant Muslim populations. Cordoba and Sarajevo are not in Asia or Latin America. They are in Europe. And they are cities formed in the bosom of Muslim civilization.

For those of you looking for a more thorough examination of Europe’s real history, and the impact of Islamic heritage on her modernity and present, I would recommend Maria Rosa Menocal’s book  Ornament Of The World, and/or David Levering Lewis’ God’s Crucible: Islam & The Making Of Europe 570-1250 or even Jack Goody’s remarkable insights in works like Islam In Europe.

Switzerland is merely the beginning of this sordid episode. Europe’s hideous shift to the right will continue to make matters difficult for the region’s Muslim populations. Hence it becomes even more imperative that we know how to speak back – with history on our side and with the truths that can cut past the bigoted simplicities, delusions and paranoia being used to defend imagined and ahistorical ideas about Europe, her heritage and her culture. The false claims to a purely Judeo-Christian heritage are as meaningless as the claims to a purely Greco-Roman intellectual inheritance. I have written about this delusion in a previous post titled What A Tangled Web We Weave.

May the battle go to the most intelligent, cogent and coherent.

The poster above has become the source of embarrassment and debate within Switzerland. Printed by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) it is part of their campaign to put a stop to the construction of mosques in the country, and raise their voices against the presence of ‘the other’. The poster depicts minarets in the shape of missiles, and of course, the ubiquitous burqa-clad woman who apparently represents Islam. As explained in a recent piece in Spiegel magazine called Why The Swiss Are Afraid Of Minarets the poster and campaign was the idea of …

…a German man who is behind the successful anti-minaret campaign. The 46-year-old from Hamburg moved to Switzerland after completing his university studies. He worked as a journalist for the conservative Schweizerzeit newspaper and later for the anti-Islam newspaper Bürger und Christ, or “Citizens and Christ,” in which he wrote tirades against a liberal society. “I’ve been able to be active with the SVP on referendum and election campaigns for years,”

Many cities in Switzerland have banned the poster.

But once again, I disagree with this decision. I think that all cities should allow this poster to be shown and distributed. It is the only way that we can reveal the hatred and racism that informs this campaign and confront it head on. But unless we bring these paranoia and delusions into the open, unless we create an environment where these hate-mongers and racists can be directly confronted and challenged, we will not eliminate this scourge from amongst us.

Banning it will only force it to where we cannot confront it, and remove it, and will empower the instigators of this campaign to continue to spread their hateful message but in more insidious and covert ways.

It is clearly obvious that the Swiss are intelligent enough to see the dangers of this campaign, and the racism that informs it. As the Spiegel piece points out:

The minaret initiative is so radical for a Western country that even some die-hard members of the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) are uncomfortable about it. The former party president and current defense minister Ueli Maurer said he was “not totally happy” about it. It probably breaches the consitutional right to religious freedom and could do further damage to Switzerland’s international reputation which has already suffered in recent months from the UBS debacle in the US and accusations that Switzerland is a haven for tax evaders. The case could even provoke the same kind of violent reaction in Muslim countries as the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers did four years ago.

There is in fact no point in a ‘violent’ reaction. This is a stupid campaign, by stupid men, and based on stupid assumptions and prejudices. They can be easily, and rather casually, challenged, undermined and eliminated.

There will always be extremists – the ones who are scared, and confused in the face of a changing world and a modernity that seems to be leaving them behind. Rewarding them with public censure only encourages their behavior because it offers them the victory of ‘victimhood’ and ‘martyrdom’. We should not do so.

Print the posters!

I suggest we all print them and hang them up in our homes if for no other reason than to remind us that our silence or our attempts to silence them will in fact be the reason for the ideas that inform this poster to become reality.

Print the posters.

SVP, please send me a copy!

You may also want to read Pankaj Mishra’s piece A Paranoid, Abhorrent Obsession and I quote the paragraph that obviously is an influence and an inspiration for my stand here:

It is a depressing spectacle – talented writers nibbling on cliches picked to the bone by tabloid hacks. But, as Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr pointed out, the “men of culture”, with their developed faculty of reasoning, tend to “give the hysterias of war and the imbecilities of national politics more plausible excuses than the average man is capable of inventing”. The “public conversation” about Islam…should not be avoided. Its terms have already been set low, and the bigger danger is that it will be dominated by an isolated and vain chattering class that, rattled by a changing world, seeks to reassure us by digging an unbridgeable trench around our minds and hearts.

Saying ‘Fuck Off’ In Muslim And Why I Say It So Often!

In Musings On Confusions, The Daily Discussion on November 26, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I was days away from penning a piece about how we should neither ask or give ‘collectivist’ explanations for acts of violence carried out by people 1) using Islam as a justification, 2) with Arabic/Islamic/Muslim names, and 3) veiling their illegal, violent and inhumane activities behind a language and rhetoric of Islam.

But Ali Eteraz beat me to it, and did it more articulately and with greater clarity. By the way, I have quoted from Eteraz’s works in the past. He has also recently published what looks like a fascinating memoir. The book is called Children of Dust and chronicles his journey from a village in Pakistan to the USA where he remained the rest of his life.

In a piece called Muslims Should Raise The Other Finger , written in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings and the massive outcry against ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islam’ that emerged overtly or surreptitiously (and obviously not for the first or the last time), Ali gets right down to it and says:

There is no need for one Muslim to condemn the crimes of another. Collective responsibility cannot, and should not, be accepted. Where one accepts collective responsibility one opens the door to collective punishment. Are Muslims individuals? Or are they one singular marionette that pirouettes each time its string is pulled?

Saving a particular, and well inspired, bile for a certain individual who recently wrote a very stupid piece in the Huffington Post

One of the most egregious acts of kowtowing to the “massa” occurred recently in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings. At Huffington Post, Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Salam al-Maryati wrote an article directed to Muslim-Americans, extolling them to “amplify our Muslim American identity.” No thanks. The only thing I’ll amplify is the length of my middle finger.

Time again there is an outcry against ‘Muslims’ that insists and demands that they [the Muslims] condemn acts of individuals or individual groups, as if this community – hundreds of millions of people, dozens of different cultures and ethnicities, hundreds of different histories and heritages, and dozens of political national groups were all somehow tied to each other and aware and responsible for the acts of all within it.

No other group is expected or asked to perform such demeaning and degrading ‘collective’ apologia. A Jewish settler slaughters a Prime Minister, but he is quickly seen as an ‘individual’, ‘an extremist’ and unrepresentative of his people. A Christian fanatic blows up a Government building in Oklahoma, but churches are not raided, nor charities closed. Christian soldiers in America’s armies are out there killing and murdering civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and yet few are exploring the pages of the New Testament to find its ‘genetic’ coding for violence. Or insisting that every Evangelical take responsibility for their actions and ‘do something about it’. A post office shooter kills off colleagues he finds boring, but we never investigate his religious feelings or delusions as a source of an explanation.

But god-forbid you have a 1) Arabic name, 2) come from a country with a predominantly Muslim heritage, or 3) traveled to or worked in or slept with a prostitute from a country with a predominantly Muslim heritage, and all bets are off and we are in the realm of the ‘mass condemnation’ and ‘mass apologia’. The ‘Muslim’ community is called to task by political leaders, and all sorts of self-appointed ‘leaders of the community’ emerge from their rats holes to speak for ‘us’.

Who are these people?

Islam has no clergy. And no illiterate, provincial or self-selected Mullah or Maulvi speaks for me or anyone in the community. It is not their role, it is not their responsibility, and it is not something anyone in any community has asked them to do. But from the morons at the Vatican to the morons at the White House, we repeatedly seen this pathetic theater of some lame-duck ‘Muslim’ leader – never heard of before or since standing alongside a bunch of self-righteous and pleased ‘Western’ leaders and playing the ‘moderate’ card. As if standing there with George Bush and mouthing stupidities about ‘the peaceful nature of Islam’ is what is needed and not what will only further encourage collectivist generalizations and racist simplicities.

So with Ali Iteraz I say – fuck you – not just to those who attempt to collect everyone of any random/vague or specific Muslim heritage into a mass, but also to those so-called ‘Islamic’ leaders who have the audacity to speak on my behalf. To turn and see acts of individuals and groups as acts of an entire, diverse and complex community is simply racist i.e. the belief that all members of a group posses characteristics and abilities (in this case, a propensity and preference for religious violence!) specific to that group!

So the next time someone asks you ‘Why is Islam so violent?’ or ‘What is your community doing about this?’ or ‘What is wrong with Islam?’, just indeed look them in the eye, smile, and say ‘Fuck you, you racist!’ There are extremists, morons, deranged individuals carrying out criminal acts all over the world. They come from all backgrounds, classes, ethnicities, religions and nations. To understand a crime we have to investigate it as a crime.

Crimes have personal, political, economic and social reasons and we are better off exploring these, than the pages of religious texts or the ‘psychology’ of ‘a belief’ to see if something in their DNA makes them uniquely susceptible to murdering, or creating illegal settlements, or faking weapons of mass destruction accusations, or building gas chambers to take out another ‘entire’ people.

Footnote: In 2005 I met a very well known American photographer in Jerusalem. I was on my way to Gaza and she was just returning from there. Upon learning that I was of a Muslim heritage, her immediate reaction was to ask me where in the Koran she could find an explanation for suicide bombings.

It took a few minutes for me to overcome my amusement and a growing disdain for this individual. I did however find a few moments of control to respond.

I turned to her and said only this – that I found it laughable that despite spending 3 weeks with the Palestinians of Gaza, and witnessing first hand their desperate conditions, their daily humiliations, their powerlessness to fend off the systemic violence inflicted on them and their children, their hunger, joblessness, and general hopelessness – conditions that have continued for decades and maintained because of an Israeli occupation, that she was searching the pages of a religious text to understand why the Palestinians engaged in retaliatory violence!

I believe that she kept looking in the pages of the Koran. She may still be looking after all these years!

Her pathetic cowardice and determined recism – one that erased the lived history and daily experiences of human beings, experience that she had seen with her own eyes, and chose instead to wallow in ‘religious’ fantasies and collective simplicities was just too appalling to behold. Suffice it to say, she has gone on to win many awards for her work. In a mainstream world where the mediocre is the magnificent, I would expect nothing less.