By Yassir Morsi
20 September 2012
In a recent article about the Muslim Incredible Hulk Waleed Aly suggests that the Sydney Muslim protesters are pointless and only anger brings them into existence. His commentary is yet another example of a failed apology in the disguise of an informed Muslim's explanation.
To put it simply, Aly is offloading the failure of his own commentary onto Sydney's Muslim protesters. It is an article that does little to help Australians understand a Muslim minority.
Aly makes an insulting assumption about the protesters: they protest for "a shortcut to self-worth". With a swift movement of his pen, Aly denies hundreds of Muslim protesters of any political agency, self-determination and self-worth. They are instead passionately drunk on humiliation, inconsistent, unaware of outcomes, fuelled by the moment, swinging punches and unthinking. Consider his choice of words: orgy, wildly, frustrated, drunkenly, stupidity, scandal, cyclical, humiliated, disease and pointlessly.
Ironic, then, that in the same Islamophobic rhetoric, that I assume Aly wants to oppose, he himself writes about Muslims by describing how their emotion is their politics. The piece says nothing sophisticated about the world the Muslim youth inherits, but instead turns their reaction into their world. It is a strange circular logic that defends his argument.
Aly does, however, hang his hat on one point. The protesters did not see the movie, he says. This is only partly true. Some did see the trailer, others read about it on the net, and most described the details through word of mouth.
Considering that Islam forbids them to watch any movie that depicts the Prophet, it is not surprising that many did not watch the movie. But does it matter? The movie was offensive and the protesters got it right. Why question their method when they were spot on?
Maybe Aly exaggerates this point to make a more scathing underlining point. The protesters were swinging around with no balance and self worth, who did not even know what they were protesting against. This ape-like caricature does little to help society's understanding of the Muslim minorities various struggles to find a place in a secular society. More importantly, it denies the agency and responsibility of free citizens who speak in self-interest.
If we assume a lack of agency in these protesters we deny that they exist politically. Is this not a convenient way to dismiss grievances from those Muslims who do not speak the high language of a well-spoken liberal?
That is exactly what moderate Muslims want. They want to wish away a violent Islam and pretend the embarrassing action of those on the fringe of their community has nothing to do with them or their religion. Since Sunday, major sections of the Muslim community have mauled the protesters without a single hesitation, obsessed with their image, none entertaining any suggestion that maybe police provoked the protesters.
These voices on online forums matched Aly's and called the protesters backwards, uneducated, but, most tellingly, they called them un-Islamic. They accused the protesters themselves, and not the movie, as the biggest insult to the Prophet.
All this a couple of days after the Islamic Council of Victoria, Victoria's peak Islamic body, delivered an incredible media release in response to the AFP raids in Melbourne. ICV in its release decided to highlight the "marginalised" status of those raided. They spoke about them as a "minority" and how they had "little followers".
They congratulated the AFP for cultural sensitivity: between 20 and 30 officers barged into a home with only a wife and her children inside. On last report, by the group in question, the ICV did not offer any legal advice to the group in question. They simply distanced themselves.
This act of distancing ourselves from troublesome Muslims has become more and more common, but, from yesterday it is becoming part of our future planning. In response to Saturday's riots, The Australian reported how Islamic leaders were calling for a halt to all future demonstrations. When considering the past ten years this call was the logic of society over-policing the Muslim.
The passivity hidden within the insecure 'image' driven moderate Muslim expresses itself best through the conservative clerics who call for calm and no protests. The logic follows that all forms of resistance, in a nuanced community, has its fringe and ugly quality, and thus the best way to get rid of the fringe and ugly is to get rid of the whole act of protesting.
Now Muslims are convincing themselves that the act of not protesting against an Islamophobic film is the ultimate act of protesting against a film. They have figured out that passivity is the only form of resistance.
Could it be that our community leadership have over time reached a silent compromise: we will trade in our political voice for a fragile security? How is that a solution?
To put it most controversially, many Muslims are now trying to rescue a beautiful Islam from an ugly Muslim, or better put: an abstract Islam from the everyday Muslim, an image of their religion divorced from the reality of their religion's struggles.
It is so telling, then, that Aly laments the hollowing out of the Muslim condition, a 'pointlessness' to it all, yet it is his commentary that signals a growing trend. He holds the spoon that hollows the Muslim out of Islam.
It represents a moderate movement that assumes the righteousness of resistance exists in perfecting one's image as a good citizen rather than pushing back the police picket line to create new forms of citizenry.
We should not be so hard on the protesters for all minorities throughout history fighting for their rights have clashed with police. In every struggle for minds and values there is the struggle of bodies and batons. It happens.
Yassir Morsi lectures in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne. View his full profile here.