Why do Muslims play victims of free-speech but make excuses for apostasy and blasphemy?

Americans want assurance concerning tolerance towards ‘people of the Book’ AND homosexuals, atheists,...

Caleb Powell September 25, 2015
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), as reported by The Express Tribune on September 1, 2015, initiated a nationwide campaign to ‘create awareness about the religion (Islam)’ by displaying billboards that, as ICNA spokesman Nadeem Baig stated, hopes to,“raise awareness about the faith and to dispel myths about the Muslim Americans”.

The billboards contain messages such as how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) supports ‘peace, social justice and women’s rights’.

Photo: Islamic Circle of North America Facebook page

Yahoo News also covered ICNA’s crusade and the comments section got flooded by anti-Muslim vitriol. Such comments demonstrate that Islam has a poor image in America, thanks to the TalibanBoko Haramal ShababDaesh and Saudi Arabia. The ‘lone wolf’ attacks on the army recruiting centre in Tennessee further add fuel to the fire. And ICNA wishes to counter just that.

So how effective are their billboards? Will they foster greater understanding of Islam? Or will they be seen as propaganda?

Americans, like most people, dislike proselytising. Unfortunately, despite good intent, ICNA misfired. Platitudes from Muslims are not what the Americans desire. Americans want assurance concerning free speech and tolerance towards not just the ‘people of the Book’ (Christians and Jews), but also homosexualsatheists, apostates, Buddhists, Hindus, etcetera.

The First Amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Non-Muslims in America want Muslims to respect values that neither favour nor prohibit the exercise of religion. Too often instead, they see acts of religious chauvinism that create a negative impression. For example, the Council of Islamic American Relations (CAIR) recently filed a discrimination lawsuit, as reported this September by CBS News, against an airline when a Muslim woman did not receive special accommodation.

Prominent Muslims such as Mehdi Hasan refuse to unconditionally support free speech by saying,
 “None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech.”

Islamic academics, such as Rutgers professor Deepa Kumar, tweeted:

When such statements are passed, Americans justifiably wonder why mainstream Muslims harbour such bigotry and claim victimhood, while they make excuses for extreme views such as apostasyblasphemy laws and a culture responsible for the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

Moreover, Americans see what happens to Muslims or former Muslims who critique, such as the bloggers in Bangladesh who are being murdered or the sadistic treatment of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. These reformers risk their lives or are singled out (by Deepa Kumar and her ilk) as ‘house Muslims’ and ‘native informants’.

Just ask some of the prominent reformers of today and tomorrow, Qanta AhmedM Zuhdi JasserIrshad ManjiMaajid Nawaz, and Asra Nomani, whose messages for promoting tolerance are embraced by mainstream America. Barack Obama also understands and promotes American values when he said,
“We, therefore, believe in… the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear.”

Christianity espouses this philosophy of ‘turn the other cheek.’ Buddhism as well,
“If others speak in dispraise of me, you should not give way to resentment, displeasure, or animosity against them in your heart.”

When groups such as ICNA and CAIR have made such statements, without any ‘buts’, the perception of Muslims will ameliorate. As is, ICNA’s abstract terms of ‘peace’ may be a start, but without a clear message, their billboards come off as advertisements.
Caleb Powell

The writer worked overseas for eight years, in East Asia, the Middle East, and South America. He's published work in various places, including Poets & Writers, The Rio Grande Review, and The Stranger. He now lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. He Tweets http://twitter.com/sonofmizrahi?lang=en">@sonofmizrahi 

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


hindi_is_an_islamic_origin_lan | 8 years ago | Reply Indian proxy Muslim PM Narendra Modi, Proxy Muslim party BJP (Bharat Jihad Party) is wanting to convert India into a Muslim country with imposition of the Islamic origin language Hindi at Indian tax payer's cost, and Indian PM does not even speak in Indian languages, only in the Pakistani language Hindi. Shame!
Faraz Talat | 8 years ago | Reply That's a pretty ignorant comment, based on how broadly it smears people labelled 'Muslims'. One, holding modern Muslims responsible for crimes that people (not necessarily even their ancestors, as religion in India has remained rather fluid) committed a thousand years ago, and implying that the transgressions by India today are a form of 'payback' for what transpired a thousand years ago. I hope you get your news from someplace other than British tabloids and Fox News, on how Muslims live in the West.
Abdul moiz | 8 years ago We do hold cigarettes responsible for cancer ..and ignore countless exceptions I can make a case for cigarette by showing interviews of People puffing in their 80s, while giving examples of fitness nuts like Jim fixx who died pretty early And ftee would buy the conspiracy
A. Singh | 8 years ago Perhaps my comment was "pretty ignorant" (everyone is ignorant about many topics). That said, Faraz, you did not address any of my points. Give me one example from Islamic history where a Muslim majority state that occupied and ruled over natives and their land(s) willingly gave those people their "freedom" as you insist that the Indian leaders do. Unlike Indian Kashmiris - where Nehru did not allow people from elsewhere in India to move into Kashmir, Pakistan made no such provision for its illegally snatched and occupied portion of Kashmir. Indeed it gave away half of that portion to China as if it could. Did the foreign Muslim invaders and occupiers have any plans to give the original inhabitants of Indiaheir freedom? And then to vacate that territory? The non-Islamic British colonizers did give independence and did leave. Perhaps I was wrong in painting All the world's Muslim with one broad brush - Sorry! But a large chunk - by some estimates 20-25 per cent of the 1.6 billion faithful - old some nasty views (e.g. apostasy, infidels, holy wars) that "good Muslims" like yourself seem to be in denial about but the rest of world now only knows so well. Have a great day in your safe cocoon!
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