There was no scarcity of comparisons between the Islamic anger directed at France and that which is directed at China, Myanmar and India. In France, a series of crimes ensued after a caricature was displayed. In some parts of the Muslim world, demonstrations in protest erupted and calls for boycotting products were made. In China, Myanmar, and India, punishments are divided between concentration camps, prisons, laws, and murders that exclusively target Muslims. But the anger was nonetheless contained and its expression, even more so.
Certainly, a role is played by governments and states which, in pursuit of their interests and those of their leaders, respond in one instance and do not do so in the other. Today, the Turkish government most exemplifies this politicking. And perhaps what is described as the Islamic- European relationship’s sensitivity, a complicated, multifaceted and longstanding issue, also partially explains this. Muslims do not have a similarly dense historical relationship with China, Myanmar, or India.
However, something else is likely more important. Since copies of Salman Rushdi’s Satanic Verses were burnt in Britain in 1989, no large protest movements, to say nothing about acts of violence, have been directed at the racism to which Muslim individuals or groups are subjected. No sharp popular objections to legislation that could harm Muslims emerged. Actions of this kind were exclusively directed against books, drawings, and articles that were said to have targeted Islam as a religion and doctrine… The terrorists behind 9/11, the pinnacle of the confrontation with the “West”, invoked US troops’ presence on Muslim land and suffering they said that Muslim peoples had been subjected to at the hands of eternal enemies, “Crusaders” and “Jews”. But they didn’t mention the conditions of individual Muslims in stable societies once. They had no political program or economic plan for those Muslims. This is not even relevant for an organization like Al-Qaeda; neither stability, nor politics, nor economics are in its dictionary. September 11 has become a significant milestone in what were considered cultural civilizational and identitarian wars and in globalizing those wars.
More to the point, in the Islamic reactions to the West, especially to France, concepts, beliefs, or causes totally overshadowed individuals and groups. Islam, according to their interpretation of it, is the sole concern. Muslims are not of concern whatsoever. Their Islam has no room for Muslims.
We find something similar in the way the Palestinian cause and Palestinians are dealt with, as the cause alone is sanctified and incites collective outrage. The Aqsa Mosque and the rhetorical insistence on praying in it are the most eloquent symbols of this view. Even the atheists among the Palestinian cause’s supporters, from time to time, are struck by an overwhelming urge to pray in this particular mosque. As for Palestinians and how they are treated in this or that country, these matters are of no importance. Thus, for example, it becomes possible for a regime like the one in Syria to be venerated and praised for its declared stance on the cause. As for its stance on Palestinians, whom it went about killing and tyrannizing, no consideration is paid to it.
In all of this, we face, time after time, a political culture centred on causes and concepts, not people. The cause is inflated, and the people are flattened. This, among other things, undermines the potential for improving the conditions of Muslims in democratic Western societies. No efforts are put to enhance their lives there, or taking certain measures and engaging in certain behaviors like increasing their turnout in elections, for example, with the electoral alliances and the ensuing changes in the balances of power, legislation, and decision making. Of course, very little is usually being said about immigration, residency, and work with utilitarian considerations… all of this is not seen as relevant. It’s almost nobody’s concern.
The distance between Muslim individuals and their European societies thereby grows, while concern with shortening it is entirely absent. In the end, alongside the proliferation of criminal defenses of the cause, comes populists and racists like Marine Le Pen’s advance to the forefront, and European Muslims suffer by the then catastrophic consequences. Meanwhile, we would have defied and resisted “the enemies of Islam” and attained victory for the cause!
This tendency finds a sap in a kind of cultural production that is pervasive in our communities. One that focuses on “representation”, “representing our image” and how “covering Islam” in Western media, or it affirms the necessary abandonment of Western technology and Western Orientalism that we must embark on, perhaps of Western medicine as well. In these bogus battles, we attain “victories” that resemble the “divine victories” we achieved in our military confrontations. With all of that, only the “war on terror” and Islamophobia are needed to finish the job. Both deal with Muslims as though they are one individual, making it all but impossible for Muslims to be individuals.
Before it’s here, it’s on Asharq Alawsad
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