The protests, demonstrations, and uprisings that have swept across the Middle East have visibly built their foundations on the irreducible sense of self-worth that, for Muslim believers, comes from closeness to God, who is as near to each person — as the Qur’an says — as his or her own jugular vein.
The call to prayer is a five-times-daily reminder of that infinite individual dignity. The new Muslim revolutions are an occasion of great hope. And at the very least, Westerners must think about their false premises about Islam and their prejudices against Muslims.
Since the highly dubious incidents of 2001, Americans have been living with an illusionary nightmare of the propagating Islamophobia. Yet after almost two months of world-historic protest and rebellion in streets and squares across the Muslim world, Americans are finally waking up to another reality: that this was their bad dream, significantly a creation of their own fevered imaginations!
For years, vestigial colonial contempt for Muslims and Arabs combined with rank prejudice against Islam, exacerbated by an obsession with oil, proved a blinding combination. Then the highly suspicious events of 9/11 attacks happened. But like the night yielding to dawn, all of this now appears in a new light. Americans are seeing Arabs and Muslims uprising in just and civilized protests. And thus in this regard, the Muslim protests have been well revolutionary.
Millions of Muslims launched demonstration after demonstration with a non-violent discipline in quest of the long-forgotten and trodden phenomena that is their dignity and justice.
True, revolutionaries in Libya took up arms, but defensively, in order to throw back the murderous assaults of the Dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s men.
In fact, its clearest image has been there on our television screens including broadcast scenes of masses of Muslims prostrate in orderly rows across vast squares in Muslim countries’ capitals.
The world people witnessed that the Muslim young and old, illiterate and tech savvy, those in flowing robes and even those in tight blue jeans have been alike in such observances and Islamic sentiments.
Sacred Fridays have consistently seen decisive social action, with resistant regimes typically getting the picture on subsequent weekends. These outcomes have been sparked not only by preaching, but by the mosque-inspired cohesion of a collectivity that, to the chagrin of the global arrogance led by the US, finds no contradiction between piety and political purpose between religion and policy. The protests, demonstrations, and uprisings that have swept across the Middle East have visibly built their foundations on the irreducible sense of self-worth that, for Muslim believers, comes from closeness to God, who is as near to each person — as the Qur’an says — as his or her own jugular vein. The call to prayer is a five-times-daily reminder of that infinite individual dignity.
To be Muslim broadly identify with the humiliated Palestinians, readily identify the Zionist regime of Israel as an enemy, and resent the American alliance with Israel, but something different is unfolding now.
In Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza, the spirit of Arab revolt showed itself mainly in a youth-driven and resolutely non-violent movement. Again and again, that is, the Arab Muslim population has refused to behave as Americans have been conditioned to expect.
How deep-seated is such a prejudice? European Christians made devilish pronouncements about the ‘built-in violence’ of Islam almost from the start, although the seventh century Qur’an was not translated into Latin until the twelfth century.
When a relatively objective European account of Islam’s origins and meaning finally appeared in the eighteenth century, it was quickly added to the Roman Catholic Index of forbidden books. Western culture is still at the mercy of such self-elevating ignorance.
The new Muslim revolutions are an occasion of great hope. At the very least, Westerners must think about their false premises about Islam and their prejudices against Muslims.
(By James Carroll, columnist for the Boston Globe and a professor at Suffolk University in Boston)