Fiddling as the ummah burns

A lot happened during the time the so-called Muslim faithful set about their holy task of riot, pillage and arson over the notoriously unfunny caricatures of Islam’s last prophet.

The shackled, manacled and hooded Muslim detainees on hunger strike against their indefinite detention at Camp X-Ray were being nourished with tubes shoved down their throats.

Like foie gras geese.

In London, a tabloid newspaper was splashing images of British soldiers in Iraq feeding a beating in the nuts to Iraqi Muslim teenagers who dared to throw stones at them.

In Hebron in Israel/Palestine, Palestinian Muslim first-grade kiddies in pinafores were cowering behind their army escorts as they got their regular stoning from Israeli settler teenagers on their way to school.

This is not even to mention the silent ranks of Muslim females around the world, beaten for showing their ankles, denied the right to have a bank account or having their vaginas slashed—all in the name of religion.

Back in Laudium, meanwhile, Essop bhai and his cronies were figuring out how best to sort out that silly girl who edits the Mail & Guardian. The Muslim faithful, yet again, aren’t seeing the wood for the trees—worrying about cartoons when the ummah, or universal brotherhood, is ablaze.

We see angry, bearded faithful run amok in Gaza, against not the Israeli F16s above their heads, but a cartoon.

Closer to home, in a country where Muslim marriages don’t even have official status, that bastion of egalitarian values, the Jamiatul Ulema—is busying itself with gag orders against the Sunday Times.

And denouncing music on its website. “Among the most destructible things that cause permanent harm to the heart, is music. In fact, its dangers are frightening and catastrophic.”

Oh, and we thought the United States was.

Several contributors to the “cartoon jihads” have pointed out that it all needs to be offset against “the worldwide tide of Islamophobia”.

Aka the old siege mentality horse.

You know, that period (since the Crusades) when Muslims have been getting it from all sides.

The usual complaints about shortages of halal items in Berlin. Not enough sharia courts in Canada. No time off for prayer in the French working week.

The racism and xenophobia one sees in many European societies now is a parochial social reaction to factors such as rising unemployment, economic and class distinctions becoming more pronounced, immigration—and fear (and hatred) of “the other”.

Someone should remind all Muslims living outside Saudi Arabia that they aren’t the only victims in the world.

Last year, arsonists were setting fire to Paris squats, killing African immigrants. In Moscow, masked gangsters prowl subways in search of -“foreign-looking” people to beat to within an inch of their lives. Or what about the makwerekwere threat in South Africa?

One would then really have to caution against a state of affairs where Muslims’ sense of persecution was taken more seriously because it’s “systematic”, “greater” or “institutionalised”—whatever that may mean.

This all-pervasive victim mentality sees any attempts by governments to get Muslims to assimilate and obey the laws of the land as an attack on the soul of Islam.

The goings on in Denmark go to the heart of a very fundamental problem—Muslims decrying laws requiring that they respect others’ social systems on one hand, and demanding respect for their own, on the other.

Ironically, it was on the streets of the same Denmark last year that 19-year-old Ghazala Abbas was shot to death in broad daylight, and full public view, by her brother. Her crime: marrying someone her family didn’t approve of.

One sure didn’t notice the placards then ...

One cannot but wonder if it isn’t high time those still musing over whether to beat up the Sunday Times vendor at the traffic light started caring more about the real problems Muslims face in the world. And devote their energies and time to protest against more important issues facing the ummah.

Let it be said, though. The cartoon business is no once-off. One need only look at history as a reminder. Of the 1989 death sentence imposed on Salman Rushdie by the now-dead Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khomeini—because of his allegedly blasphemous book, The Satanic Verses.

Or the 2002 “Miss World riots” in Nigeria that killed more than 200 people—sparked by a newspaper article suggesting Islam’s prophet would approve of the beauty pageant’s contestants. This earned the inexperienced and air-headed 21-year-old journalist, Isioma Daniel, a death sentence, and a Courage in -Journalism fellowship.

None of the above destroyed Islam. Nor are cartoons likely to.

It is also moot, of course, whether a faith counting more than one billion followers across the globe could be shaken to its very foundations by the poisoned pens emanating from a country best known for butter and Lego.

Then there are the “Kap innie Kaap [Chopping in the Cape]” lobbyists, who vent their spleen on this newspaper’s editor for daring to base editorial decisions on the Constitution, not the Qur’an.

She has a “damned cheek”, scribbled one scandalised sister called Lailah.

Well, here’s to cheek.

Rather the editor than the Jamiatul Ulema and its mouthpiece Radio Islam. In 1997, in flagrant disregard for the equality laws of this land, Radio Islam banned women’s voices from its airwaves—arguing that the voice was part of the awrah or private parts of the woman, and should be concealed from the (presumably) heathen ears surreptitiously tuning into its frequency on shortwave.

As the Jamiatul Ulema could tell “Lailah”, the Qur’an says, as a woman, she has no business raising her voice.

“... and be not too complaisant of speech ...” (Qur’an 33:32)

By the way, isn’t “damned” a blasphemy?

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