Tuesday, October 16, 2007

COMMENT: So much for civil rights ...

A letter from Manny Waks, Executive Officer of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission, has been published on the Commision's website. The full letter can fe read here.

I found it interesting that Mr Waks uses his letter to justify the vilification of those deemed Muslim. I found it disturbing that such justification could be published on the website of an organisation that claims to fight for civil rights and to oppose racism and prejudice.

Particularly disturbing were these provocative references ...

... the anti-Muslim rhetoric is much more complex. For example, most, if not all, current terrorist attacks are being perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam.

Is Mr Waks seriously suggesting that "most, if not all current terrorist attacks are being perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam"? How, then, does he explain the fact that the vast majority of victims of terrorist attacks are Muslims? Does Islam teach its followers to kill each other? Does it teach its followers to kill themselves?

If a group of lunatics decides they wish to blow themselves up or fly jet airplanes into skyscrapers in the name of Islam, are we to accept thart their suicidal and homicidal tendencies represent orthodox or mainstream theology? Do we take for granted that the perpetrators of such violence represent genuine mainstream Islam?

And does Mr Waks suggest, since most terrorist attacks are carried out in the name of Islam, that therefore innocent people deemed Muslim and with no relationship to the attacks should just accept and live with anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions? What kind of civil rights does Mr Waks and his organisation advocate?

Mr Waks then efectively includes himself among those "serious commentators" who engage in anti-Muslim rhetoric.

... serious commentators do not simply poke fun at Muslim dietary laws or cite verses from the Koran. Many of us have genuine concerns regarding Islamic terrorism and the level of support this generates among ordinary Muslims.

Many of "us". Who is "us"? Does Mr Waks include himself in this "us"? Does he include his organisation? Does he include Jews in general?

And what evidence does he have to suggest that a large proportion of ordinary Muslims in Australia or indeed elsewhere support "Islamic terrorism"? And what is it about the terrorism that makes it "Islamic"? is it the fact that the overwhelming majority of victims are themselves Muslim? If this is the case, why would Muslims wish to support such violence?

Mr Waks really need to consider whether making such provocative pronouncements really furthers the cause of Jewish-Muslim dialogue. Either that, or he should reconsider whether he really is committed to fighting prejudice or whether his commitment is only selective.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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1 comment:

geoffrey m said...

'For example, most, if not all, current terrorist attacks are being perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam'

Europol's EU terrorism situation and trend report looking into terrorist attacks from late 2005 through 2006 found that of 498 terrorist attacks committed in that period, one was deemed Islamist (i.e., motivated by an interpretation of Islam where committing such acts is deemed a religious duty). The vast majority were separatist (424) and a lesser number committed by leftists (55).

http://www.europol.europa.eu/publications/TESAT/TESAT2007.pdf

While skepticism must be exercised when generalizing these results (of course the Arab world is bound to have more Islamist attacks than leftist ones, e.g.) it really can't be concluded that even most terrorist attacks are perpetrated in the name of Islam.

(But I'm sure people who write this type of stuff have a definition of terrorism that requires it to be committed by Muslims anyway, so maybe the evidence will be lost amongst the rhetoric.)

A nice description of the report particularly in the frame of its statements on Islam is presented in this New Statesman article: http://www.newstatesman.com/200705210023