#MuslimRage #ThinkAgain

A few thousand people have participated in violent protests across the world against a low-budget, anti-Islamic film. Commentary on the response has talked about “Muslim Rage.”  At the last count, the global Muslim population stood at around 1.6 billion. Now social media has turned this shoddy maths and dangerous generalization on its head.

The most striking example of this commentary, and the one that prompted a Twitter backlash, emerged last week in an article in Newsweek by Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, “Muslim Rage and the Last Gasp of Islamic Hate.” In the article, Hirsi-Ali discusses her own personal experiences of the consequences of speaking out against fundamentalist practices and beliefs held by some Muslims. But for Hirsi-Ali, the distinction between some Muslims and all Muslims is blurred. Whilst acknowledging a “homicidal few in the Muslim world”, Ali suggests that globalisation and mass-immigration has led to a proliferation of intolerance across Muslim communities all over the world:

“The Muslim men and women (and yes, there are plenty of women) who support—whether actively or passively—the idea that blasphemers deserve to suffer punishment are not a fringe group. On the contrary, they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam.”

On the front cover of the magazine, with the headline “MUSLIM RAGE”, Newsweek treated its readers to yet another picture of “angry Muslims”, depicting a frenzy of beards, turbans, keffiyehs, fists and rage. This is a real image from one of the current protests but blanketed as it is with the term “Muslim Rage” the image and article leave the impression that the majority of Muslims are angry, intolerant and supportive of acts of violence against others. This is far from the case. In Libya, there was widespread shock and condemnation of the murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Recently released video footage shows Libyans rescuing Stevens from where he had taken shelter in the embassy and rejoicing when they believe he is still alive.

Imagining this treatment applied to another religious group brings home how wrong such a blanket statement is; headlines citing “Christian Rage” or “Jewish Rage” seem unthinkable.

So, how did some of these “angry Muslims” respond?

In response to Newsweek’s invitation to comment on the feature via Twitter with the hashtag #muslimrage, thousands responded—some with images of their own—mocking the absurdity of this generalisation. “I’m having such a good hair day. No one even knows #muslimrage”, tweeted the hijab wearing @LibyaLiberty.

Quickly endorsed by others, #muslimrage is uniting thousands of Muslim and non-Muslims in a hilarious attempt to remind us all—and Newsweek—that the majority of Muslims are not as angry, intolerant or violent as some would have us believe.

8 Comments

I have always felt it shocking how such generalisations are allowed. It is a relief to see that they are beginning to be seen as such. It can only be wrong to label a community by its minority rather than its majority. It is time for 'humanity' to look more carefully at itself - there are haters and bigots in ALL religions, this has always been the case. Perhaps it is time to STOP blaming the religions and start looking at humanity; some members of 'humanity' show little humanitarianism and use religion to blame their individual cruelties on (a useful scapegoat); if they could not use religion they would find another reason. There are good people of all creeds. Sadly there are a lot of people with little commonsense willing to be led by 'extremist' headlines.

The notion that globalization has increased intolerance in Muslim societies isn't new and isn't fringe -- a lot of scholars argue that it's increased intolerance and tensions everywhere as different cultures are brought closer than ever (see Anders Brevik). Not every Muslim reacts angrily and violently to small slights to their religion, but the number of such instances in the past 10 years is notable. "Blasphemy" seems to be taken much more seriously in Islam than in other major religions.

We all know that there were/are many atheists, god-deniers in every religious societies, from time immemorial to present day. (Charvakas in India and even Buddha was against the belief in God) Is there no one even now in Islam who could champion atheism, the idea of god delusion in their own way? You can write, or say or discover anything against Christ, Buddha, Mahavira(Jain), Vishnu and all the pantheon of Hindu gods, Judaism and there will not be a almost hysterical war cry. (Ex: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, was found to be married to Mary Magdalene, proof of which was unearthed today, September 18, by Harvard professor Karen L. King.' What happened? Vatican as usual denied it, whispering something that no one even noticed!) But, just apply that same thing in the case of the Prophet, and we can imagine what will happen. Non believers are a must in a believer's world. And I believe no one, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, US, Corporates, globalization, Western Imperialism/ new Colonialism can not shatter such a great pillar of belief like Islam. Only Islam can kill itself.

Are you saying that the thousands of muslim tweets is more representative of the muslim world (what ever that maybe) than the crowds shown on TV? I find that difficult to believe. Isnt it more true that the Muslim tweeters are those more afflluent (i.e can afford to tweet) and have come to terms with secular/post-christian societies and happy to live in the protection it affords them from their own relgious zealots. There are also a large number of "moderate muslims" who though outwardly wouldnt resort to violence but are nevertheless quite content that someone else is fighting "their corner". They dont speak up because it suits them either way. While other religionists also exhibit similar behaviour, with exteremists and moderates, only Christianity and Islam are proselytising faiths who belive their faith has a politcal outworking. i.e its more than just a personal faith. It has wider implications. But while (some) Muslims believe that their ideal society (Umma) can be made a reality by sheer numbers and political will, Christians have to accept Jesus own words: "My kingdom is not of this world. IF it were so my followers would fight".

Dear Steve, thanks for your interesting comment, you raise an important point—are we condemning one sweeping generalisation by simply replacing it with another?

I’m not saying that the Twitter response is more representative of Muslim communities across the world than the media portrayal of the protesters. The point I try to make is that it is damaging and misleading to broadcast the assumption that "Muslims" are a homogenous group of violent, angry people. I am sure you agree that whilst such people do exist – as indeed they do in all faith and non-faith groups – it is wrong to ignore the presence of those who do not fit into the stereotype in substantial numbers. Such treatment / generalisations of any group or groups of people who define themselves or are defined by others as belonging to a particular religious group adds to negative stereotypes and prejudice.

To give you an example, here in the UK today, one of the major television channels has been reprimanded by the advertising standards agency for running an ad campaign which the ASA said was "irresponsible, offensive and reaffirmed negative stereotypes and prejudice against” about the Traveller and Gypsy communities - communities which are often the victims of unfair treatment and discrimination precisely because of widespread prejudice and ignorance surrounding them.

In the same way, there is a diversity of beliefs and opinions held by Muslims all over the world and quite often too little attention is given to the minority (and I really do believe it is a minority) who resort to violence. In the words of one of the participants who took part in our Muslims in EU cities research, “The media…what they think a Muslim person is…they just think you’re uneducated, uncivilised and that you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re going to attack someone, and it’s all the negative things”. #MuslimRage serves as a reminder that there are Muslims all over the world – and not just those who are more “affluent” – who do not fit into these negative stereotypes but are too often the victims of it.

Thanks for clarifying. I agree its helpful to show that people are different and not to demonize whole groups. Pity no one from the "other side" is doing the same - showing that not everybody in the west is anti-islamic or that western govts are anti-islamic. We may think its pretty obvious but in large swathes of asia and north africa, they cant see it or dont want to see it. (in the same way perhaps that there are peoples in US/Europe who cant see the difference) I would be more ready to believe #muslimrage represented a if they were activley protesting the rights of christian and other minorities in places like pakistan and saudi. People in the west are ready to stand up for muslims here - and rightly so. But I have never seen a muslim stand up for non-muslim minorities in their homeland. Muslims in the west may feel "got at" and treated badly but this is nothing compared what is happening in muslim countries where non-muslim minorities are systematically being eliminated. I appreciate this is NOT the aim of your article and that all things being equal you are right to draw attention to this injustice in a general sense. Believing in an open society means sometimes you have to stand up for those who you feel dont deserve it!

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