The Thundering Silence Of Muslims: Important Correction to Response to a Friend.

A good friend of mine who is not a Muslim has been living in an all-Muslim country for several years.

He responded briefly by private email to my oped: “Levelling with Muslims” . He says pretty much the following:

The highly educated rational and internationally oriented Muslims I know simply refuse to go around affirming to the world that they are not (violent) jihadists. Besides, they think it’s useless,that they have already been adjudicated guilty by the court of western public opinion.

I hope I am translating my friend correctly. If I don’t, I hope he will correct me and do so promptly.

But I don’t know of any public clamor that request of ordinary Muslims to prove that they are innocent. My own oped does not require this at all. Perhaps, I was not clear. I have to give myself another try.

It is also simply not the case, even after hundreds of acts of jihadist terrorism world-wide since 9/11 that westerners assume all Muslims are more or less fanatics. This may be surprising but I think most Americans who are other than Muslim tend to give everyone ample benefit of doubt. However. Muslim silence, at home and abroad erodes this tendency. This erosion is not conducive to peace.

I would like to know that my friend’s Muslim friends are talking about moral responsibility. I would like to know that they are talking to one another and to those less well situated educationally. I would like to be told that many are disgusted by the criminal barbarity of murdering envoys in Libya. I would also like them to take a position on this kind of question: Is it a greater sin (or crime) for Muslims to bomb from the air apartment houses occupied by Muslim families with small, children in Aleppo or for non-Muslims to mock the Prophet Mohamed? To what extent does Islam require that the faithful get killed and kill policemen to protest blasphemy against a man of faith who took care to insist that he was only a man, with no shred of sacredness attached to his person?

The only way I will know whether this sort of conversation is taking place among Muslims is if Muslims or those who live among them, such as my friends, say it loud and clear.

I would like many Muslim voices to say loudly and clearly about acts of terrorism by those who call themselves Muslims: This is not done in my name. This is contrary to my religion.

What their governments tell me for their own reasons, I discount heavily. I want to hear Muslim civil society if and where there is one

I hear barely a whisper.

Muslims are telling us in practice: Leave us alone. Our everyday life is difficult enough. We merely want what you want. We want a chance to build our lives and to raise our children without interference. Those Salafists, those violent jihadists, we have nothing to do with them. They are your terrorists as much as ours.

Sorry, they are not. If Lutherans started bombing other people’s churches because they did not like their beliefs, if Baptists blew up car bombs in front of hotels to protest child baptism, if Catholics cut caricaturists’ throats because of cartoons of Jesus Christ, you can be sure that loud Lutherans, Baptists, Catholic voices would be raised in clear denunciation.

I repeat what I advanced in the previous essay: Peaceful Muslims are not clear in their hearts about right and wrong. That’s why we don’t hear them, even under the cover of anonymity. My oped “Levelling with Muslims” has had dozens of hits from predominantly Muslim countries and from countries such as India where here are many Muslims. Not a peep! Please, tell me I am wrong.

Of course, anyone can answer me and perhaps prove me wrong by posting a pertinent link at as Comment on this blog.

Update one day later: My friend says I did not render his statements properly. I think I did. I invited him to post corrections here in any form he wishes, in English or in French.

Update and correction on 9/21/12

My friend eventually  sent me links to four French newspapers  each of which led to op-eds by writers with Muslim names that indicated a clear attachment to freedom of expression while they disparaged the violent mob actions in several Muslim countries and the murder of the American personnel in Benghazi. My friend said it took him little time to find those items.

Then, I asked him if conversations about the importance of freedom of expression vs blasphemy were also taking place in the Arabic language press. In response, he sent me a link to what he said was an op-ed in Arabic dealing exactly with the topic of my question. He invited me to use one of the on-line translation tools. I was not able to open this last item. The fault lies entirely with me, I am sure, with my bad computer equipment and with my shamefully bad skills. I read nothing into it, of course.

So, at this point, I stand partially corrected. Contrary to my allegations, people with Muslim names do condemn the alleged reaction to the alleged blasphemies of that Internet video. The evidence available to me however all seems to come from France. It makes sense when I think about it.

As a colonial power in Africa and in the Levant, France has  had a Muslim immigration for a long time ago. It seems to me that this makes it possible to have Muslims and descendants of Muslims who have lived in the French context long enough to be appreciative of freedom of speech and of other allied freedoms.

Nevertheless, a leader of a French Muslim organization asked the French government recently on television to do the needful to ensure that Islam enjoys the respect that Muslims have a “right” – “le droit” to expect. A little wobbly, still! The French constitution does not accord a right to respect anymore than does the US Constitution. The French cabinet minister who answered pointed out that courts of law -rather than the executive  branch- where the proper venue to pursue such matters. Lately, the French have shown us how not to be weak-kneed. What do you know!

By contrast with the French case, the immigration of significant numbers of Muslims into the US is relatively recent. American Muslims and Muslims who live in America have had less time to become acculturated to the freedoms associated with democracy. Or, it’s possible that American institutions don’t do as a good a job as do French institutions in this respect. Subjectively, that would not surprise me, by the way.

At any rate, I still don’t hear or read of Muslims, or especially, of Muslims that seek to represent other Muslims condemning the assassinations and the riot. Fouad Ajami had a good piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. You can always count on him to be the voice of reason and lucidity on Middle-Eastern affairs. Somehow, I don’t think he speaks for many Muslims. I could be wrong. I hope I am.

At this point also,  I have no evidence that the defense of freedom of speech against religious fanaticism is currently taking place in any Arab country or, indeed, in any Muslim country. (And, again, it’s not because my friend did not try.)

Incidentally, I wonder how many predominantly Muslim countries even bother to guarantee freedom of speech in their constitutions or in their other basic laws. It goes without saying that I will immediately publish here any response that contradicts my suspicion in this respect.

In conclusion: The impression that started this oped, here on this blog, has been partly falsified. An important fraction of my initial impression has been successfully  contradicted because someone took the trouble to respond. I stand corrected.The Internet world is enormously better than anything preceding it. Nowadays, no one is condemned either to drag around the same old fallacies for a lifetime or to become an expert in whatever is ailing him. Others are able to come to the rescue credibility and the world is little bit better for it, maybe. I only regret that  none of the fair number of readers who look at this blog from Muslim countries has commented. I understand that in many cases, they have good reasons to fear intervening. I wish them well all the same.

But, I ask again: Is it a greater sin (or crime) for Muslims to bomb from the air apartment houses occupied by Muslim families with small, children in Aleppo or for non-Muslims to mock the Prophet Mohamed?

I would like the response of a religiously well-educated Muslim.

About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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25 Responses to The Thundering Silence Of Muslims: Important Correction to Response to a Friend.

  1. On Muslim civil society and terrorist denouncements, Dr J writes:

    I barely hear a whisper

    Perhaps this is due not to Muslim reluctance to condemn terrorism, but rather to the fact that civil society in Muslim states has been kept weak and impotent for nearly half-a-century now because of the effects of the redistributive, New Deal-esque states that were created at the end of World War 2.

    By the way, Chinese citizens have been burning Japanese flags, vandalizing and threatening Japanese businesses and assaulting the Japanese embassy in Beijing. Did the Chinese convert to Islam recently?

  2. Brandon: The current Chinese behavior is simply too small- time to invite comparison.

    You may be right about the absence of Muslim civil societies. I wish intellectuals from Muslim countries would address the matter in a very public place.

    • I don’t think it is, Dr. J. I know you’d like to believe it is small-time compared to the US-Muslim rivalry – for political and intellectual purposes – but I don’t see a dime’s worth of difference between the two conceptually.

      Intellectuals are part of the civil society that has been repressed since World War 2. Remember when you couldn’t get published because your profession was dominated by Marxists? That was in a free market and a democracy. Try getting at the truth in a fascist state…

      • Never happened. I did get everything published. It just took five times more times when my findings did not agree with Marxist dogmn than when they did.

        Brandon: I often don’t know why you say what you say. The riots in China are about old -fashioned nationalism. No suicide bombing yet. no decapitation of enemies. no bombing of people at prayer.

      • Never happened. I did get everything published. It just took five times more times when my findings did not agree with Marxist dogmn than when they did.

        Fair enough, but this was not my overall point: Imagine doing what you did under the fascist regimes of the Middle East rather than markets and democracy, and then ask yourself why intellectuals don’t speak up more often.

        The riots in China are about old-fashioned nationalism. No suicide bombing yet. no decapitation of enemies. no bombing of people at prayer.

        And still no damning evidence that Islam is responsible for the carnage in the Middle East. After all, the Chinese state has a robust police presence that was deployed to protect the Japanese embassy. What would have happened to the Japanese diplomats inside if there was no functioning police force – as was the case in Libya – is anybody’s guess.

        Both China and Japan are states with functioning bureaucratic apparatuses. This is something that is sorely lacking in many Middle Eastern societies, especially ones that have recently been on the receiving end of Western military interventions…

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        Brandon: Your horror of the obvious reminds me of the Marxists I knew in my youth, Trostkysts, to be specific. One guy I knew well slipped on a dog turd once and immediately proceeded to a theoretical class analysis of the incident that explained it away as a real occurrence.

      • Dr J writes:

        Your horror of the obvious reminds me of the Marxists I knew in my youth, Trostkysts, to be specific.

        There is nothing obvious about your assertions though. If what you say is so obvious, there would be no need to say it. How many times do you point out that the sky is blue or that shoes protect your feet from the elements, after all?

        Looking back at the corrections you’ve made since reading all of the many op-eds written by self-identified Muslims condemning the violence, I can see even more clearly now that it is institutions that make all the difference. Indeed, institutions can easily explain the difference in results between China or France (both of which house significant Muslim minorities) and Pakistan and Libya.

        I go to a school with a significant Muslim population. It’s a good school with a world-renowned reputation in the fields of engineering, law, medicine, business, and research. As such, many of the Muslims are here on student visas. It is also a school with a reputation for fostering politically correct dialogue and Left-wing protests. To date, there have been no protests about the video here, but the Ramadan celebrations were to die for!

        It is not Islam per se that is responsible for the violence, but rather the New Deal-esque (i.e. fascistic) states that were created following the collapse of European imperialism that are to be held responsible.

        Muslims living in traditionally Muslim lands need to learn how to be more tolerant, it is true, but they cannot learn how to do this if they live under repressive state apparatuses modeled after the worst of the West’s democratic mistakes. And, no, bombing or invading a repressive state and attempting to mold it after our own democracies is not the answer. Need I remind you of the mess in Iraq?

        Your failure to think clearly and soberly about this issue can be explained, I think, by your zealous desire to impose freedom upon others from behind the barrel of a gun. You would like so much for an explanation to suit your argument that imperialism is a necessary policy to undertake. You wish to make imperialism necessary, but as I have repeatedly stated on this blog: you cannot impose freedom from above.

      • Brandon: I am glad to let most of this stand as it although you make sound like a determined zealous Islamophobist which I am not. I just ask unpleasant questions. It seems to me that you are close to arguing that Islam is not a factor. In this, you avoid reality like the Marxists of my youth.

        On the same day, Bengahzi citizens told Islamist militias to go screw themselves and a Pakistani cabinet minister, – no illiterate peasant – offered $100,00 for the killing of athe producer of the famous video. Both events happened, both are worth reporting. Neither has anything to do with Buddhism. or does one?

      • Dr J writes:

        Brandon: I am glad to let most of this stand as it although you make sound like a determined zealous Islamophobist which I am not. I just ask unpleasant questions. It seems to me that you are close to arguing that Islam is not a factor. In this, you avoid reality like the Marxists of my youth.

        On the same day, Bengahzi citizens told Islamist militias to go screw themselves and a Pakistani cabinet minister, – no illiterate peasant – offered $100,00 for the killing of athe producer of the famous video. Both events happened, both are worth reporting. Neither has anything to do with Buddhism. or does one?

        I haven’t uttered the word ‘Islamophobic’ at all, Dr J. Be careful, we don’t want anybody claiming martyrdom for Western civilization!

        After re-reading this exchange, I can safely say that I’m not “avoiding reality like the Marxists of your youth” either. Islam is a factor in the same way that Buddhism is a factor in Tibetan struggles against the Chinese state, or Judaism is a factor in Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, or Christianity was a factor in the ethnic cleansing campaigns of the US state during the 19th century: scripture was and is no doubt employed in times of war and peace, but that doesn’t mean religion is responsible for the carnage.

        Because I know what you are going to say before you even say it: the greatest concentration of suicide bombers over the past century has been in Sri Lanka, where Buddhist sects constitute 85% of the population.

        What I am most concerned with in regards to the “free speech and Islam debate” is not the obstinate ignorance and quick condemnations of Islam being thrown around by Western observers like yourself and your groupies, but rather the alienation of potential allies that such knee-jerk condemnations create.

        I have seen many younger people from the Middle East with independent minds (ie they were atheists and classical liberals) grow tired of explaining to condemnatory Western observers that institutions and public policies are to blame for the mess in the Middle East, not Islam. Also from these potential allies’ perspective: who would want to defend the moronic statements being thrown around by many Western observers, especially as bombs from Western weapons continue to fall and thugs funded by Western governments continue to oppress?

        The influence that Islamist factions wield today is powered by Western imperialism and Western obstinacy. Where were all the movie protests in Turkey, and in the Caucasus, and in western China?

      • I will also let this MOSTLY stand or fall on its own merit.

        Of course, according to your teachings, Christianity should have had a part in the US invasion or Iraq, right? Did it?

        The irritation of progressive, liberal-minded Muslims toward Western suspicion is neither here nor there. I wish we would do more, as private parties and, the US as a nation-state, to help them throw off their yokes. Their irritation is irrelevant.

        And I still can’t hear Muslim organizations in safe places such as here protesting suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism.

        I hope someone will correct me on this, with facts.

        Are there ISLAMISTS (-ists) or are they a product of my imagination? If there are Islamists, what is the Christian equivalent?

        Are there any Christian movements that request that the penalty for apostasy should be capital punishment?

      • Dr. J writes:

        And I still can’t hear Muslim organizations in safe places such as here protesting suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism.

        I hope someone will correct me on this, with facts.

        Dude, Google ‘American Muslim organizations’ or ‘Muslim American organizations’ and find out. I did it for you. Here is the relevant passage from the Islamic Society of North America’s website:

        Earlier today, the Islamic Society of North America held a press conference today to condemn the murder of U.S. diplomats in Libya and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. ISNA President Imam Magid was joined by senior religious leaders and Libyan Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali, who together mourned the loss of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other Americans. Imam Magid delivered this statement:

        “The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) unequivocally condemns the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, and his staff and condemns the attack on US Embassy in Cairo. Reports indicate that those who killed him did so as a reaction to a video depicting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a profane manner. Although we believe that this video is hateful and bigoted, this could never be an excuse to commit any acts of violence whatsoever […]”

        And from the Council on American-Islamic Relations:

        We condemn the disgraceful killings of the American diplomats in Libya in the strongest terms possible. We also condemn the attack on our nation’s diplomatic facilities in Libya and Egypt. The actions of the attackers are totally inexcusable and un-Islamic.

        We agree with Secretary Clinton, who said that “violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.”

        How much more evidence does Your Obstinance require?

        Dr J also writes:

        The irritation of progressive, liberal-minded Muslims toward Western suspicion is neither here nor there. I wish we would do more, as private parties and, the US as a nation-state, to help them throw off their yokes. Their irritation is irrelevant.

        Here I hope that the very, very few smart people who read Dr J’s blog will see where the disconnect between the West and the Middle East rests. If hawks don’t care about fostering relations, or about listening to others in our ideological camp, what exactly do they care about?

        Dr J also writes, in disjointed form:

        Of course, according to your teachings, Christianity should have had a part in the US invasion or Iraq, right? Did it?

        […]

        Are there ISLAMISTS (-ists) or are they a product of my imagination? If there are Islamists, what is the Christian equivalent?

        Are there any Christian movements that request that the penalty for apostasy should be capital punishment?

        Again, the role that evangelicals play in the political process of this country enhances my argument that religion plays only a token role in conflicts between peoples.

        Christian scripture and Christian imagery was employed by a myraid of organizations agitating for war in Iraq and in the broader Middle East (just read what frequent commentator and dependable moron David writes on this blog). Doesn’t mean that Christianity is responsible for the wars, though.

        Your attempts to equivocate Islamism with a Christian version is equally falacious. It is very hard for Christian groups to gain the prominence they seek in Western politics these days because our institutions have succeeded in keeping those loathesome factions from imposing their vulgar superstitions on the rest of us.

        You can glean what would happen if Christians were to regain power in Western political discourse by looking at states in the West that most closely resemble those of the fascistic Middle East: the post-socialist world.

        The butchering of Muslim Bosniaks and Albanians by Serbian nationalists was carried out under circumstances where Christianity was barely contained by elite factions in the Balkans. Recent events in Russia show that, were there no institutions in place limiting the political power of the Orthodox Church, the circumstances for more violence in the name of Christianity would be ripe for fundamentalists. Of course, we can always look at Latin America as well (though less so these days, thankfully).

        Underneath your argument dwells a longing for an excuse for imperial policies. You seek to find justifications for imposing your beliefs on others from behind the barrel of a gun. In this respect, you have yet throw off the yokes of your Marxist youth.

      • Thank you for pointing out that an American Muslim organization protested the assassination of US diplomatic personnel in Libya.

        The rest of your rejoinder makes little sense (“Equivocate” what?)

        Dis I miss Christian evangelicals blowing themselves up in a civilian buildings in MUslim countries shouting: “The God of the Trinity is is Great!” ?

        THe Serbian fascists who victimized MUslims in Bosnia and in Kosovo said they did it for Christ. to gain merit toward Paradise?

      • Your Obstinance requests another hearing?

        So be it.

        Dis I miss Christian evangelicals blowing themselves up in a civilian buildings in MUslim countries shouting: “The God of the Trinity is is Great!” ?

        Wait. What? Do terrorists from Muslim states shout “God is Great” before they blow themselves up? Where, pray tell, did you get this information?

        THe Serbian fascists who victimized MUslims in Bosnia and in Kosovo said they did it for Christ. to gain merit toward Paradise?

        Nice try Your Obstinance. The Serbian factions responsible for their part of the violence in the Balkans found it easier to appeal to nationalism than to religious ignorance.

        The Arab factions responsible for their part of the violence in the Middle East find it easier to appeal to religious ignorance than to nationalism.

        My explanation is that the Balkans has been exposed to much more Western-style (i.e. secular) state-building over the centuries than has the Middle East, so nationalism is a much more convenient tool for factions to wield than is religious ignorance. Christianity can easily step in, at any time, to fill that void.

        The ideological competition in the Middle East is very, very fierce (despite what Western observers such as yourself write in order to promote your own imperial delusions of grandeur), and right now the Islamists have the upper hand because of their overt anti-imperialism.

        You give religion too much credit here.

        What you are doing is trying to find excuses to go to war with the Muslim world, so that your views can be imposed on others from behind the barrel of a gun.

  3. Steve C. says:

    My take on it relates to the fact that one of the main tenets of Islam is that it is the duty of every muslim to do everything they can to convert every person on earth to become a muslim (the world wide caliphate). The violent Islamists & jihadists are the spear tip of that. The moderate Muslims are reluctant to speak out because they believe that the violent ones serve their goals. Just look at what has happened in France where you have enclaves of muslims, Non-muslims, including the gendarmes, are afraid to go into those areas.

    They also may fear the radicals directly. Imagine if some radical imam or sheik put out a fatwa to kill you because you opposed their methods. The Iranians just raised the blood money for Salmon Rushdie by $500,000. This is for a fatwa that has been in effect since 1989!

    It boils down to whether people want to use persuasion or coercion to spread their message or ideology. Too many muslims believe they have the right to use violence, murder, destruction and intimidation against others.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Steve: A quick correction of fact; There are indeed areas in France where the police dare not tread. They are poor areas. Many of the French urban poor are Muslims. THe reasons for these lawless enclaves is not Islamic militantism; it’s turf wars related to drug dealings (Does this ring a domestic bell?) Drug dealing is decidedly un-Islamic.

      I don’t know whee you got your erroneous info on this. I think you might consider not relying on it.

  4. julien says:

    I am the friend. Please, Jacques, update with the articles I sent from French and Moroccan newspapers, reflecting moderate Muslims’ positions claiming loudly: “we believe in freedom of expression, we condemn the violence of all those extremists, we are not like them, … even if we are annoyed when our faith and our symbols are attacked by some other extremists”. Thanks!

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