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Muslim tolerance put to the test

By Bashir Goth - posted Friday, 24 February 2006

To Muslims, Islam is the religion of peace and reason. Muslims believe that Mohammed’s greatest miracle was the word, the Koran. From the outset one can see that Islam gave precedence to the brain over brawn. However, it seems Muslims today have lost their intellectual fortitude.

If we Muslims are really so adamant to defend the reputation of Islam it is our house that we have to put in order. It is unfortunate that while we are so hell bent on burning diplomatic premises and Danish and Western flags, Islam is everyday insulted, ridiculed and slandered by Muslims themselves.

Islam dazzled the world with its free and powerful theological and philosophical discourse from the Middle Ages onwards. Maybe if we had read the Danish cartoons in this historical and geographical perspective, we would have understood that Denmark is a non-Muslim country with its own values, its own culture and that the Danish people have the right to behave the way they want to behave on their own turf. But by resorting to violence Muslims have inflicted more damage to the image of their great religion than any Western masterpiece, let alone the amateurish, stupid and crass cartoons of Jyllands-Posten, would have ever done.


A painful reality check for Muslims

It is unfortunate that many of the Muslims who denounce the cartoons do not know that Islam is insulted everyday by its own followers through the:

  • daily hostage taking and slitting the throats of innocent humanitarian workers and journalists before world television cameras;
  • brainwashed young men flying civilian airplanes into towers and on their promised journey to heaven taking with them thousands of innocent lives;
  • suicide bombers murdering tens of innocent commuters in the subways of London and Madrid and embassies in Nairobi, Darus Salam and other foreign capitals;
  • warlords that hijacked the Muslim people of Somalia and turned the once proud pastoral people into beggars;
  • Taliban regime that kept the Afghan people hostage for years, ridiculed its female population and destroyed the historical heritage of the Afghan civilisation and religious sculptures of Buddha without any regard to the religious feelings of millions of Buddhists around the world;
  • ugly bearded, turbaned and shabby looking firebrand clerics like Abu Hamza al-Masri who seek fame in this world, and heaven in the world after, by preaching hatred and inciting young Muslims to kill and maim the people on whose tax they live and learn; and
  • ubiquitous images of bin Laden and his lieutenants and their messages of hate beamed by Al Jazeera satellite television and other Arab televisions in the name of freedom of the press.

As Muslims we may claim to possess all the good virtues in the world but we definitely lack one very important virtue - that of self-criticism - while the West is at least blessed with this good virtue. We witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations against the war in Iraq in Western capitals. Each day we see the Western media chastising their governments for their involvement in foreign adventures: we see women, students, professors, actors and the ordinary masses expressing their anger against their leaders and sometimes voting them out of office as punishment, as we have seen in Spain.

One may ask, how many demonstrations Muslims organised to express their anger against the innocent Russian children slaughtered in the name of Islam in Beslan; how much anger the Islamic world has shown to protest the crimes committed in the name of their religion in Algeria, Iraq, Chechnya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere? Why doesn’t the world see the large mobs thronging to the streets and chanting God’s name when Muslims commit some of the heinous crimes in the name of Islam? In fact many of our Muslims enjoy moments of shadenfraude and dance in the streets when such misfortunes befall our brothers in the Abrahamic faith.

A little dose of self-criticism will show us that Muslims every day insult and make mockery of other people. Our imams curse the Christians and pray that God destroys their houses, shatters their unity, or wipes them off the face of the earth. And all the faithful respond with a hearty “Amen”. I will not even mention the Jews, the ridicule of whom is daily bread for our clerics, although I find it beyond my understanding why Muslims always drag Jews and the holocaust into the agenda whenever they have a debate with the Christian world. These are the beliefs with which every Muslim child grows up: my brothers and sisters, and no one in our self-righteous world has ever questioned how much disservice we are doing to our future by preaching such hate to the young minds.

Even today, at the dawn of the 21st century, some of us dream of the day when Islam will again conquer Europe and a turbaned Muslim will occupy the American White House. I am not saying this, these are the words of Ayman Al Zawaheri, al-Qaida's number two, and of Abu Hamza al-Masri. The former uttered these words in one of his broadcasts in Al Jazeera and the latter preached them in his Finsbury Park mosque in London.


It would have been understandable if this kind of fantasy thinking was confined to these unbalanced and misguided men, but it is very worrying and indeed scary when one discovers some of the learned men of Islam taking pride in such utterances and defending them on Arab TV. It is not also uncommon to read reports in newspapers from the Arab and Islamic world on Islam spreading in the West like a fire on a windy day. In fact most of such reports come from Muslims living in the West. With such vitriolic rhetoric and with the stereotype of the few Europeans converted to Islam turning their back on the norms and values of their home countries, changing their attire and adopting an alien look and attitude, it is just natural for the Western people to feel their values and their freedom of speech are under threat.

Muslims historical grievances and their flipside

Despite our bravado about Muslim brotherhood, we all know that there is neither brotherhood, nor fraternity among Muslim people. Not a day passes without satellite TV stations beaming to our homes the ugly reality of Muslims killing fellow Muslims in Mosques and in shrines, at religious festivals and at homes with mothers and children sleeping peacefully slaughtered like animals. My brothers and sisters, truth hurts and I am hell bound today, more than any time before, to tell the truth.

Chronic complaints of fellow Muslims against the West are that it:

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Article edited by Peter Coates.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

This is a shorter version of a piece first published in Adwal News on February 11, 2006.

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About the Author

Bashir Goth is a Somali poet, journalist, professional translator, freelance writer and the first Somali blogger. Bashir is the author of numerous cultural, religious and political articles and advocate of community-development projects, particularly in the fields of education and culture. He is also a social activist and staunch supporter of women’s rights. He is currently working as an editor in a reputable corporation in the UAE. You can find his blog here.

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