Newsweek‘s controversial cover this week features an article written by “well-known atheist activist” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who asserts that this “rage” presented by Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa over the past two weeks “represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam.” Naturally, I have deep problems with this statement, being the product of non-raging Muslim immigrants in America who has worked pretty hard to stop people from making outlandish generalizations (read: this blog).
Newsweek took me back to senior year at Wellesley when, for my Sociology seminar, I wrote about the deep Muslim immigrant divide from mainstream Netherlands, in relation to the murder of Theo Van Gogh. I disucssed Hirsi Ali who, a Somalian parliament member with van Gogh had created a controversial film, Submission, criticizing the representation of women in Islam.
To backtrack: Submission was about a Muslim woman who is forced to marry an abusive man, then raped by her uncle, and then punished brutally for adultery. In one image, her body was shown naked through her transparent gown, with verses of the Qur’an painted across. Ali explained that the women chosen to act in the film were purposefully attractive so that the audience saw their beauty and vulnerability, and at the same time their dark body which signified race and sexual tension. Submission took advantage of the freedom of speech as a way to expose social taboos, the place of women in Islam, and the war on terror.
I have some fundamental problems with Hirsi Ali, as well as others who like to categorize the experience of Muslims in a region to represent Muslims across the globe. The fact is, the brutal and sad story of Hirsi Ali is much rooted to her particular home and how Islam was interpreted within her culture and importantly, her family. Furthermore, the experience of Muslims in Egypt, Yemen, to Muslims in Somalia to Bangladesh, Turkey, London, to my current New York State is just, very, very different. The pockets of Muslim populations are large enough in New York to Arizona to the Netherlands and South Africa that indeed, we cannot categorize. We are talking about people who identify with a common religion implanted in very different cultures and histories.
On the other hand, we are still, scared to talk about it. Let’s think about this: There are still many Americans who thinks that President Obama is Muslim. But we don’t think about, nor do we we dare ask, “so what?”
Suppose that we take this article’s title into value and assert that yes, all Muslims are just full of rage. I have found it particularly interesting that since its publication, it has succeeded in mockery. Yes, Muslims also know how to be funny (and yes, I just made a generalization).
According to The Associated Press, “MuslimRage” was the sixth-most trending topic among U.S. Twitter users early Monday. It was at the top of that list in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
Some of my favorites:
“I’m having such a good hair day. No one even knows. #MuslimRage.”
“On a plane and people mishearing me when I say I’m a ‘tourist’. #MuslimRage.”
“Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can’t yell for him. #MuslimRage“
“After a long night at the bar, when there’s only pork in your one-night-stand’s fridge #muslimrage“
“Ramadan in Iceland when days are 23 hours long. #muslimrage“
“iPhone5 released. Not available in Egypt yet. #muslimrage“
We keep saying let’s have a dialogue, let’s talk, let’s have a debate. Sure, that works. And then you have social media and a huge mockery of the whole “rage” that “Muslims”, supposedly, “everywhere” has, by the same Muslims that have been categorized to be raging. As much as these anti-American slogans and chants s by Egyptians, for example, could give readers the shock value that they want and further convince them of the story of hypersensitive Muslims, what this shows is also a not-so-convincing admission that not all Muslims actually think like this.
No one bothers to ask, though, what other Muslims are thinking. Here is the thing–Muslims are raging. They are and have been raging and for the past decade, and no one has done anything about it.