“We are supposed to watch what we say about Islam, lest by any chance we be considered ‘offensive’. A fair number of authors and academics in the West now have to live under police protection or endure prosecution in the courts for not observing this taboo with sufficient care.
“A stupid term – Islamophobia – has been put into circulation to try and suggest that a foul prejudice lurks behind any misgivings about Islam’s infallible ‘message’. Well, this idiotic masochism has to be dropped.
“There may have been a handful of ugly incidents, provoked by lumpen elements, after certain episodes of Muslim terrorism. But no true secularist or even Christian has been involved in anything like the torching of a mosque….
“But where are the denunciations from centers of Sunni and Shiite authority of the daily murder and torture of Islamic co-religionists? Of the regular desecration of holy sites and holy books? Of the paranoid insults thrown so carelessly and callously by one Muslim group at another? [Er … here, here and here, for example? – ed.] This mounting ghastliness is a bit more worthy of condemnation, surely, than a few Danish cartoons or a false rumor about a profaned copy of the Quran in Guantanamo.
“The civilized world – yes I do mean to say that – should find its own voice and state firmly to Muslim leaders and citizens that respect is something to be earned and not demanded with menace. A short way of phrasing this would be to say, ‘See how the Muslims respect each other!'”
That well-known representative of the civilised world, Christopher Hitchens, lectures Muslims on the meaning of respect.
Postscript: Over at Harry’s Place the inimitable David T uses this post as a springboard for yet another stupid attack on Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
David T tells us that “Qaradawi certainly hates jews and Americans”. Sure, David. That would be the Qaradawi who has stated that “Judaism for us … is a divine religion with a divine book that has its respected status in our religion…. The Jews lived with the Muslims for centuries and even when they were persecuted in Europe they found no safe refuge except for in the land of Islam where they lived protected, honoured and many of them prospered.” And the same Qaradawi who, following the 9/11 attacks, declared: “Our hearts bleed for the attacks that has targeted the World Trade Center as well as other institutions in the United States.”
Equally ignorant is David T’s reference to Qaradawi’s “loathing of Shiites”, when in fact Qaradawi (to quote Middle East expert Marc Lynch) “has long advocated good Sunni-Shia relations, and has been scathingly critical of efforts to promote anti-Shia attitudes”. It was for that reason that Qaradawi’s strong intervention at January’s Doha conference on Sunni-Shia relations caused such a stir.
Views differ on the wisdom of Qaradawi’s actions and the success of the conference itself. Leading Egyptian journalist Fahmi Howeydi wrote an article in al-Khaleej in which he argued that at previous such gatherings the participants had restricted themselves to exchanging compliments and issuing anodyne statements about unity, whereas Qaradawi’s harsh words cut through the pleasantries and forced everyone to address the real and acute problems in Sunni-Shia relations.
I’m not in a position to make a judgement on this, and I’m sure David T knows even less about the subject than I do. My reason for referring to the conference, which explicitly condemned “the sectarian war between Sunnis and Shi’as unfolding in Iraq”, was to demonstrate the emptiness of Hitchens’ accusation that authoritative figures in the Muslim world have failed to take a stand on this issue.
In a subsequent statement calling for an end to Sunni-Shia strife, Qaradawi announced that the International Union of Muslim Scholars, of which he is president, would be sending a delegation to Iran to confer with leaders there over how to prevent the spread of sectarian violence in Iraq. Marc Lynch further reported that “an article on Qaradawi’s home page on the terms of Sunni-Shi’ite reconciliation argued that overcoming divisions in the Muslim umma should be seen as the highest obligation right now, overriding all other interests or concerns, but that such rapprochement should be based on clear and honest positions on both sides”.
Qaradawi recently participated in a televised discussion on Al-Jazeera with former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Regarding Qaradawi’s contribution, Marc Lynch writes: “While he defended the Sunnis of Iraq, and called on Iran to use its influence to stop the sectarian killing in Iraq, he clearly and bluntly condemned any Sunnis who were killing Shia.” Rafsanjani for his part stated: “Shi’ites should not think that because they suffered injustice in the past that the chance has come for them to take revenge.”
All of which further underlines the absurdity of Christopher Hitchens’ assertion that Sunni and Shia leaders have failed to condemn sectarian violence.
And, of course, the even greater absurdity of Christopher Hitchens and David T blaming Muslims for the Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq, when the root cause of the conflict is the imperialist invasion and occupation of that country which these “left-wing” neocon warmongers so enthusiastically supported, will not be lost on our readers.