Perhaps one of the most controversial topics when it comes to Islam, is that of the status of women. It seems that everyone thinks they know everything there is to know about this topic, but I’ve yet to see a mainstream debate about this issue which actually included a Muslim in the conversation… or better yet, a Muslim woman!
I was approached by a very dear friend of mine who needed help in debunking some utterly false and downright hateful claims made by Christian Evangelical, Franklin Graham, in an interview which recently aired on CNN. I’ll spare you the excruciating pain of actually watching the interview, so I’ve outlined his main “points” below and will attempt to respond to each of them with credible references from the Qur’an and Hadith – the only true sources for Islamic jurisprudence.
However, before getting into that, it’s important to note that throughout the 11 minute interview, Mr. Graham never once took the time to actually refer back to the Qur’an or Hadith (as I will do in this post). He never once referred to a specific personal experience he’d had with any of the millions of Muslims living in his own country – the U.S., or the 1.6 billion other Muslims scattered across the globe. No, his one reference to anything remotely related to Islam was when he held up the cover of a TIME magazine which showed a picture of an Afghani girl who tragically had her nose cut off by her father because she fled an arranged marriage…and this is not at all a reference to Islam, but a in fact a reference to one incident in one country involving one family, who happens to be Muslim. Oh yes, he also referred to his ‘extensive experience’ of ‘helping Muslims’ in Muslim countries, but he never once mentions who, when, where…again, completely baseless.
The importance of this endeavor to counter these false accusations against Islam as a religion is due to the widespread uneducated, misinformed, and at times, downright ignorant, images that are portrayed about Islam in the mainstream media. If some heinous, cruel act is committed in some remote corner of the world, it goes completely unnoticed… until someone gets wind that the perpetrator says he’s a Muslim. This over-generalized, painting with a broad stroke of the brush has got to stop! It’s time to look at the facts, the source, and the truth. Below are some of Mr. Graham’s false statements about the status of women in Islam:
Women are the personal property of men
This one is a favorite of those who are truly uneducated about Islam. For if one reads the Qur’an, one will immediately realize that women and men are full and equal partners in humanity. Women are neither the ‘property’ of men, nor are they an object to be owned, bought, sold, used, kept, or any other outlandish term used to describe them. Allah (swt) explains to us exactly how women are to be treated (and not treated):
O You who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at time of marriage) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good. (Qur’an, 4:19)
Allah (swt) also makes it clear that the only difference between a man and woman in the sight of Allah, is one’s good deeds and awareness of Allah (swt):
Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious. (Qur’an, 49:13)
Whoever does right, whether male or female, (all) such will enter the garden. (Qur’an, 40:40)
And for those who wonder why the Qur’an seems to only be addressed to men, Umm Salama (one of the Prophet’s wives) asked the same question, after which a long passage was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) clearly addressed to both men and women in every line, stating the responsibilities and rewards for both men and women:
For Muslim men and women – for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise – for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward. (Qur’an, 33:35)
Women have no rights in Islam
Another favorite, yet completely false statement, disproven only by the word of Allah (swt):
O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever and All-Watcher over you. (Qur’an, 4:1)
Contrary to what characters like Franklin Graham would have you believe, Islam grants the women the right to an education, as clearly stated by the Prophet (pbuh):
To seek knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim. (Related by Ibn ‘Adiyy, Al-Bayhaqi and Al-Tabarani)
The Holy prophet had keen interest in the education of women. His own wife, A’isha (ra) was highly learned and he is reported to have said to his companions: Learn half of the faith from A’isha. After the death of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) his companions frequently asked her for guidance in matters on which there was a difference of opinion and she was considered an authority on many vital issues and a large number of authentic traditions were narrated by her.
Islam also guarantees the rights of women to work, to own property and have wealth. Regarding the right to work and earn a living:
And in nowise covet those things in which Allah hath bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn: But ask Allah of his bounty. For Allah hath full knowledge of all things. (Qur’an, 4:32)
Islam also grants women the right to their lawful inheritance. Neither a woman’s father nor her husband can lay claim to her rightful share of inheritance:
From what is left by parents, and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large-a determinate share. (Qur’an, 4:7)
The Qur’an also states:
Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females…(Qur’an, 4:11)
The above verse is very controversial, since at first glance, it seems that this verse does not benefit women, when in fact, the opposite is true. The man is legally obligated to maintain and care for his wife, children, parents, and any other relatives in need of assistance. The woman, on the other hand, is exempt from these legal obligations, so her share of the inheritance is hers alone. She doesn’t have to contribute to the maintenance of the family if she chooses not to and no one can take that inheritance away from her.
Before Islam, a woman was not only deprived of her inheritance but was herself considered as property to be inherited by man.
Women have no rights to divorce
For some reason, many believe that all a man has to do is say “I divorce you” three times and the marriage is dissolved, without any consideration or consent from the woman. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Qur’an not only encourages reconciliation as much as possible (especially when the couple has children), but it also orders two witnesses to witness the divorce before God:
Once the interim is fulfilled, you may reconcile with them equitably, or go through with the separation equitably. You shall have two equitable witnesses witness the divorce before Allah. This is to enlighten those who believe in Allah and the Last Day. Anyone who reverences Allah, He will create an exit for him. (Qur’an, 65:2)
The ‘interim’ referred to in the above verse is the required 4-month ‘iddah’ or cooling-off period after a divorce is declared:
Those who intend to divorce their wives shall wait four months (cooling off); if they change their minds and reconcile, then Allah is Forgiver, Merciful. If they go through with the divorce, then Allah is Hearer, Knower. (Qur’an, 2:226-227)
There are 2 reasons for this, (1) to clarify whether the woman is pregnant or not. If she is pregnant, the husband is responsible for the wife’s maintenance until the child is born. Furthermore, if the woman who is divorced has a young child, she can nurse the child for up two years and the father must maintain both the woman and her child. (2) Iddah also functions as a cooling-off period during which the relatives and the community will try to help reconcile the couple.
Divorce may be retracted twice. The divorced woman shall be allowed to live in the same home amicably, or leave it amicably. It is not lawful for the husband to take back anything he had given her. However, the couple may fear that they may transgress Allah’s law. If there is fear that they may transgress Allah’s law, they commit no error if the wife willingly gives back whatever she chooses. These are Allah’s laws; do not transgress them. Those who transgress Allah’s laws are the unjust. (Qur’an, 2:229)
And when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then either retain them in good fellowship or set them free with liberality, and do not retain them for injury. He who doeth that hath wronged his soul. (Qur’an, 2:231)
Islam condones violence against women
Islam condemns violence in all forms both against men and women. In pre-Islamic Arabia violence against women was rampant and began at birth in the form of infanticide. The Qur’an not only prohibits this practice explicitly, it also mocks those who view the birth of a female child with contempt:
When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on (sufferance and) contempt, or bury it in the dust? Ah! what an evil (choice) they decide on? (Qur’an, 16:58-59)
Another form of violence against women prohibited by Islam is that committed by husbands against their wives. Islam requires that husbands treat their wives with respect and it prohibits any form of physical or emotional abuse. The Quran requires that spouses treat each other with love and mercy.
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are Signs for those who reflect. (Qur’an, 30:21)
Moreover, the Prophet (pbuh) said:
I recommend that you treat women with goodness. The best of you are those who treat their wives the best. (Tirmidhi)
One verse in the Qur’an that is repeatedly referred to in order to justify using violence against women is the following:
As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) tap them (lightly) [‘wadribuhunna’]; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (Qur’an, 4:34)
This verse in no way condones abuse or violence against women at all! If it did, it would be in contradiction with the numerous other verses that call for peaceful, equitable and loving relationships between husband and wife. In fact, the Qur’an also gives women the right to leave a marriage if she fears abuse from her husband:
If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men’s souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practise self-restraint, Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (Qur’an, 4:128)
The falsehood of associating verse 4:34 with violence against women is a blatant lie that the Qur’an warns us against:
Behold! How they invent a lie against Allah! But that by itself is a manifest sin! (Qur’an, 4:50)
This doesn’t even take into account that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the best example of a man, never once hit, beat, or laid a hand on any of his wives or daughters. Because of this, many scholars take the ‘tap them (lightly)’ [Arabic: ‘dribah’] to be interpreted as valid as ‘to walk away’. A man should walk away from a situation that angers him in order to cool off and show his disapproval. Even if this translation/interpretation is not based on overwhelming consensus, the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet (pbuh) makes it clear that beating or abuse of any kind against one’s wife is unacceptable since it goes against the Islamic spirit of justice and compassion.
Islam condones ‘honor killings’
There is no such concept as “honor killings” in Islam. Islam holds every life and soul in high esteem and does not allow any transgression upon it. Islam in no way allows people to take the law into their own hands and administer justice, as doing so would simply lead to chaos and lawlessness. Any judgement passed down whether to sanction killing or any other punishment should be issued by an authoritative court (ie: the justice system). Individual persons are not allowed to just sanction killing when and where they please as this leads to ruling by the laws of the jungle. In a civilized society, there are a rules and regulations that govern these sanctions so a Muslim is in no way justified to sanction these so-called “honor killings”.
Say: “Come I will rehearse what Allah hath (really) prohibited you from”: join not anything with Him; Be good to your parents: kill not your children on a plea of want;― provide sustenance for you and for them;― come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom. (Qur’an, 6:151)
Like other religions, Islam strictly prohibits killing and murder without any justified cause. In the Qur’an, Allah (swt) states:
Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully. we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law). (Qur’an, 17:33)
The Qur’an even goes further as to say that killing is something that should be warded off completely:
But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepteth only from those who ward off (evil). Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. (Qur’an, 5:27-28)
The Qur’an points out that the same God of the Children of Israel is the same God of the Qur’an, and the values continue:
On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if whoever kills a soul – unless for another soul or for corruption (vice and mischief spread) in the land – it is as if he had slain the whole of mankind. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved the whole of mankind. (Qur’an, 5:32)
Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) also says:
He who is not merciful to people Allah will not be merciful to him. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
You possess two qualities that Allah loves. These are clemency and tolerance. (Al-Muslim)
Honor killings are based on ignorance, immorality, and a complete disregard for human life and the rule of law. It’s an unfortunate reality that these killings take place both in the Muslim world, as well as other corners of the world and should be abolished through education and disciplinary measures. However, before we can wipe out these awful, heinous crimes against humanity, we must first recognize that these acts have no place or justification in Islam, a religion that advocates peace, harmony, and the sanctity of every life on this earth.
This article has aimed to cut through some of the dominant stereotypes concerning the status of women in Islam. Of course, this is in no way an exhaustive list, but indeed one that covers the most common statements uttered by misguided individuals who believe they are speaking the truth. There are almost 2 billion people on this earth who follow the religion of Islam. Women, men, old, young, black, white, Arab and non-Arab – they all subscribe to the same peaceful ideals and values that together, form the basic way of life that is Islam. It’s the fastest growing religion in the world and the second largest religion both in the U.S. and the world.
For people to actually believe that close to 2 billion of their fellow human beings follow a faith that advocates some of the heinous, unmentionable practices that they falsely attribute to Islam, there is a real problem with they way those individuals view the world around them. We cannot let the actions of a few ignorant, misguided individuals (who happen to call themselves Muslims) dictate our views and judgements about the entire religion of Islam. There are over a billion other Muslims who stand 100% against all of these purely cultural, tribalistic practices, but nobody ever asks what we think or what we believe.
It’s time to start looking at the original sources. It’s time to start asking questions instead of passing uneducated judgements. It’s time… to ask a Muslim!
Later this month, ships from all over the world will converge in the Mediterranean and set sail for the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip. This international coalition is called the Freedom Flotilla.
The Free Gaza Movement has sailed eight missions to Gaza in the past three years, five of them successful. The last three were violently stopped by the Israeli Navy; the boat Dignity was rammed three times and the Spirit of Humanity turned back in January 2009, then seized and all aboard arrested.
This time the Freedom Flotilla is upping the ante and instead of one- and two-vessel challenges, will be breaking Israel’s siege with an eight-boat front.
In the past, the Israel Navy could pick us off as individual boats. Now, including Free Gaza’s four ships, 700 passengers and some 5,000 tons of reconstruction materials and medical equipment. This includes Free Gaza’s MV Rachel Corrie, which was purchased through generous donations from Malaysia’s Perdana Global Peace Foundation.
The Israeli government has responded to the “sea intifada” coming its way with saber rattling and accusations of serving Hamas. Israel has proscribed the Turkish human rights and relief group Insani Vardim Vakafi (IHH). IHH is responsible for sending a cargo ship and passenger ship in the Freedom Flotilla. Israel has accused it and Free Gaza of “supporting terrorism.” Half the Israeli navy is set to challenge the mission, with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the helm commanding the operation in person. The air force is on standby and “diplomatic pressure” is being applied behind the scenes. The message is clear from Israel: “We will stop you and we will use force to stop you.”
At no point does the Freedom Flotilla enter Israeli territorial waters. The journey starts in local European or Turkish waters, courses through international waters and ends in Gaza’s territorial waters. No checkpoints interrupt us. No walls daunt our sight. We’ve proven that it’s possible to sail a clear line with no borders, as we want the world to be, until we get to Gaza.
Free Gaza is best described as a tactic but in practice, a tactic within a score of tactics active in the global solidarity movement. But it is an expensive one — and many have criticized the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been spent on the missions for boats and finding boats, flagging, registration, legal costs, management costs, port fees, crew pay, mooring fees, repairs, renovation, GPS, warehouses for cargo, crane and forklift hire. Collectively the cost of the Flotilla runs literally into the millions of euros. Some ask: “Isn’t that money better spent on ‘aid’?”
Every Palestinian family we met in Gaza, particularly after Israel’s invasion last winter kept saying to us: “We don’t want aid, we need a political solution; we need our rights. Our issue cannot be reduced or swapped into bags of flour or food parcels. Palestine is not a humanitarian issue — it is a political one.” This reality, of the need for justice, tests the aid industry in Palestine, and the false “objectivity” and lack of political will in the face of human suffering with the claim: “We don’t take sides. We want to continue to keep giving our humanitarian aid.”
Well, we do take sides — that of direct democracy over occupation and apartheid.
This flotilla is an interruption to a discourse of power that says — governments know best, leave it to us to negotiate new “freedoms” and realities; a continuation of not even top-down but top-to-top processes of keeping power out of the hands of ordinary people. Leaders fly from continent to continent, round table discussions go round and round, elephants in the room stamp their feet and roar ignored. This flotilla puts that power back into our hands — to interrupt this ongoing Nakba.
We will not stop. From 1948 until now, history keeps repeating itself, colonies keep expanding, corporations keep reaping the rewards of reproducing repression; daily dispossession and casual killing is normalized, and alienation from the consequences of our work and actions keeps us compartmentalized. The occupation is reproduced on a daily basis in factories, classrooms, courtrooms, cinemas, art galleries, supermarkets and holiday resorts. Radical refusal, radical transgressions can make change happen. Refusing to be alienated from our brothers and sisters and recognizing our community is the essence of solidarity.
This flotilla represents radical solidarity and a force that can be realized when people from all over the world act on their conscience. It’s a force made real through stepping out onto the streets or into occupation-supporting businesses, through speaking out, through fundraising in mosques, churches, synagogues, schools; through writing, singing, sharing, relaying and promoting, and packing and driving boxes of materials and cement, and cheering on and praying for and protesting any attack.
Israel may well succeed in stopping us — but this is an unknown and here is power in that. We can affect that which hasn’t happened yet.
When Rachel Corrie stood in front of the bulldozer driver that killed her, she acted on radical trust — that the soldier would see her humanity. She lost, because the soldier had lost his humanity. Yet Rachel’s faith abides in each of us. Because if our oppressors are losing their humanity then we must never stop showing them that we have it. We are undertaking this mission in the spirit of those who have fought and sacrificed their lives for our collective humanity, and to remind everyone who can see of the need to act on it.
Ewa Jasiewicz is a coordinator with the Free Gaza Movement (http://www.freegaza.org/).
For updates on the Freedom Flotilla, including the Emergency Response Plan (in the event that Israel launches a military attack or naval blockade), please visit Gaza Freedom March’s Freedom Flotilla Support page.
Name: Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem
Duration: Appx. 30 mins. per episode
If you haven’t heard of this show, please do yourself a favor and watch at least one episode. Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem is a reality-style show shot exclusively in Occupied Palestine and broadcast exclusively on the show’s YouTube Channel. They began shooting on March 1st, 2010 and plan to do 90 shows in 90 days (currently, they are on episode 73). Every episode is shot, edited, translated (when necessary), and uploaded onto YouTube on the same day!
From their channel:
Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem is a video diary about young Palestinian women, Muslim and Christian, living in Gaza, Jerusalem and the rest of The West Bank. We will make 90 films in 90 days, non-stop, no scripts and no intervention! The idea here is to show you the real life of Palestinians through the daily activities of the Sleepless Girls!…..The intention of this series is neither rant nor rhetoric. It is rather an opportunity for those who do not live in Palestine to grasp how real people live out their daily lives, precisely because their lives are stories that journalists are too often told by their editors to think of almost dismissively as human interest and almost necessarily conflict driven.
You can watch the series at the following link:
NOTE: Due to the lengthy detail of this topic, this article has been split into 2 posts. Part 1 deals with the background of the issue and the mainstream media’s portrayal of the controversy. Part 2 goes into more detail about the founding of the group, Revolution Muslim, as well as possible connections to some recent “false-flag terror attacks”.
It started a couple weeks ago. South Park, a Comedy Central show, known for it’s controversial and offensive material, depicted the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in a bear suit, for their 200th episode.
South Park‘s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have long been criticized by many various groups for their raunchy, comedic style, which also happens to offend a great deal of the American public. The show has poked fun at Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Scientologists, Mormons, African Americans, the Queen of England…basically, it’s what you would call an “equal opportunity offender.” It’s writers reject the idea of political correctness and spare no one individual or group in their quest to depict taboo subject matter with mockery and satire. And that’s their right, as human beings living on this earth – freedom of expression – no harm, no foul.
So it comes as no surprise that the latest hot-button episode has gotten the general public in a frenzy; however, their reactions have not been directed at the creators of the show, but rather two main culprits: Revolution Muslim for it’s completely insane and unjustified reaction, and the mainstream media for it’s poor portrayal of the issue. The title of this post also refers to “false flag attacks”, which we will delve into a little later on.
Revolution Muslim is not the face of Islam
Let’s start with Revolution Muslim‘s radical, extreme reaction to the South Park episode. The small group (no more than 10 members) posted a message on their website warning the creators of the show of their possible untimely death:
We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.
The Theo Van Gogh to whom they are referring was a Dutch film director who, after producing and releasing a film, Submission, which was critical of the treatment of women in Islam, was murdered by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim in 2004, in reaction to the film.
Along with their message, they also posted a picture of Van Gogh lying on the street after he was murdered. The group’s members, in later interviews, claim their comments were not threats, but merely predictions of what would likely happen. Regardless of semantics, the fact still remains that this group, who by the way is despised by much of the greater Muslim community for being possible agent provocateurs set out to smear Islam, has received a great deal of media attention for it’s members’ comments.
Revolution Muslim has absolutely no community support whatsoever, local or otherwise, but that hasn’t stopped the media from picking up the story and running with it like no tomorrow! Never did members of the media think to bring in other voices, other viewpoints, into the discussion to weigh both sides of the issue. No, that would require them to acknowledge that there even is another side.
More on Revolution Muslim and it’s two Zionist Jewish-convert founding members in part 2 of this post, but for now, let’s move on to the mainstream media’s pathetic “coverage” of this latest scandal in television. Personally, I have two major bones to pick with regards to the mainstream media coverage that I’ve seen.
The Mainstream Media is at it again
First is Anderson Cooper’s ridiculous and shameful excuse for investigative journalism on CNN. Who does he invite on to his show to discuss the South Park/Revolution Muslim controversy? The famous Islamophobe, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim known for her controversial attacks on the whole of the Muslim population, claiming that Islam is a “backwards religion” which can be characterized as “the new fascism”. This is who Cooper, a supposedly respectable journalist, thought would be the best choice for discussing this controversy. He did not even try to level the playing field by interviewing a single Muslim American spokesman for his 10-minute segment. Watch it and judge for yourselves.
[youtube XZbtgjx9xE0 Anderson Cooper & Ayaan Hirsi Ali]
What’s the saying? “Adding insult to injury”… yes, injury: the false impression that Revolution Muslim represents the broad spectrum of mainstream Muslims in America; and as for the insult: the idea that Ms. Ali was the best choice for an interview, which was supposed to be a platform to respond to Revolution Muslim’s insane reaction, but was just another way of justifying and promoting their hate-filled propaganda as “the face of Islam.”
Jon Stewart hops on the bandwagon
My second gripe is with Jon Stewart, a Jewish-American comedian, and host of the satirical, late-night news program, The Daily Show, which, like South Park, also airs on Comedy Central. Personally, I’m more-or-less a fan of Stewart and have been for some time. Lately though, within the past couple years, my overall respect for him has dropped dramatically, mainly due to learning more about his personal views on specific issues which I find important and hold near and dear: the “war on terror”, Palestine and Israel, and the latest, the Obama administration. All that aside, however, I’m still able to sit down and watch his show regularly partly because it’s really the only thing I can bear to watch on television nowadays, and partly because generally speaking, he’s still a fairly humorous individual.
Not so with his coverage of the South Park/Revolution Muslim controversy. Like South Park, The Daily Show also is no stranger to making fun of religions, but his segment was not about mockery or satirical comedy. It was about singling out and marginalizing an entire faith, based on the stupid comments made by ONE group, which has no respect in the Muslim community whatsoever. First, Jon Stewart joked and made derogatory comments about Revolution Muslim for threatening the creators of the show. Then he went on to thank all the “other” religions for not reacting to or behaving like those “radical Muslims” did with regards to South Park.
Finally, he played a reel of clip after clip of his show’s consistent mockery of different religions. One thing which sticks out however, is his over-focus on clips of him making fun of Jews, emphasizing the lack of violence that ensued afterward. Like this is supposed to mean something? Of course a Jew can make fun of Jews, just like a Muslim can make fun of Muslims and so on. I just take issue with Stewart’s sudden naivete…either that or he’s just plain sold out. I’m leaning more towards the latter.
You may be asking, “So what’s wrong with his coverage? Don’t you also NOT like Revolution Muslim? How does his coverage conflict with your views?” Well, mostly for the same reasons that I take issue with Anderson Cooper’s coverage, along with the rest of the mainstream media. The issue is not that I oppose him calling out the group. The issue is that, like Cooper’s segment, Stewart’s coverage failed to address the real issue: that Revolution Muslim is a marginal group, a radical group, a group without any sort of following, and one which in no way speaks for Islam or Muslims.
The only thing remotely similar to this was at the end of Jon Stewart’s segment, when his correspondent, Aasif Mandvi, a Muslim-American, mentions that although the South Park episode might trouble him, what’s more upsetting is “someone, in the name of a faith that I believe in, threatening another person for doing it.” But that’s it, they didn’t go any deeper into the fact that those people who did something “in the name of a faith that I believe in” actually do not represent the mainstream beliefs, viewpoints, or values of that faith.
So what’s the big fuss?
As a Muslim, I have no problem with Stewart mocking Muslims like he does with other religions. Similarly, I have no problem with the creators of South Park portraying the Prophet Muhammad or Prophet Jesus (pbut), or whatever other crazy shenanigans they come up with. It’s television, it’s comedy, and most importantly, it’s everyone’s freedom of expression to say, do, or broadcast whatever they wish, along as they don’t harm another individual. If you don’t like it or it offends you, then turn it off! We could all use a little less television in our lives, anyways.
I’m not advocating passivity or complete silence, but there’s a difference between voicing your distaste with something and violently threatening someone because of what he or she said. This is true not only for this specific incident, but also for others that have occurred in the past, including the film for which Mr. Van Gogh was murdered, as well as the infamous Danish cartoons fiasco, and many other similar, non-Islam related incidents. The important thing is be able to balance one’s feelings about something, with his reaction towards it, simple as that! Also, to be aware of and to clarify the conception that whoever the mainstream media chooses to highlight or portray in their coverage, more often than not, doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the general population. Mainstream news today is not even news anymore, it’s entertainment and whatever holds the highest entertainment value is what makes it to the air.
A more balanced response
The renowned Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, was recently interviewed by Riz Khan on Al Jazeera and his intelligent and eloquent response to this controversy really hits it straight home. The entire interview is worth the watch, but he speaks specifically about the South Park issue at around 13:00 minutes. Check it out below:
[youtube 3S-7sgbOt3k Tariq Ramadan on Riz Khan]
What are your thoughts or views on this controversy? Do you agree with the media’s portrayal of the issue? Do you think they’ve missed the ball completely and focused on sensationalizing the issue? Comments are welcome!
This concludes part 1 of this post. In part 2, I will delve a little deeper into the history and founding of the group, Revolution Muslim, as well as how this all plays into the bigger picture of the so-called “War on Terror”, including possible false flag attacks and how they relate to this most recent controversy.