Muslims must look to their own wrongs

There is silence about Sudan, because the perpetrators are not Islamophobic westerners but Arab Muslims
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The Independent Online

An 18-year-old girl in the Sudanese region of Darfur had a knife stuck into her vagina by an assailant who said, while gloating: "You get this because you are black." Militiamen arrived at a village mosque in the same region and defecated on Korans before executing the imam and his muezzin. More than 30,000 civilians have been murdered in the past year. A million have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries in what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

An 18-year-old girl in the Sudanese region of Darfur had a knife stuck into her vagina by an assailant who said, while gloating: "You get this because you are black." Militiamen arrived at a village mosque in the same region and defecated on Korans before executing the imam and his muezzin. More than 30,000 civilians have been murdered in the past year. A million have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries in what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

All the victims are Muslims. Yet there are no furious e-mails circulating to ignite outrage, no campaigns, no demonstrations, no condemnations from the Muslim Council of Britain, The Muslim Association, The Muslim News or Lady Uddin, who has been so very busy this week sounding off about Islamaphobia. The Arab League is predictably silent, proving yet again its own worthlessness.

The reason? Because these perpetrators are not wicked Jews, or power crazed Christians, or Hindu fanatics or Islamaphobic western secularists, but Arab Muslims.

The brutes are members of Janjaweed - heavies encouraged and allegedly armed by the morally repugnant Sudanese government. These evil, land-grabbing allies want to eradicate or expel settled African Sudanese farmers and their families. It is true that the conflict is complicated by other internecine troubles. But this is ethnic cleansing by Muslims of Muslims. If human rights are universal, and they are, this tragedy should be attracting as much censure as the devastation in the occupied lands of Palestine. Instead a reprehensible silence reverberates through the mosques and Muslim communities. It seems we can only get charged up when we can blame non-Muslims for our many ills.

Policies promoted by the American, British and Israeli governments are deeply injurious to Muslims world wide. It is indisputable that blameless Muslims face increasing prejudice at work, on the streets, in schools and when they travel. A close friend of mine, now at Cambridge, faces daily abuse as a "Paki" because she wears shalwar kameez. Taxi drivers throw money back at her and kids hound her as she walks in London. She has been physically attacked too. This is new, she says. Never before has she faced such constant harassment. But discrimination is only one of the multiple problems faced by decent Muslims. Sexism, oppression from bad governance and corrupt leadership is as destructive. Truth to tell, even counting the Iraq war and Palestine, more Muslims today are demeaned and broken by other Muslims than by non-Muslims.

Recently the beautiful Saudi television presenter Rania al-Baz had her face shattered by her husband because she answered the phone without seeking his permission. She had 13 fractures and needed umpteen operations to rebuild her face. She came forward to talk about the circumscribed lives of her countrywomen and the unimaginable levels of domestic violence. Similar domestic violence destroys lives in the West, but in many Muslim states the law gives women no protection and defines females as inferior beings. I have seen evidence of brutality against British Muslim girls and women, evidence which is now well hidden, thanks to the epidemic of total veiling that is now spreading across the UK. Nowhere in the Koran does it say that you cannot show your face and hands to the world. It beggars belief that educated Muslim women are now choosing this shroud to unthinkingly assert their "freedom". Some of them articulated these ideas on Panorama last night.

I want to weep for them and their sisters who have no such choice, who are beaten, even killed if they transgress these cruel sartorial rules.

Violence, it seems, comes easy to Islamic authoritarian men. No wonder they get such good business from the US which needs to outsource torture in this war against terror. I recently met a well-educated, but obviously heartbroken, Iranian cab driver whose fiancée, three months pregnant, was stoned to death (hellfire would be too good for these monstrous believers).

Dozens of Iranian women have been stoned to death often by frightened prison inmates and mullahs enjoying some good sport. The state has got heavy again with dissenters held and tormented in secret detention centres. In Egypt, Tunisia, Afghanistan, state terror is an embedded form of statecraft. In Pakistan, human rights activists complain bitterly about the detention of parliamentarians and the hounding of journalists. And in the UK - as in Palestine, Jordan and elsewhere - honour killings are rife, sanctioned by the sickening piety of leaders.

Racism promoted by Muslims against non-Muslims is also getting worse in all territories with Muslim majorities. Indian, Pakistani and Filipino workers in the Gulf states are treated like dirt, abused racially and denied any autonomy.

Christians have to worship in secret in many Islamic countries as do other persecuted minorities such as the Bahais and Ahmedis (a Muslim sect hated by mainstream Sunnis).

Britain's biggest Muslim cultural centre was opened in London last week. Would such a centre for minority faiths be allowed to be built in any of the Muslim countries today?

How ashamed I feel that hundreds of thousands of Muslims worldwide went apoplectic over the headscarf ban in France but have nothing at all to say about Muslims committing appalling acts and injustices. No, it is not understandable. No there is no excuse. Just because the power politics of the world leave many Muslims furious (and I feel that fury too) doesn't mean they can then do as they damn well please. And please don't throw the book at me. I am sick of Muslim warriors who argue that all those committing terrible crimes against humanity are not following the true path of Islam. They take refuge in the ideals of the faith so they don't have to face the ugly realities. It is not what Islam says but what Muslims do that should matter.

This scam has run its course. There are some Muslims who have started to reject orders which seem to them hypocritical and wrong. They still castigate the West for its greed and manipulations which have left Muslim states in crisis but are equally hard on Muslim regimes and groups for serious human rights failures within families, communities and countries. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament is one example, as is the wise imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony. Such individuals who deserve our respect are instead threatened by Muslim fanatics.

They carry on regardless. Imam Sajid has edited a reassuring new booklet - Why Terror?, published by Grosvenor Books, which contains reflections by 19 thoughtful Muslims worldwide. One of them, Hisham Shihab, used to be an extremist Lebanese militiaman trained to kill Christians. Today, a reformed man, he is a lecturer and journalist who writes: "We need to alleviate the miserable economic conditions most Muslims live in. But that by itself will not answer terrorism. The lack of democracy and human rights in Muslim societies creates a vacuum of leadership that is often filled by extremist groups. We must look to our own wrongs."

Amen to that I say.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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