This week’s news of organized Muslim mobs on the rampage in Afghanistan, Pakistan and various other parts of the Muslim world—in the wake of the erroneous Newsweek report that copies of the Koran were desecrated by American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay—is as stale and tiresome as another round of suicide bombing in Iraq.
There would be news of much interest if we learned of demonstrations in those countries against the regular desecration of Islam by leaders of fundamentalist Muslim organizations who preach the politics of intimidation and violence in the name of religion to their fanatical followers.
The Newsweek story, since retracted, was irresponsible and mischievous. It had as much merit—and was about as well investigated before going to print—as was Dan Rather’s discredited reporting on U.S. President George Bush’s service with the Texas National Air Guard.
But it was seized upon by political opportunists such as Imran Khan—a former Pakistani cricket star and opponent of General Musharraf, Pakistan’s military dictator—for a show of force by unleashing a mob in quest of their own ambitions.
These mob rampages—some 16 dead and many more injured, with considerable property damages in Afghanistan and elsewhere as well—only confirm mob psychology as being readily inflammable and destructive.
The more revealing aspect of such events is the role of those igniting mob passion in the name of Islam. The damages that result are always disproportionately higher than excuses which trigger them.
In November 2002, for instance, Nigeria was convulsed by a violent protest led by Muslim fundamentalists causing death and destruction over a newspaper story mischievously speculating on what Prophet Mohammed’s response might be to a Miss World pageant being staged in the country. Some 200 people were killed.
It is no mystery that in societies where widely prevalent illiteracy and poverty leave people’s minds and bodies vulnerable, political opportunists can readily find a rent-a-mob for their purposes.
Yet there has been little or no effort by Muslim leaders within the Arab-Muslim world, or in the West, to protest the widely witnessed mounting horrors perpetrated by some Muslims who have done irreparable harm to Islam’s reputation.
The shameful silence of most Muslims in respect to regular kidnappings and murders—e.g., Margaret Hassan, an aid worker in Iraq; Danny Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Pakistan—or over the destruction of the Bamiyan statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, reveals their twisted thinking and selectively hollow sense of outrage concerning the desecration of Islam.
It is violence done by Muslims under whatever pretext, politics or religion, that continues to cause greater harm to Islam than any real or imagined insult hurled by non-Muslims towards Muslim faith or culture.
As a Muslim, I find exceedingly abhorrent the continuing silence of the Muslim world in respect to the genocide unfolding in the Darfur region of a Muslim-majority Sudan.
This thundering silence is not an exception. It has, rather, become the rule of Muslim sensibility—turning a blind eye to horrors perpetrated by Muslims with justifications offered by references to the Koran or the traditions of the prophet.
It is only if, and when, Muslims take responsibility for their own reprehensible conduct—the record is too long to list—that others might genuinely consider any merit in Muslim grievances arising from any alleged insult against Islam by non-Muslims.
In the meantime, Muslims should remind themselves that those who greatly defame Islam’s message of belief in a merciful God of all creation come from within their midst and, as the Koran instructs, upon them rests a mighty burden of repentance and warnings of eternal damnation.