It’s hard to be Muslim. Very hard. Because some Muslims have acted in horrific ways all Muslims are being persecuted. If you persecute people you degrade yourself and those you persecute, and you make a mockery of the so-called values of secular democracy in which you take your actions.
The most extreme terrorists who profess Islam as their religion are condemned by all people. Zarqawi and his ilk in ISIS were considered beyond the pale even by people like Osama bin Laden. They have, of course, long been castigated and denounced by Muslim leaders around the world. Because Islam does not have a central leader like a Pope it can be harder to get an official sweeping statement of condemnation, but even though this is hard it has happened and a broad consensus of outright repudiation by leaders in Islam has been handed down.
And yet some countries create laws that persecute all Muslims. What world is it that France is seeking to create at the moment with its ideology of secularism? This is an ideology which appears to make it acceptable to take away the civil and human rights of people who have committed no crime. We now have the unedifying spectacle of armed men making women strip on beaches in the name of secularism.
If it is unacceptable to the French that Muslim women wear hijabs in public spaces because of secularism then I would suggest any religious symbol or building in a public space would break the same rule. Perhaps they need to take down all their churches.
Then there is the routine harassment of Muslim passengers on planes including this recent incident involving a Muslim man and his two sister:
Earlier, two passengers – also travelling to Naples – had told authorities that the siblings had been looking at a mobile phone screen that showed either Arabic text or the words “praise be to Allah”, Sakina said.
“A passenger on your flight has claimed that you three are members of ISIS,” the MI5 agent said to the siblings, according to Sakina, a clinical pharmacist.
Source: Al Jazeera
I’m not even sure what racism against a writing script is called, but here we have it. As for the phrase “praise be to Allah”, well I hope they are questioning Christians who use the phrase “God bless you” as well.
When you are the victim of this kind of harassment (one hour of questioning by MI5) it must give you a true understanding of powerlessness. All of the talk about the presumption of innocence, and protection of legal rights begins to look more like a veneer which other laws can trump. As for seeking redress? How much money and time do you have to give up? As for the people making spurious accusations based on prejudice? They, I assume, carry on with their lives, and nobody has a word with them, or asks them to apologize. The only presumption is that the westerners are right to fearful.
The presumption of victim-hood rests with the westerner and our media creates this through its narrow, jingoistic coverage. If you seek it out it is possible to have a better, more balanced sense of the world. Following Al Jazeera for a while for example creates a different world view. In Al Jazeera’s presentation of the world there are a continuous stream of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and Africa by a variety of terrorist groups killing dozens of people in those places every week. There has also been a lot of very significant fighting in Syria involving considerable victories against ISIS ground out by Syrian fighters on the ground. If this appears at all in other media available in New Zealand it is as a foot note to something else.
The incidental effect of this non-reporting is that terrorist attacks appear to be only things that happen to Westerners in the West. Each terror attack in a western country is a tragedy. Each terror attack in a non-western country is also a tragedy and given that the overwhelming proportion of victims are in non-western countries the non-reporting of these attacks is not only unfair but harmful. The more the West trains itself to see itself as the victim, the more likely it is to persecute those in their society they think align with the terrorists.
That the very people with the most experience of intolerance, savagery and terrorism – the refugees coming to Europe – are the ones who are persecuted again for being what they fled appears to just be a cruelty of fate, but is actually being cultivated by the media, nationalistic politicians and the betrayal of the principles of democracy and human rights.
There also happens to be a current of sexism in all of this. Because the headscarf is one of Islam’s most visible symbols in the West it is the women of Islam who routinely bear the brunt of laws and remarks and harassment. That image of armed men making a woman undress on a beach is disturbing and in any other circumstance would be regarded as appalling. I regard it as appalling. As I do the idea that people who believe women should have the power of choice think that they should be able to control what women wear on their heads. As long as the choice is freely made the hijab has nothing to do with oppression.
What is oppressive is stripping people of rights, and building on stereotypes and fear to persecute others.