Back to Siddiqui: Poking Muslims in the eye Siddiqui: Poking Muslims in the eye
April 06, 2011
An iteration of the clash of civilizations keeps happening with depressing regularity: The Quran or the Prophet Muhammed is insulted somewhere in the West. In response, riots break out somewhere in the Muslim world, and people get killed either innocent non-Muslims targeted in revenge or, more numerously, Muslim rioters shot dead by police.
A blame game begins. The West has launched a cultural war on Islam and Muslims. And, why must Muslims get murderous when we insult their Prophet or their holy book?
The politicians and pundits who want to sound even-handed blame both sides, as did Barack Obama commenting on the killing of seven United Nations aid workers in Afghanistan in retaliation for a Florida pastor presiding over the burning of the Quran:
The desecration of any holy text, including the Quran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity.
Another usual comment is that there are demagogues on both sides but that they are only a tiny minority Pastor Terry Jones is no more representative of 311 million Americans than the dozens of rioters are of the worlds 1.3 billion Muslims.
There the matter usually rests until someone tosses yet another match into the cinders.
But two more thoughts are worthy of consideration:
[SIZE=+2][/SIZE] It is no accident that Afghanistan is the only place where there has been such a violent reaction to this latest incident of poking Muslims in the eye.
Afghanistan is where 14 people were killed in riots in 2005 following a Newsweek report, later retracted, of a Quran being flushed down the toilet by soldiers at Guantanamo Bay.
Afghanistan was also the locale of the worst protests against the 2006 Danish cartoons of Muhammad, leaving four dead.
Afghanistan is where five people were killed in a wave of protests last fall when Rev. Jones first floated the idea of burning the Quran.
It was said that the incidents have been used by the Taliban and Al Qaeda to fan anti-American and anti-NATO sentiment. There was also speculation this week that the Taliban may have infiltrated the crowds marching on the UN headquarters.
The larger point surely is that the worlds trouble spots offer the biggest opportunity for the incendiary politics of religion.
If there wasnt an abundance of anti-American and anti-NATO anger in Afghanistan in Year 10 of a botched occupation, thered be nothing to exploit.
The riots are actually ways of protesting the long-term foreign troop presence, Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, an expert on the Islamic world, told me yesterday. The riots took place in Mazar-i-Sharif; thats not a Taliban stronghold.
[SIZE=+2][/SIZE] Sure, Pastor Jones is a nut case but hes only an extreme manifestation of growing Islamophobia in the United States, Europe and Canada.
Significant elements of the political establishment as well as the media have been demonizing not just Muslim militants in Afghanistan and elsewhere but all Muslims, including Muslim citizens here.
Fox News and right-wing newspapers do it to consolidate their audiences and readership. The Republican party does it mobilize its base, the Parti Qubcois to successfully resurrect its sinking political fortunes and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to unsuccessfully undercut the right-wing National Front. The Stephen Harper Conservatives have also flirted with it.
These are mainstream institutions, parties and politicians not marginal racists like those in Sweden, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium, who have done well by demonizing Muslims.
There has been no shortage of phony issues to whip up hysteria hijab, niqab, sharia, minarets, Ground Zero mosque, cartoons, etc.
David Petraeus, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, makes the Obama administrations tactical argument that such acts as burning the Quran can and do endanger American troops.
The failure of liberals to stand up to the growing bigotry in our midst also undermines our liberal secular democracies and the values we are ostensibly fighting for in places like Afghanistan.
Haroon Siddiqui's column appears on Thursday and Sunday. [email protected](http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/970485)