Is Ben Affleck right about Islam and Muslims?
October 5, 2014
By Anas Abbas
Until recently Ben Affleck was considered by Muslim twitteratis and liberals to be an imperialist and racist for his movie “Argo” but now he’s turning out to be a hero for them after his latest adventurism on Bill Maher’s show. For me only Sam Harris and Nicholas Kristoff made some sense.
I understand that all Muslims aren’t terrorists and it is indeed stereotyping and racism to conclude that all Muslims support ISIS. The fact, however, is that majority of Muslims are in a state of poverty and are victims of the oppression and injustices from their own societies & governments. Hence they do not necessarily have the sagaciousness to pass judgments or form opinions regarding worldly affairs. They take religion as culture and tradition that they have been following since generations. They do not have time to seek alternative and independent viewpoints since they lack access and resources as they remain embroiled in resolving their own miseries. This is why they normally rely either on popular notions in their societies if they take interest in social or political issues or else they choose to become apathetic. I believe that it is harsh to ignore these extenuating circumstances in forming opinions about these Muslims.
My problem however is with those Muslims who are indeed in substantial majority among mainstream population and who deny even the existence of terrorist groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban etc. They are not in a state of destitution and they have all access to alternative viewpoints and critical analysis. Yet they choose to remain intellectually bankrupt and their simple solution is to blame Jews & America for propaganda whenever their religion faces excoriation and legitimate questions from others. Vast majority of surveys conducted after 9/11 have shown us that majority of Muslims blamed Jews and the U.S. government for 9/11 attacks instead of Osama Bin Laden. Nearly 70% of Pakistanis thought that Osama’s killing in Pakistan was staged by Jews and America to defame Islam and Pakistan as reflected by a YouGov poll conducted soon after the death of Osama. Extensive number of surveys conducted in Palestine, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan have also shown us that majority of Muslims there considered Shias as apostates. 80% or more rejected homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. More than three-quarters of Muslims in South Asia said that punishments such as chopping off thieves’ hands or decreeing death for apostates are justified.
The problem is that this substantial majority does not even believe in academic discussions and debates and hence they resort to violent agitations whenever their religion gets ridiculed or legitimately criticised. Salman Rushdie’s case is one good example where the buzz of the disturbing response of Muslims was so reverberating that the book “The Satanic Verses” became an overnight hit and over 50 people were killed across the planet in demonstrations and protests that took place against the book. No Muslim ever thought about writing a counter narrative to at least academically refute “The Satanic Verses”.
This predilection of violence against Islamic critics and conspiracy theory culture of Muslims is responsible for their diabolical dilapidation. Pakistan is one apparent example where political leaders have been blaming arch rival India for their aggravated water problems and deadly floods. Jews and America gets routinely blamed for every terrorist bombing in Pakistan. In fact, the preeminent Pakistani scientist, Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman actually blamed America for causing floods and earthquakes in Pakistan. One cannot even just blame politicians here for standard modus operandi of using Jews et al, as bogeyman since this has been a popular strategy to avoid accountability as Pakistani society is so rife with anti Americanism and anti Semitism that anything that is said against them is believed by the media and transformed into public opinion
This conspiracy theorist attitude of Muslims actually works strongly in favour of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. Muslims usually avoid in engaging in outright castigation and repudiation of these terror groups and mostly they either resort to preposterous conspiracy theories to deny the existence of these groups or else they empathize with them by blaming American foreign policy for “legitimate grievances” of these groups. This ostrich approach of these mainstream Muslims is perhaps the biggest weapon of extremists and terror groups since it creates an environment of apologism and denialism that eventually helps extremists to multiply like parasites.
Tens of thousands of Muslims participated in numerous protests and demonstrations across the world against Israel when it went to war in Gaza recently. 20,000 people (majority who were Muslims) marched in London alone to protest against BBC and Israeli embassy. Social media was awash with vociferous campaign of anti-Semitism. Israeli flags and effigies of western politicians were burnt across Pakistani streets by Muslims who were venting their anger against Israeli airstrikes. The question is why no such protests against terror groups like ISIS? Why there are no marches and demonstrations against ISIS on the streets of London? Why there is not a single influential march against Boko Haram who kidnapped over 300 girls? Why there has never been a single protest ever recorded against Osama Bin Laden by Muslims?
Forget about terror groups, why there are no protests by Muslims against China that supported and vetoed actions against its allies in Sudan and Burma for Darfur (Black Muslim) genocide and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims respectively? For what possible reasons there are absolutely zilch protests against the Chinese ruthless campaign against Islam in restive region of Xinjiang where Muslims are banned from fasting, keeping beards and wearing headscarves? Why there has always been strong concern about civilian casualties by Muslim world whenever America and its western allies carry out airstrikes against terrorists? Why no such concern is shown by Muslims when a state like Pakistan conducts a carpet bombing campaign to ostensibly kill terrorists in the region of Waziristan?
The answer to all these questions above is denial mode. This idiosyncrasy of Muslims is actually an insurmountable impediment in their progress towards becoming tolerant of other beliefs and views. The denial mode along with the disease of conspiracy theorist mindset further exacerbates the situation and this is why Muslims have failed miserably in the field of science and technology. They tend to resolve their social, technological, economic, political and medical issues through the prism of religion. This is the reason why an amateur conman like Agha Waqar managed to easily fool the whole of Pakistan into believing his invention of a so called water-fuelled car. I have personally witnessed a significant number of Pakistani Muslims who instead of referring to science prefer asking Muslim scholars whether a water car can exist. Similarly a large number of British Muslims who have a problem with menstruation or even premature ejaculations prefer to consult an Islamic scholar rather than a doctor.
The fact of the matter is that Islam is not a pacifist religion. The Quran has at least 109 verses that call for war against enemies of the faith. Chapter 5, Verse 32, clearly states that if you kill a human being then it is like killing all mankind, except if you are slaughtering that person for murder or for spreading mischief in the land. However there is one major problem in this verse itself and New York University professor Irshad Manji correctly pointed out that “clause beginning with the word ‘except’ is a loophole. It’s an escape hatch, and many would-be terrorists pounce on that to justify their violent jihads.”
The problem complicates further since Quran leaves it up to the subjectivity of an individual to decide whether those two conditions laid down in the Quran apply in any case; there is no recommended comprehensive and impartial judicial mechanism to deal with such matters. According to the Quran, it is entirely up to the individual to take the decision.
Moderate Muslims though condemn terror groups like Al-Qaida or ISIS but again fail to present any viable solutions against violent Quranic passages. For them, the overwhelming evidence (described in Hadiths, 2nd most sacred text of Islam after Quran) of the slaughter of Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza by forces of Mohammad in 627 AD is just plain prevarication.
They believe that violent Quranic verses were meant exclusively for Mohammad and his forces who took violent measures (including beheadings) as a self defence mechanism tactic for survival. This is again ludicrous since the barbarity, the crusade against unbelievers and the killing spree advocated in Quran cannot be justifiable in any context whatsoever. If we agree with moderate Muslims that these verses were exclusively applied for war situations and these Quranic directives were necessary against the military offensive of Islamic enemies of that time, then prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and torture and desecration of bodies of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants by Western forces should also be justified.
The strategy of moderate Muslims is simple: brand any criticism of Islam as Islamophobia and racism. In their own countries, any critic of Islam is met with life incarceration or under cover of draconian blasphemy laws mob justice is used to silence them. Sadly, in the West this trump card of Islamophobia is being transformed into racism which is why the coward coppers of Rotherham in United Kingdom did not take action against Muslim sexual abusers because of fear of being branded as racists.
It’s time for Muslims realize that the religion of Islam is not infallible and they should try to address this important issue; why Muslim terrorist organisations are being instigated by violent passages in the Quran but why are not Christian terrorist organisations being fuelled by violent verses from the Old Testament? Muslims should understand that Christianity and Judaism predate Islam and it is for this reason that Quran’s violent passages are addressed to Christians and Jews by name. Islam needs its necessary reformation, perhaps a movement reminiscent of the 16th Century against the authority of the Pope and the ideas of the Roman Catholic Church. Islam doesn’t need moderates or apologists who often take the back seat and through their ostrich approach further complicate problems.
Of course there are Muslims like Malala who fought valiantly against Islamic extremists for education and a pluralistic society. However what is unfortunate is that people as brave as Malala ultimately become icons in the West but are branded in the Muslims world as traitors. Malala’s influential speech at the UN last year was televised by every global TV channel and by Western schools but not a single Pakistani media channel even bothered to cover her speech. In the Muslim world, Malala has been defamed as being a Western stooge. The brother of Pakistani current Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharref (himself the Chief Minister of the largest Pakistani province) once openly ridiculed Malala and her education stance
Until Muslims abandon their conspiracy theory and denialism approach, they are doomed to sink further into the quicksand of ignorance and bigotry.