Art has many functions in a society and one of them is being a litmus test of political, religious or social argument or policy. This function is not invoked very often, but when it happens the consequences are usually very dramatic. “Is this art” may seem a hollow and innocuous debate topic for glamorously styled critics with posh neck scarves and pocket kerchiefs, right up to the moment it folds into a dialogue between the hangman and his victim.
A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet, to death the other day for apostasy, with the conviction based on a poetry book he wrote years ago and a witness who claimed he allegedly heard Fayadh cursing Islam and Saudi Arabia. There was also something about the long hair the poet was wearing at the time of the arrest.
For me, this is a test for all Muslims who say Islam is not a violent religion.
This is my logic:
Lately, ISIS terrorists blew up a Russian passenger plane with 224 people, killed 130 people in Paris, beheaded two hostages, slaughtered 20 people in Mali, and murdered numerous others in Syria and Iraq of whom we would never know anything.
As all of the atrocities have been preceded or accompanied by praise to Allah, non-Muslims inevitably develop Islamophobic feelings. Our brain is built this way. Once we know what a snake looks like, we recoil from it without thinking or rationalising why the hell did we jump away from something that looked like a snake.
Non-Muslims can’t escape fearing Muslims.
A simple neuro test can prove, beyond any doubt, that even the most tolerant non-Muslims feel this fear even if they don’t admit it. Give me a most liberal Guardian reader, and his palms would start sweating when I show them photographs of Muslims in their traditional garb. There’s no cheating impartial electrodes, folks.
Non-Muslims can be blamed for their fear as much as gravitation can be blamed for not letting us somersault in the clouds instead of running on a treadmill.
But consciously, rationally following this fear with behaviour is a different story.
This is exactly what ISIS wants non-Muslims to do. Convert fear into hate; hate into behaviour; and make non-Muslims push the big red button of European apocalypse by raising the level of intolerance to Muslim communities, which will trigger its own chain reaction of alienation, protest, and more violence.
Hate-crime rate in the UK has reportedly surged 300% already. A few Americans were detained by police for making threatening calls to mosques in the States on the night of Paris attacks. A few mosques have been vandalized and even shot at.
Commenters, intent on preventing the escalation of violence, went online writing that Islam is a religion of peace; that if all Muslims were terrorists we’d all be dead by now; and that ISIS is not about Islam, but about their own version of it, which has nothing to do with true Islam.
Those are valid arguments, all of them.
If we follow this logic, European Muslims need to raise their united voice now in defense of Ashraf Fayadh.
Is Twitter flooded with messages addressed to the Saudi king with the hashtag #FreeAshrafFayadh?
Do we read reports of European squares and streets being blocked by marching protesters?
Do we read embarrassed comments of Saudi officials who can’t get to their embassies around the globe because they are picketed by hijab-wearing true-to-Quran Muslim protesters demanding freedom for the Palestinian poet?
I am afraid the answer is “no” to all these questions.
Even an online petition to free the poet stands at 13,000 and not tens of millions of true Muslim votes.
If murdering people who live and think differently is not true Islam, then Saudi Arabia shall become the focus of European Muslim protest right this minute.
To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t happen.
And if it doesn’t happen, does it mean that European Muslims, who denounce ISIS methods, approve of morbid brutality when it is prescribed by the Saudi King? If Islam is a religion of peace, beheading a poet for his art is a crime against Islam, just as obvious as any of the terror attacks by ISIS.
I want to understand (not criticize) Muslims who say Islam is a religion of peace but approve or fail to denounce its continued brutality.
It is time for true Muslims, who believe that violence is not an endemic Islamic feature, to start opposing and condemning non-true Muslims, who think beheading is good. Otherwise, the main argument about Islamists being of a different faith than Non-Violent Muslims loses credibility as a punctured hot air balloon.
If you are a Muslim and don’t sign this petition, you are making three errors in the word “PEACE” when you place it next to Islam, because it is, in fact, “DEATH“.
PS Tell me what you think, please, and don’t try to be correct politically or in some other way. Just tell me what’s on your mind.