Liberal Grace

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Without self-criticism, a culture can't progress

A Muslim writer discusses "the blame culture" that seems prevalent over here.

It's often said by regular folks and "Foxperts" that Muslims are silent about terrorism, 911, radicalism, sectarian killing, etc.

If these people wouldn't make these statements with such unqualified, sweeping, generalizations, I might concede a point.

When my conservative friends asks me why most Muslims don't apologize or march in the streets after 911, I ask them, "Did you apologize or march in the street after bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma? Why not? After all, he was a conservative Christian... he was one of you."

Every time, the idea of an apology had never occurred to them. Why? Because people don't apologize for things they didn't do. My conservative Christian friends don't feel guilty for the Oklahoma City bombing and my Muslim friends don't feel guilty for 911.

Furthermore, when we liberals talk about collective guilt, we're usually mocked by conservatives. But some of these same conservatives feel that all Muslims are collectively guilty for 911 or even all terrorism.

So, I don't agree with conservatives when they demand that all Muslims should apologize or take to the streets in protesting terrorism.

However, many people (not just anti-Muslim Foxperts) have commented on the cultural tendency of avoiding responsibility over here. While it is often packed in religious language, I think it has more to do with post-colonialism than religion.

As former colonialist, myself it's not a subject I'm very free to bring up, however, I've seen a few Muslims address this issue.

In his excellent article Blaming West won't solve Muslims' woes, Husain Haqqani discusses this issue.
The colonial experience, in particular, has had a deep-rooted impact on Muslim psyche. There is a rush to condemn the foreigners and the colonisers, coupled with a general unwillingness within the Muslim world to look inward and to identify where we may be going wrong ourselves. There is still little effort to recognise the real reasons for Muslim humiliation and backwardness.


The Muslim world needs a broad movement to review the material and moral issues confronting the Umma (the community of believers). But so far calls for removing the vestiges of colonialism and setting right historic injustices have prevailed over a more realistic effort to combine condemnation of wrongs committed by others within introspection of Muslims' own collective mistakes.

Muslims must rise and peacefully mobilise against sectarianism and the violence and destruction in, say, Iraq. But before that can happen, Muslim discourse would have to shift away from the focus on Muslim victimhood and towards taking responsibility, as a community, for our own situation.

I suggest you read the article -- but not if you are going to beat Muslims over the head with it, like they do on Fox whenever they get their mitts on a self-critical piece by a Muslim.

As an aside: I have long said that the best way to propagate moderate, pro-western viewpoints is to give room in our media for Western and American Muslim voices.

In many counties over here, the population is highly propagandized and the Bush administration's bumbling efforts at planting propaganda in the Iraq media is guaranteed to be outed and have negative blowback on America.

On the other hand, the small band of American Muslim (or Arab) writers tend to get voluntarily printed over here. The article above, for example. It isn't only Muslims who benefit from reading thoughtful guys like Husain Haqqani, it would greatly benefit most Americans.

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