Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Where are the Muslims protesting about Darfur?

To our eternal shame, it has fallen upon Hollywood stars to speak for the voiceless victims
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The Independent Online

Some weeks back, I wrote that anti-Arab racism fuelled the brutal actions of the modern Israeli state and those who wholeheartedly supported the bombings of Gaza and the Lebanon. I criticised Maureen Lipman's remarks on BBC TV, which suggested she thought Arab lives were cheaper than Israeli lives because militant Arabs encourage suicide bombers. Ms Lipman came back forcefully, clarifying her position and asking why critics of Israel ignored other, worse abuses. I stand by the views I expressed, but her question pierces my head as the final solution gathers pace in Darfur.

Where is the shrill outrage when Muslims kill and ethnically cleanse other Muslims from their meagre homes? Why is the anti-African racism of the Arab Sudanese government and militia not damned by Muslims? Where are the perpetually appalled Muslims today?

Oh, they are otherwise engaged, denouncing Pope Benedict's speech in Germany, during which he seemingly approved of the 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel Palaeologus, married to the daughter of a virulently anti-Muslim Serb despot, based in Constantinople, humiliated by the Ottomans who besieged his city. Not an objective man, then, who proclaimed the Prophet Mohamed brought "only evil and inhuman things, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

The Pope was wrong to say what he did, and is injudicious to believe what he does - that Christianity is more rational and reasonable than Islam. These self-righteous Christians conveniently ignore the Inquisition, the Crusades and Jesus' "I come not to send peace but a sword". Both faiths have the propensity to fall into violence; both are capable of bringing to humans luminous insights and peace. Pope Benedict has apologised, but that will not be the end of it. As street protests grow, people may well die because they heard from someone that the Catholic leader said something that was against our Prophet. That is all it takes for the rage to burn.

Talk of displacement activities. The livid crowd from London to Pakistan who extracted the apology care nothing about the torture by Muslim governments of their own dissidents, and remain blissfully indifferent to the maltreatment of Christians, Bahais, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists in Islamic countries. They cannot bear to accept that, although our war on Iraq has intensified sectarian hatreds, the abominable killings of civilians are carried out by Shias and Sunnis in the name of their own-brand Allah.

Now comes the greatest test of their selective morality, the genocide in Darfur. And they have already failed the test, dishonourably and conspicuously, by withholding condemnation of the most systematic and planned annihilation of a Muslim population in the 21st century.

Between 300,000 and 500,000 black-skinned Africans in Darfur have died already. Countless women have been raped and tortured, some killed. Three million are dispossessed and driven out of safe enclaves. Three years ago, rebels in some villages rose against what they felt to be unjust policies of the government in Khartoum. They too shed blood, but the state response was massively more disproportionate than even the recent Israeli reactions to Hizbollah provocations in the Lebanon.

The UN describes it as "the world's worst humanitarian disaster". Peter Takirambudde, the African director of Human Rights Watch, says: "Government forces are bombing villages with total disregard for civilian lives" to weaken villages and empower the pitiless Janjaweed militia.

Eyewitness accounts have emerged of tiny children who were raped over and over before they were burnt to death. A failed asylum-seeker in the UK has shown me validated documentation of how her ankle was cut so she couldn't run away, allowing the militia to sexually abuse her - which they did for hours.

It is set to get worse as African Union peacekeepers - only 7,000, helpless and hopeless - are due to depart and the Sudanese government seems ready to chuck out the UN. Witnesses and truth are being banished too - 12 aid workers have been killed since May, journalists and peacekeepers have had their records and computers confiscated.

The West operates double-standards, and we hear about these everyday, but what about the double-standards of Muslims across the world? They who turn their heads away when they should be wailing and mourning with the dead of Darfur, screaming for international protection, just as they do when moved by pictures of the distraught in Iraq and Palestine?

To our eternal shame, it has fallen upon Hollywood stars such as George Clooney and British celebrities such as Annie Lennox, and other prominent people of conscience, including Jewish human rights campaigners, to speak for the voiceless victims. A letter has been written to Mr Blair signed by many of them.

Guess what? There seem to be no signatories from all those too numerous Muslim organisations always on the lookout for the slightest sign of Islamophobia or unacceptable western and Israeli policies. Like I said, they are too busy getting the Pope on to his knees for his unwise words to attend to the killing fields of Darfur. Allah, they must believe, will thank them for this diligence.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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