At a recent debate in the hallowed halls of the Oxford Union on the motion ‘This House Believes That Islam Is A Religion Of Peace’, Muslim journalist and commentator Mehdi Hassan had his turn to speak after two of his opponents had presented the case that Islam was responsible for: war in general, the marriage of children, the murder of children, murder in general, the stoning of adulterers, the mis-education of women, the killing of all dissenters from within and without, the economic backwardness of much of the Earth’s territory, the killing of homosexuals, the government and laws of The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia, the Government of Pakistan, the government of all Muslim countries including the secular ones but especially Iran, anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews and a threat to the existence of the Oxford Union itself.
‘I’m sorry’ replied Mehdi Hassan (I’m paraphrasing), ‘I’m sorry for…Saudi Arabia, I’m sorry for 9-11, I’m sorry for 7/7 I’m sorry for…’ The audience laughed.
But they didn’t really get the joke.
How funny they thought, here is this brown man in a suit, a spokesman for his faith and community, look how eloquently he exposes his opponents! They blame him for what people who look and think like him have done! How absurd! His facetious apology exposes their attempt to hold all Muslims to account for the transgressions of some Muslims! Here Here!
But like I said, that’s not what he was really saying. Or rather, it was not all he was saying. He went on ‘I find it strange that I am to be taken to task for the treatment of Jews by self-appointed representatives of Judeo – Christian Europe. The Holocaust…’ before he could finish, the murmur of unease and criticism went up in the hall, a replica of Parliament. A young man stood up and objected: ‘But you’re doing exactly what they did to you! Tarnishing a whole civilization by the crime of some!’
When they understood where he was going with this line of logic, they did not like it. How could he bring up the Holocaust and use that to critique European post – Enlightenment civilization? We thought he was making a sarcastic apology for the alleged crimes of Muslims. But now it appears what he really wants to say is:
‘If I and my people are to be accounted for the transgressions of our culture and religion, be it in Saudi Arabia or Iran, now or a thousand years ago, how about we ALL play that game?’
And why not? What’s wrong with that? Why can he not attack his intellectual opponents in the broad, sweeping, civilisational, atemporal strokes that they do? Because not only they, but even the rest of the audience would not like the outcome.
How about if every nominal Christian, or European nationalist or secularist or Frenchman or, in short, anyone who ‘looked like’ a member of European ‘civilization’ had to explain and apologise for:
– The forced conversion of pagans to Christianity (King Cnut etc.)
– The Northern Crusades against Pagans
– The Northern Crusades against other Christians
– Crusades against the Muslims and Jews and Christians of The Middle East
– The Christian European princes’ incitement of The Mongols to massacre Muslims
– The repeated expulsions of Jews from Europe and the repeated pogroms against them
– The forced conversions of Jews in nearly every Christian territory in Europe. Repeatedly
– The expulsion and murder of Jews from the Iberian peninsula
– The expulsion and murder of Jews from nearly every European state
– The expulsion and killing of the Muslims of the Iberian peninsula
– The expulsion and killing of the inhabitants of the New World by the same Spanish who evicted the Jews…
– And by all the other European colonial powers that made it to the New World (Portuguese, British, French, Dutch…)
– And the Pacific Islands
– And Australia
– The small matter of The Transatlantic Slave Trade and it’s role in permitting the Industrial Revolution
– The slave trade within the European powers (including Britain)
– The persecution of Protestant Churches and by the Catholic powers after the Edict of Worms proscribing religious freedom
– The subsequent persecution of Catholic minorities by Protestant lands/principalities
– All the wars fought over Christian sectarianism, too numerous to list
– All the bans on the expression of various Christian ‘heresies’, too numerous to list
– The ban on practising any religion other than Christianity in the UK until the mid nineteenth century…and all similar bans
– The Spanish inquisition and the thousands of dead Muslims, Jews (and Christians) over nearly 400 years of it’s existence
– The Inquisition in the New World
– The Inquisition in the Philippines and the forced conversion of SE Asian principalities and Sultanates to Christianity
– The Salem Witch Trials
– All the random people that died in ‘The Terror’ of the French Revolution
– The Great Famine in Ireland
– The Opium Wars and The Unequal Treaties
– The ban on religions freedom by Peter the Great in Russia.
– The annexation of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand into the Russian empire
– British Imperialism in general
– French Imperialism in general
– Spanish Imperialism in general
– The Mexican Cession of 1848 to the United States
– To save time, ‘Imperialism’
– To save a LOT of time, lets fast forward to…
– WWI (in which 1.2 million Indian troops alone served in a war which had nothing to do with them…and then leaving them out of all of the crappy ‘men in a trench’ movies)
– WWII, which also had hardly anything to do with the colonised nations but in which millions of North African (Muslim), Sub Saharan African, Indian etc troops of all religions served…and then also got left out of all those crappy WWII movies
– The Holocaust. Yes. It wasn’t Muslims ‘what done it’
– All those people Stalin killed in collectivisation etc
– Inventing and using Nuclear Weapons
– Testing nuclear weapons in colonies and in areas like Kazakhstan (i.e. not on their own populations)
– We will forget that Communism is a product of Western Civilization. ‘Cos then we would have to talk about Mao, Pol-Pot…
– Jim Crow
– Supporting apartheid in South Africa and resisting sanctions against them (UK, US…)
– Killing at least four million people in the Vietnam War. And making crappy movies trying to show they were the bad guys
– US Interventions in…
Korea and China 1950-53
Lebanon 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese and Syrian targets)
– Uh, lets skip a few to save time…
– Supporting the Shah of Iran and Savak.
– Installing and supporting the same Saudi Arabian regime on account of which Muslims are labelled ‘barbarous’ with billions in military sales and tens of thousands of stationed troops (first British, now American)
– Supporting Israel unequivocally. No matter what they do.
– Supporting assorted Middle Eastern dictators and murderers (i.e Mubarak, Ben Ali)
– Supporting General Pinochet…and countless South American dictators and coups such as
El Salvador 1980s
– To save even more time, we’ll only mention the above US interventions and not those of others…
– Killing in the region of a million Iraqis in the Iraq War. Having already killed half a million or more through sanctions
– Actually admitting that but then saying it was ‘worth it’
– Killing at least half a million Afghanis in the Afghan War
– Killing over a million Afghans in the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
– Not giving women the vote until the 20th century (when Muhammad (PBUH) gave it to them 1400 years ago)
– Locking up homosexual people until the mid to late 20th Century when the ‘Shariah law barbarians’ of the Ottoman Empire decriminalised it in the mid 19th century (though not declaring it moral)
– Forcing women to dress how YOU want in France, Spain, Germany, Singapore, Turkey…
– Denying women the ‘right to education’ if they dress how THEY want to in France, Spain, Singapore, Turkey…
– Innumerable racist murders. Ongoing
– Innumerable murders and violent crimes within their own borders
– All rape by ‘Westerners’
– All domestic violence by ‘Westerners’
– All ‘Crimes of Passion’ or ‘honour killings’ of women (as I prefer to call them) by ‘westerners’
– All sex trafficking by ‘Westerners’
– All sex tourism and paedophilia in SE Asia (and anywhere else) by Western ‘sexpatriates’.
You get the idea.
What if I as a Muslim was to or expect require all people who look, act or think like ‘Westerners’ to ‘feel bad’ about all of this stuff (and the literally hundreds of other embarrassing ‘civilizational gaffes’ not included in this list) every single time they talk about their society and their history?
Further, what if I insist that I would like each community and religious leader, like the Pope and the President of the US, the head of the EU to apologise for all of this stuff explicitly every time he or she talks about ‘their’ way of life, religion, democracy, capitalism or any other idea held by ‘Westerners’?
What if I further reserve the right to blame all of these acts not on the individuals which are responsible, but on the civilization that produced those individuals and on the ideas and beliefs it holds dear, including Liberalism, Christianity, Atheism, secularism, capitalism or whatever else I feel like that day. And if I also demanded that this be entertained under the heading of ‘freedom of speech’, critique or at worst ‘mockery’ and comedy?
Do you get it?