Thursday, March 16, 2006

MISSING THE POINT PART I

The Muslim Action Committee (they of "civility" fame) have got the ache with the March for Free Expression in Trafalgar Square on March 25th.

In an item written by Ismaeel-Haneef Hijazi entitled
Letter to Non Muslim organisations
they write:
Dear brothers and sisters in Islam,
Hang on, I thought this was supposed to be a letter to non-Muslim organisations? Or is this letter simply a snide attack on the Free Muslims Coalition? Anyway...
We have seen that your organisation has leant its support to the Freedom of Expression Demonstration due to take place on the 25th March in Trafalgar Square in London England. We have also read your blog comments about the demonstrations against the abusive Danish cartoons directed at our beloved Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him) with interest.

I would like to ask you why it is that you haven't actually investigated what it is we as the Muslims of Britain (because from your website, it appears you are all Americans) have actually been doing in response to these cartoons.
I was tempted to ignore the rest of the letter - quite how Mr Hijazi could manage to convince himself that two Englishmen, a Pole, a Kiwi and a man of French descent were all Americans is anyone's guess. But like I said, this would appear to be an attack on the Free Muslims Coalition.
We'd also like to know why you have not attempted to make dialogue with any of the Muslim leaders in this country on this issue. Instead you have ignored our local situation and rushed to support a Freedom of Expression March which is being backed by many who hate us, our faith and our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Well, on the off-chance this letter is aimed at us rather than the FMC (although this seems unlikely), take it from me Mr Hijazi: we have. Perhaps you are upset that we haven't contacted you. This particularly fine post might explain why.

In the words of David T of Harry's Place:
The Muslim Action Committee demands:

"an undertaking by the paper that one Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) be printed every issue for the next 12 months on civility, as selected by the Muslim Action Committee."

But what if the Muslim Action Committee decided that Jyllands-Posten should print the following Hadith:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."

Would that really promote civility? Indeed, should that Hadith be supressed on the grounds that it was incivil? Should a newspaper which printed it be censured by the Press Complaints Commission under the amendment to the PCC Code for which the Muslim Action Committee is campaigning? I doubt whether all the supporters of the Global Civility campaign - which include Hizb ut Tahrir - would accept such an outcome.
Quite.

And anyone who, having namedropped the MAB, states:
For your organisation to lend its support to a demonstration that is defending these cartoons is problematic to say the least and is damaging and distracting from the good work we are doing here.
has completely and utterly missed the point of the rally.

People say things that may offend you. Get over it.

If the aim of this rally was simply to offend Muslims, does Mr Hijazi honestly believe the Free Muslims Coalition would have endorsed it?

This march isn't just about the reaction of a small minority of Muslims to the Muhammad cartoons: the response of a number of fundamentalist Christians and Sikhs to the Jerry Springer Opera and the controversial play at the Repertory Theatre in Birmingham were also factors behind our decision to hold the rally.

And it's not just about religion either. Around the globe millions of people are unable to criticise the way their countries are run, for fear of violence, imprisonment or worse.

This rally is about the fundamental human right to free speech and expression, one that Ismaeel-Haneef Hijazi of the MAC doesn't appear to understand extends not only to criticism of corrupt governments and organisations, but also to religions and belief systems that individuals may find themselves at odds with.

Very disappointing.

I wonder whether the MAC support the right of a certain Wafa Sultan to speak her mind, or instead think that she ought to go into hiding in fear of her life (as she has done) for saying this or this?

That her remarks were inflammatory is neither here nor there. Would the MAC condone a death sentence against her? Do they believe she ought to be punished for stating her views?

From the material on their website, I guess not, but do they believe she has the right to make those points? Apparently not. Her views would be deemed by the MAC as "uncivil" and thus not worthy of consideration. The fact of the matter is that by making these remarks, Wafa Sultan has achieved her aim of provoking debate - the same aim that Jyllands Posten had in mind when publishing those cartoons. The real shame is that organisations such as the MAC are unwilling to listen.

Another classic case of "We'll defend your freedom of speech as long as we agree with what you say." Which isn't freedom of speech at all, is it?

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