For most of us, each day brings a new sense of hope, but for Muslims worldwide, almost each day starts with a fresh volley of Islamophobic attacks.
The recent terror attacks in England, where much regrettably a number of innocent lives were taken, have given anti-Muslim groups and individuals the fuel they rely on to point fingers at Islam and ordinary Muslims en masse. Never mind how ordinary Muslim citizens, including paramedics, police officers and Muslims from all walk of life have come to the immediate aid of those in need.
Also, never mind how over 120 imams in the UK have collectively pledged not to participate in the funeral rites of those misguided individuals with Muslim names responsible for the barbaric bloodshed.
Yet perplexingly, the repeatedly discredited question remains: Where is the condemnation from the Muslim?
In Hong Kong, a widely respected journalist, Mr Michael Chugani known for his “straight talk” wrote in a newspaper column decisively asking: “Why don’t leaders of Muslim countries condemn terror attacks?”, effectively vilifying the 1.6 billion Muslims for the actions of the few.
Yasir Naveed, a 27-year-old Environmental Consultant in Hong Kong, was one who was left disappointed by not just the column but the sheer absence of any factual proof, that was Mr Chugani’s column. He said:
“As a young ethnic minority community member in Hong Kong, I grew up respecting you for your language skills, skill sets for investigative reporting and your ability to assimilate with the local Chinese population but your irresponsible, ill-informed column based on falsities has left a lot of voiceless minorities disappointed.”
Muslims leaders have time and again expressed their condemnation for violence and presented a united stance against any form of extremism and terrorism.
This much should have been plainly obvious, and inexcusably unarguable.
Ordinary Muslims, leaders and scholars have unequivocally condemned the Westminster bridge attack in London and in equal zeal, similar attacks albeit with higher casualties in Muslim-majority countries.
If Mr Chugani had been sincere in his work as a journalist, he surely would not need us Muslims to advise him to back up his virulently toxic claims against Islam and Muslims, in his column by simply undertaking research before submitting his column for publication.
Siddiq Bazarwala, a 41-year-old media professional, residing in Hong Kong too, was taken aback by the remarks made by Mr. Chugani:
“Chugani asks ‘why there is almost always collective silence from leaders of Muslim countries who leave it to Western leaders to express outrage whenever there is a terror attack by Islamists’. Siddiq pointedly asked:
There is an avalanche of condemnations from the world leading Islamic countries, leaders and scholars after almost every single terrorist attack, only if he bothered to simply Google it, let alone spend sometime undertaking some research.”
Deconstructing the article further, Yasir asked:
“Mr Chugani seems to assume that leaders of Muslim countries do not lead the charge against terrorism committed in the name of Islam, but Muslims have suffered the most by these acts of terrorism.”
He further asked: “Now, may I also ask where is the condemnation from leaders of non-Muslim countries against attacks on majority Muslim countries? Where are the hashtags for Iraq? Where are the social media photo filters for Afghanistan? Where is your article denouncing the terrorist attacks in Syria? Or do you only consider the people living in Western countries as humans worthy of your sympathy?”
Siddiq echoed a similar point regarding the fallacy in stating Muslims don’t condemn:
“19-year old Hera Hashemi, student at the University of Colorado in November 2016 meticulously compiled a “712-page list of Muslims condemning things with sources”, listing everything from acts of domestic violence to 9/11, available online.
Put simply, the voice of condemnation is deafening and if there is anyone that can’t hear it, you are simply not listening.”
Mr. Chugani went on to target the burqa and the checking of brown-skinned people, saying this is all needed. Clearly he’s inciting xenophobia and is adding to the problem rather than providing a civilized solution.
Yasir remarked: “You assume terrorists wear burqas and have brown skins but most terrorists, if not all, don’t have beards, don’t wear burqas and don’t even go to their local mosques.
In fact, most have been found to be frequent visitors at brothels and pubs with no regard to the Islamic teachings of staying away from them. In that case, would you please advocate banning pubs and brothels first?”
Journalists play an important role in framing mindsets and presenting a matter in a way which is befitting. On this occasion, to say Mr. Chugani failed to live up would be a gargantuan understatement. In order to fight hatred, it needs to be done by defusing it, not instigating it further.
Muslims do not have a monopoly on terrorism. Terrorism is being committed by people of various backgrounds and as it stands since 9-11, white, far-right Christians are responsible for 90 percent of the mass killings, not Muslims.
Therefore, let’s stop this never-ending hate bandwagon.
And with this in mind, we Muslims in Hong Kong would like to send an open invitation to request Mr. Michael Chugani to attend Ramadan Iftar’s (fast opening) at the main mosque in Hong Kong, the Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. This with a view to build a bridge of mutual understanding rather than enable a repeat of what is an unfortunate column.