Of skewed priorities and selective criticism

The Angry Arab observes pointedly:

This is something that always bothered me about many Muslims: their sense of outrage is so odd, to me at least. They get more upset over cartoons in a Danish newspaper than about American or Israeli occupations, or about poverty and oppression. “Kuwait strongly condemns insult of Holy Prophet in Danish papers.”

This is a long-standing frustration of mine as well, and the huge (and sometimes criminal) overreactions by Muslims that we’ve seen over the last few days have only heightened that feeling.

My priority in this situation, though, is to get a few words in over the din of soundbytes that puncture the complacency of those whose actions set the stage, over and over again, for confrontations like this, but whose role is invariably whitewashed by the mainstream media.  While the exact distribution of blame is messy and complex, I think the lion’s share of responsability belongs on the shoulders of outsiders, often in Washington but this time partly in Copenhagen.  Hence my focus.

In that respect, I’m just trying to do what the Angry Arab did with great flair in his excellent The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power, which hammered home the direct responsability of outsiders (especially American policymakers) in creating all the dangerous problems and ugly qualities in a Muslim society about which everyone frets constantly today.  Just as Saudi didn’t get the way it is on its own, the Muslim world didn’t just spontaneously lash out in this case.

There isn’t much danger of the faults or wrongs of Muslims escaping exhaustive commentary and analysis in the modern media.

Having said all that, it is indeed depressing how little so many Muslims seem to care about the real problems and injustices facing them and the rest of the world. 

I doubt Muslims are any different from other people in this regard, though.  You could easily comparable examples from American life, for example.

  • http://www.rickshawdiaries.blogspot.com Baraka

    Good points – Muslims must address core issues.
    However, for the average person a protest, petition, or march (or even burning an embassy) seems a more concrete & immediate resolution than the investment of years that other courses demand.

  • http://www.liquescent.net/blog Michelle

    “comparable examples from American life”
    Precisely what it reminds me of, actually — serial outrages over the smallest of things and relative silence over the largest. And maybe it’s apologetic of where I’m living, but experience enough of that and one can’t help but to start seeing it as a sort of coping mechanism — small things are the ones over which it is felt some control may be gained; they become emblems; large ones directly just bring on a sense of resigned futility.
    To everyone who has asked, I’ve explained this situation and previous comparable ones in terms of straws and camels’ backs, like in the U.S. a million and one racist fears being set off into riots by things as small as a black man inadvertantly stepping on a white girl’s foot in the 1910s and 20s, and again a million and one racist indignities being set off similarly by individual incidents like police raiding a club in the 60s, or the beating of Rodney King in the 90s, or in France the deaths of a few boys just recently. Big differences, but at least it helps get through the idea that it’s not just simple fanaticism over cartoons.

  • anonymous

    Just a note: The cartoons were published in an Egyptian newspaper in October 2005, and the editor (1) condemned them; (2) did not lose his job; (3) did not apologize. Nobody rioted.
    I also posted a comment on “persian art to south park.”

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    I have that book by As’ad about the Saudis. It is a good one. Knowing Saudis like I do, it was right on the mark.
    Yes, priorities in the Ummah are really messed up. Doesnt help that there are many governments out there, friends of the US, who foster these priorities. Much easier to allow some venting of the masses over cartoons rather than have them vent on government officials from these corrupt governments.