Muslims must learn to speak the language of bullies
The Muslims reaction to international 'bullying' can be summarised into two extreme forms.Some members of the community have resorted to violence not knowing that their actions are not only counterproductive but also against the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh). Others gave gone in to isolation.
When I was growing up I believed that bullies had the right to inflict pain upon their victims. It was the cycle of life everyone must accept. To go against them was unnatural and futile. All I did in dealing with them was to come up with creative ways to avoid their wrath and earn their blessings and approval. It took me a while to come to terms and wake up to the reality of bullies and how to deal with them. Giving in to their demands does not make them go away. Instead, they merely demand and expect more.
The only way out, I learnt, was not to give in to their desires, nor to run away from them but rather to confront them. Even though this would require a great amount of courage and sacrifice, it is the only way out from the cycle of abuse that otherwise would never end. Muslims in the West must learn how to deal with bullies.
The Muslim community has been enduring a lot of harassment whether it is about the issue of niqab in France and elsewhere, minarets in Switzerland, racism and profiling at airports and many other forms of abuses. Robbing a woman’s to wear religious attire as they deem fit will not make the bully happy. Instead, he will demand more. Muslims in Switzerland have been recently tested with the issue of building the symbolic structures on their houses of worship. Even though the structure did not pose any harm or benefit, bullies made it appear otherwise. Things were blown out of proportion as if Muslims were on the verge of taking over the land.
Muslims in Canada have also gone through the wrath of bullies when a national magazine published an article in 2006 entitled The Future Belongs to Islam.Ryerson University Professor David Miller in his article entitled The Case against MacLean’s explained that Mark Steyn claimed that Muslims in the West are poised to take over entire societies and “the only question is how bloody the transfer of real estate will be.”
“Without documenting his claims,” Dr Miller, explained, “Steyn says enough Muslims are terrorists to make the religion a global threat, and they will subject us all to rigid Muslim laws when the takeover is achieved.” The world stood still when four law students under the guidance of the Canadian Islamic Congress took their case to the Human Rights Commissions after the magazine refused to publish a more balanced response to the article. Had Steyn said the same thing about another ethnic communities such as Jews or homosexuals, he would have been reminded that freedom of expression has limits and one ought to act responsibly.
Internet blogs, airwaves and news prints were filled with hate against Islam and Muslims in support of the author. Claims were made that freedom of expression was under attack.A furore has been created over the Muslim’s dress code of Niqab in Europe and elsewhere including Canada. It is ironic to hear these societies that claim to have the values of democracy and freedom of religion, violating the same principles when it comes to Muslim minorities.
They would ban people like Dr Tariq Ramadan from entering the US as the former US President did. They would go as far as banning the renowned Muslim scholar Dr Zakir Naik who was scheduled to speak in the UK over misinterpreted comments. The British government banned him and the bullies in Canada are appealing to the government to do the same.
On the other hand, these same bullies act as cheerleaders for anyone who crosses all the boundaries in attacking the Muslim community. When the University of Ottawa reminded the right wing Conservative commentator Ms Ann Coulter to refrain from insulting others when she was scheduled to speak in March, bullies stood on their heads in denouncing the university's move to limit freedom of expression. The University did not ban her from speaking. It had only sent her a letter saying that, ““Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.” In their view, when insulting Muslims, the sky is the limit. Otherwise, freedom of expression is limited.
When an author insults Islam, he gets approval from all sides and is appointed a Knight Bachelor by the Queen for "services to literature" as what had happened to Salman Rushdie in June 2007. But when a scholar makes some unpopular comments such as Dr Naik, the same government bans him from entering the country.
In light of the unprecedented waves of bullies, the reaction of Muslims can be summarised into two extreme forms.Some members of the community have resorted to violence not knowing that their actions are not only counterproductive but also against the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) who did not respond with violence when confronted with bigots.
Iran’s fatwa over the publication of the Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the brutal murder of the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh, burning flags, trying to blow up buildings and airplanes – all are examples of the extreme measures which are counterproductive and breed more hate and animosity.
Contrary to helping Muslim’s , these measures help in the advancement of the cause of bullies in portraying the community as violent beasts who do not tolerate criticism.
Another form of extremism some Muslims have resorted to is a complete isolation hoping that the bully will one day go away. The more balanced approach to deal with bullies is to take a middle approach between the two mentioned extremes. It is the approach cultivated in the work of the contemporary thinker and philosopher Dr Tariq Ramadan named one of Time magazine's most important innovators of the twenty-first century.
As illustrated by Amazon.com in describing Dr Ramadan’s latest book What I Believe, he calls on Muslims in the West to escape the mental, social, cultural, and religious ghettos they have created for themselves and become full partners in the democratic societies in which they live. At the same time, he calls for the rest of us to recognise our Muslim neighbours as citizens with rights and responsibilities the same as ours. His vision is of a future in which a shared and confident pluralism becomes a reality at last.
Bullies need to be confronted - not with violence - but with wisdom and knowledge. They will only go away when challenged for debates in order to demonstrate their hypocrisy and double standards.