Are “moderate” Muslims mum when they should speak out?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has an op-ed piece in the New York Times called “Islam’s Silent Moderates” today asking why moderate Muslims have not protested loudly against the “teddy bear case” in Khartoum and the Qatif rape case in Saudi Arabia. She makes some good points, especially asking why the Organisation of the Islamic Conference has not said anything. The OIC is quick to defend Islam and Muslim countries when the criticism comes from the outside, including from her.
Then she wrote:
For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan. But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam’s image. We hear that violence is not in the Koran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign and so on. But the evidence mounts up.
“Why are the Muslims silent?” has been a mantra of many Western critics since at least the time of 9/11. It comes up fairly regularly after Islamist attacks or egregious cases of human rights violations in the Muslim world. It’s true that many Muslim leaders have avoided speaking out. But there have also been quite a few Muslim condemnations of terrorism that seem to have gone unnoticed. Something has been changing on this front and it has been evident these days. Hirsi Ali has either missed it or does not want to mention it.
Ramadan issued a clear statement over a week ago denouncing the Saudi rape verdict, the teddy bear verdict and the sacking of Pakistan’s supreme court justices. The secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari, said the move to try Gillian Gibbons was “a disgraceful decision and defies common sense”. Two British Muslim peers flew out to Khartoum to negotiate her release.
This is not to say whether Ramadan or the Muslim Council of Britain are “moderate” or not (although the MCB made a “moderate” decision last week by voting to take part in the UK Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration after boycotting it for several years).
But these leading Muslims did speak out quite clearly and the Muslim peers defended a fellow British subject. On the other side, there was silence from the OIC and most of the Middle East.
So have some moderate Muslims, at least in western countries, been speaking up after all? Could the problem be that western critics of Islam haven’t been listening? Please give us your impressions.
P.S. I noticed two days after posting this blog that Rod Liddle at The Spectator has made the same point about the way British Muslim leaders spoke out clearly in defence of Gibbons and against the Sudanese charges. His article starts on a very different track, arguing that Gibbons was released “far too soon.” She would surely disagree there. Anyway, Liddle then went on to say: “But — whisper it quietly — some considerable good may have come of the whole shebang. The most unequivocal and persistent protests about Ms Gibbons’s arrest, back home, came from Britain’s self-appointed guardians of Allah, the Muslim groups. Including the Muslim Council of Britain. Note the word ‘unequivocal’. They protested loud and strong and without those previously ubiquitous caveats always beginning with the conjunction ‘but …’. As in ‘We condemn this outrage entirely, but you have to understand that….’ This time there were no buts, just condemnation.”
The comments show quite a few readers don’t agree with Liddle, which makes it all the more interesting that he decided to highlight this aspect of the story so strongly.