The meaning of outrage

Submitted by Matthew on 29 January, 2014 - 11:04

After Liberal Democrat Maajid Nawaz tweeted a cartoon from the satirical web comic ‘Jesus and Mo’, along with words outlining how he, as a Muslim, did not find it offensive, the response was disappointing, but predictable.

Dozens of people (including liberals and of course, that great champion of freedom so long as it isn’t in Iran, Cuba or Syria, George Galloway) expressed outrage at Nawaz’s actions, many of whom are demanding that he be recalled as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.

Nawaz, a Muslim and former Islamist turned head of “counter-extremism” think-tank Quilliam Foundation, has even received death threats from particularly zealous believers.

“Outrage” at such small actions is more often than not manufactured by political leaders as a way of establishing themselves as the authentic leadership of a community. This takes place in many parts of the world, it is common in India for example. However this episode (the latest in the line of many similar incidents) cannot even be seen by any rational person as an attack on a community, as is the excuse often given by those who demand censorship.

When Salman Rushdie, a man of Indian-Muslim background, was vilified, the justification was that he was an apostate and thus it was perfectly fair to call for his death; but in what way is a Muslim “community leader” who calls for blasphemy to be punished by the state any more of a legitimate or representative member of the Muslim community than Maajid Nawaz?

It is surely the height of racism and ignorance to assume a homogenous view from over two million Muslim people in this country, a highly diverse community that includes people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Arab, Iranian, and Turkish origin.

It is the EDL view as well as the Islamist view (just one of the numerous things they have in common), that all members of the Muslim community are outraged — or at least should be outraged, lest they be accused of not being “proper” Muslims — about things as innocuous as cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

I would wager that their health, their children’s education, their wages or, from a more international perspective, the deaths of thousands of their co-religionists (as well as Christians and other minorities) in a seemingly interminable war is Syria is much more of a concern for most ordinary Muslims than a frivolous comic on the internet.

The right not to be offended should never be considered something meriting support. Rosa Luxemburg famously said that freedom is always the freedom of the one who thinks differently, and it is that dictum that socialists should strive to defend.

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