A GAME is being played all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to sunny Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States and it is called ‘Muslim Baiting.’ How it works is simple. A public announcement is made under the guise of free speech that a revered figure or scripture for Muslims is going to be attacked and ridiculed. The game is to goad Muslims into a senseless cycle of reactionary violence.
In the past it seems to have succeeded judging from the reactions of Muslims from London to Lahore where flags, property and other objects were destroyed in retaliation against slurs against Islam. But what did such meaningless reactions accomplish? A new determination by some quacks to push Muslim buttons towards more stupid and inconsequential outcomes.
In the Phoenix goad and bait, biker gangs armed with assault rifles announced their intention to hold a ‘draw Muhammad cartoon contest’ outside a mosque. Displaying slogans and placards with words intended to inflame such as “Stop Islam” and “Support Your Local White Boy” the heavily armed bikers wanted to create a mayhem on the back of Muslim reaction. Violent responses in the past against religious slurs had perhaps encouraged them to goad a new group into a battle. Fortunately, the pro and anti Islam groups were well separated by the Phoenix police and no incident except for the expelling of a lot of hot air was reported.
Perhaps Muslim leaders in America are beginning to understand their role in spreading the right message when it comes to Islam baiting and it is reaching the right ears. Mike Ghouse, the President of the America Together Foundation is one such figure that should be credited with ensuring that Muslims should be responsible and not responsive when faced with slurs against their faith.
In a statement widely circulated before the Phoenix event, Mike implored those sympathetic to Islam to be ‘understanding’ rather than revolting. He said, “Let the Bikers draw cartoons of the Prophet (pbuh), look to this as an opportunity to follow the practice of the Prophet (pbuh), he was a mercy to mankind and it is time for Muslims to demonstrate that. What did he do when he was harassed on his way to Taif? He prayed in the tradition of Jesus, forgive them God, for they know not. God's will was to show a way to build better societies by mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will and not by aggravating it. Thus he turned the other check as Jesus had taught and prayed for the wellbeing of all.”
Speaking on the eve of the Biker event, Mike stated that “This Friday, I urge Muslims around American Mosques to open up their hearts an minds of understanding, instead of sulking, retrieving to a corner, getting angry or harboring ill-will, I ask them to pray for the welfare of Biker Americans in their Friday sermons across the land and hopefully across the globe. Let them make an effort to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. Let’s do our part right and seek God’s help in repairing our relationships.”
“Criticism can fade away or rain on us depending on how we respond to it. Lack of conviction in one's faith breeds intolerance towards criticism, whereas firmness in faith can lead us to learn from criticism, explore the infinite wisdom and realize the strength of our faith (Imaan); a worthy feeling to have, instead of living in doubt and shooing criticism away.
“We need to handle criticism of Qur’an, Islam and the Prophet (pbuh) with grace, and respond to it gracefully. At least it increases the chances of mitigating the conflict and restoring harmony. The other way around is fighting back, which guarantees further aggravation of the conflict and isolation. Let freedom of speech remain the corner stone of Islam.
“I urge fellow Muslims to be open to all the criticism with confidence, let the doors of communications be open. Islam stands on its own; it does not need our defense. M. Ghouse.”
Islam has indeed stood the test of time against many who marauded against it and spilled blood. But it has not been vanquished. Mike’s message should be taken with great consideration for a greater understanding by people not familiar with this religion of peace.