hate-speech-not-freeIt is sometimes far more interesting to read the comments posted in response to articles on the Guardian’s, Comment is Free than it is reading the articles themselves. This is not to say that the articles are poor, but rarely do they pose really challenging questions. Instead, they typically say what might be expected and ‘fit’ the generic message of particular writer (as indeed this blog does of me).

This is true of Inayat Bunglawala’s latest post on Comment is Free, ‘Muslims Must Combat Hate Speech’. Well written? Yes. Challenging? Not really.

In fact after every ‘Muslim’ incident since 9/11, one or more Muslim organisation, spokesman (rather than spokeswoman), scholar and/ or commentator has written something similar, stressing the need for ‘true’ scholars to preach ‘true’ Islam. Indeed, many have themselves reinforced the notion that only ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims exist – and never the twain shall meet.

In response to Inayat’s article – which draws a little to heavily on the opinion of his ‘friends’ for my liking – 1830 responded:

The idea that Muslim associations should be praised for dissociating themselves from the actions of the lunatic at Fort Worth is utter nonsense. Its what any decent, rational person would do.

This dissociation in itself no more deserves praise than the man who never beats women deserves praise for never beating women, or footballers deserve praise for not cheating. Not beating women and not cheating are (or should be) the norm – we do not praise people for not doing them any more than we praise people for not robbing banks.

And they have a point don’t they…???

Since 9/11, Muslim after Muslim after Muslim organisation have fell over themselves to apologise and distance themselves from a whole raft of incidents that have been perpetrated by other Muslims with whom they have no association with whatsoever except that they hold the same yet differently interpreted set of beliefs.

To illustrate this, voting for this year’s Brass Crescent Awards site (as of 11 November 2009 – there goes my nomination) has been delayed. This is apparently because:

many of the Brass Crescent organizers have been unexpectedly delayed due to working on responses from the Muslim community to the murders last week in Fort Hood, TX

Is this necessary? And isn’t there a joke in there somewhere about how many Muslim commentators does it take to disassociate themselves and ‘true’ Islam from the actions of one nutter? Answers on a postcard please.

More pertinantly though, is this strategy working?

To answer this, you need to ask two questions. Are Muslim organisations, individuals, scholars etc speaking to Muslim audiences, or are they speaking to non-Muslim audiences?

In addressing the latter first, if it is non-Muslim audiences then attitudes towards Muslims don’t seem to be changing and polls continue to suggest that anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic sentiment is as high – possibly higher – than it has been for some years.

If it is for Muslim audiences, then might it be that platforms such as Comment is Free  are inappropriate for this type of audience given that it probably going some way to reinforcing negative views about Muslims and Islam.

Either way, it’s not working. And that’s because as 1830 suggests, the premise is a ridiculous one: “The idea that Muslim associations should be praised for dissociating themselves from the actions of the lunatic at Fort Worth is utter nonsense”. White working class communities don’t have spokespeople seeking praise for not voting BNP, African-Caribbean spokespeople don’t seek praise for not being involved in gun crime, so why should Muslim organisations seek praise for not supporting an out of control gunman who might also be Muslim? And why should they not be surprised when they don’t receive it…?

Stop internalising the problem. It’s not working anyway.


7 thoughts on ““Muslims must combat hate speech”: Why…?

  1. What an eloquent put point of view. Many Muslims that I have spoken to share the same thought, exactly how many times are we supposed to condemn such senseless activities?

    And no matter how many times we do it, it is never enough.

    Anyhow, fancy writing a guest post for us? Drop me a line if you are. It would be great publicity for you, and I think there are many that would love to read what you say.


  2. Thankyou Chris! I’ve been thinking this for years and it’s irritated me that everytime some atrocity occurs, Muslim organisations have to come out in all force to denounce it! As if they were responsible for the action or somehow played a part in it. I think half the problem lies in the fact that society itself has now expected Muslim organisations to come out and denounce otherwise they get equated with ‘silence is approval’ which is an irrational argument. When many British Muslim organisations didn’t come out and denounce 9/11 quickly enough they were seen as almost endorsing these acts of injustice.
    However, we don’t see any other faith group or in fact any kind of cultural or other type of group being asked to condemn actions by a random person whom there is no association with, but with as you’ve said a different interpreted set of beliefs.

    But do you think Muslim organisations will change? I don’t think so. Watch out for the many more not so amazing press releases that yet again ‘condemn’ such actions. As a British Muslim, it’s patronising and almost offensive that everytime such a random act occurs we have to be seen to denounce it, otherwise we somehow approve of such action.

    1. Thanks Sara – totally agree.

      As for Muslim organisations (not all of them I hasten to add), I’m slightly cycnical. I think for some of those organisations that fall over themselves to condemn and denounce – as well as some of the various well-known commentators that do the same – this is because they are lured by the Government ‘incentives’ that become available for the ‘right type’ of Muslim. I think some see the prize rather than the problem and become little more than ‘talking heads’ or even worse, ‘rent-a-mouths’.

      Oh dear, is that too harsh ???


  3. Completely agree with you. The comments on Cif are much better than the Cif posts but it takes some sorting!

    Have a look at:

    Muslims must combat hate speech

    A committee against Islamophobia

    Don’t demonise sharia courts

  4. I know it does seem odd that the organizers of the Brass Crescent Awards were also working on the Fort Hood response, but I happen to live an hour away from Fort Hood, was the main spokesperson for the Central Texas Muslim community, and helped organize the Fort Hood Fund (I built the http://www.forthoodfund.org website) during the time when I should have been preparing the awards. The timing, well, it just sucked.

    Next time, we’re just going to add a week in between nomination and voting so this persistent problem will go away :-)

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