Haroon Mughal shows how it done on CNN

Haroon Mughal was on CNN yesterday eloquently providing some much needed context to the sensationalistic images of Muslim unrest over the “Innocence of Muslims” hate film that we’re seeing ad nauseam at the moment on the news.

He did a wonderful job. So nice to see an articulate Muslim injecting some insight and balance into cable news discussions of the Muslim world.

It’s always easy to nitpick from the other side of the screen and I doubt I’d be anywhere near as articulate in such a situation, but, just thinking aloud, I might’ve tried to slip in a cursory acknowledgement of the challenges concerning freedom of speech that do exist in many Muslim societies today. That’s not an easy subject to do any justice to in a sound byte, but such cultural differences are the elephant in the room. While it’s easier said than done to do so in a manner that doesn’t reinforce widespread misconceptions, I think that in a post-Satanic Verses and post-Danish cartoon world such anxieties are always in the back of people’s minds.

Besides, when you get down to it, the Devil lurks not in the acknowledgement of a significant philosophical gap between many Muslims and many Westerners today on the permissibility of denigrating the sacred in the public square, but rather in the explanation one resorts to for the existence of such divergences in civic culture. Islamophobes and others innocent of the discoveries of a century of research within the social sciences incessantly peddle essentializing, fatalistic claptrap about intrinsic, unalterable value differences, overlooking how the West’s much noted laissez-faire commitments took centuries to develop and did not do so in the shadow of centuries of foreign domination, political instability or poverty. A more rigorous, constructive–and, coming from a Muslim in an era of raging prejudice, disarming–approach would be, I think, to soberly acknowledge that serious challenges do indeed exist and then proceed to highlighting how said challenges arise out of specific circumstances–political, cultural, economic,…–just as Western attitudes did long ago as opposed to timeless collective traits.

Then again, when you’re challenging woefully wrongheaded conventional wisdom and are forced to do so in short sound bytes, perhaps it would be folly to introduce thorny, equally misunderstood side issues parenthetically.

In any case, I loved how after critiquing the sloppy, myopic way these issues are usually framed in the MSM he affirmed his own personal commitment to freedom of expression in passing, almost as an afterthought. And it was so refreshing to have a guest turn the tables on a journalist trotting out the tired “Where are the moderate Muslim voices?” routine by pointing out that the MSM ruthlessly ignores Muslims when they are doing anything other than rioting.

I can hear the Islamophobia Complex revving up its smear machine. You can sure they are unhappy to see such a sensible, intelligent and moderate voice representing the Muslim community on the cable news.


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