In 2007, the American Muslim writer and activist Ali Eteraz wrote, on the Huffington Post site:
The amount of disinformation about Muslims is disconcerting. One popular smear is that Muslims are in an alliance with the left to take over the west; it is an allegation that the far right loves to use.
The other, equally popular and equally absurd, idea is that Muslims do not condemn terrorism. This too makes its way into culture from the right (though judging by comments to my last post, it’s diffused to some members of the left). Though it is subtler, and argues from insinuation, it is no less pernicious. The implication is that every Muslim in the world who doesn’t engage in terrorism is nevertheless a latent supporter, or enabler, of terrorism because he doesn’t make loud proclamations against it.
He’s right, of course. It is nonsensical and offensive to pretend that Muslims who are silent about terrorist atrocities carried out by other Muslims are somehow implicated in those acts or approve of them. In such cases, silence does not equal consent.
But, in recent years, I have come to the view that Muslims need to speak out much more than we already do against terrorism and violence committed in the name of Islam. Not because “non-Muslims” or “the west” or “the government” expect us to, but because we should be outraged, indignant, frustrated and angry at the level to which some of our fellow Muslims — a tiny minority, I hasten to add! — have stooped, and the manner in which they have tarnished the good name of Islam, the Quran and the Prophet.
I used to argue, like Eteraz and others, that we shouldn’t have to speak out or condemn Muslim terrrorism because of the blatant double standard: why weren’t Hindus asked to condemn the behaviour of the RSS in India? Why weren’t Catholics asked to condemn the actions of the IRA? Why the singling out of Muslims?
But the double standard argument is, I believe, now irrelevant. We’re not in the playground. Who cares what others have to do, are expected to do or are asked to do? Let’s just focus on what we should be doing — and I believe Muslims should be speaking out and protesting against Muslim atrocities with as much zeal and passion and anger as we do against, say, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
In the past few weeks, Muslims across the world have been outraged by the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the botched raid on the Turkish aid flotilla, which killed nine activists. In contrast, we have been largely silent about the horrific violence in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan — which, let’s face it, is neither Islamic nor a republic — where 93 people were killed in gun and grenade attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore and where, on Friday, 42 people were killed in a terroist attack on one of the country’s best-known Sufi shrines (also in Lahore).
What does that say about our priorities?
I am not arguing that Israeli atrocities or US war crimes should be ignored or forgotten. Not at all. But I am saying that brutal, cold-blooded attacks on religious shrines, which kill dozens of innocent people in the middle of prayer, in a nation that describes itself as “Islamic“, should disgust and dismay every single believing Muslim.
If we care about our faith — its purity, its identity, its reputation — we have to speak out and condemn acts of terror committed by fellow Muslims in the name of Islam. We have to declare, as we did as British citizens over the Iraq war in 2003, “Not in our name.”