On the other hand, the interview with Ayaan HA alerted me to this article by Asra Nomani on the silencing of criticism of Islam which tells me some things I didn’t know.
In 2004 a Muslim man she knew told her to stop writing. She did not comply.
It was the first time a fellow Muslim had pressed me to refrain from criticizing the way our faith was practiced. But in the past decade, such attempts at censorship have become more common. This is largely because of the rising power and influence of the “ghairat brigade,” an honor corps that tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam. It meets even sound critiques with hideous, disproportionate responses.
I’m well aware of that, of course, but what I didn’t know is that it’s organized by the OIC.
The campaign began, at least in its modern form, 10 years ago in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a mini-United Nations comprising the world’s 56 countries with large Muslim populations, plus the Palestinian Authority — tasked then-Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu with combating Islamophobia and projecting the “true values of Islam.” During the past decade, a loose honor brigade has sprung up, in part funded and supported by the OIC through annual conferences, reports and communiques. It’s made up of politicians, diplomats, writers, academics, bloggers and activists.
In 2007, as part of this playbook, the OIC launched the Islamophobia Observatory, a watchdog group based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, with the goal of documenting slights against the faith. Its first report, released the following year, complained that the artists and publishers of controversial Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad were defiling “sacred symbols of Islam . . . in an insulting, offensive and contemptuous manner.”
And on it went from there.
Alongside the honor brigade’s official channel, a community of self-styled blasphemy police — from anonymous blogs such as LoonWatch.com and Ikhras.com to a large and disparate cast of social-media activists — arose and began trying to control the debate on Islam. This wider corps throws the label of “Islamophobe” on pundits, journalists and others who dare to talk about extremist ideology in the religion…
The official and unofficial channels work in tandem, harassing, threatening and battling introspective Muslims and non-Muslims everywhere. They bank on an important truth: Islam, as practiced from Malaysia to Morocco, is a shame-based, patriarchal culture that values honor and face-saving from the family to the public square. Which is why the bullying often works to silence critics of Islamic extremism.
There’s also the political aspect – being called “Islamophobic” is akin to be called a racist, so many people back down.
The OIC helped give birth to a culture of victimization. In speeches, blogs, articles and interviews widely broadcast in the Muslim press, its honor brigade has targeted pundits, political leaders and writers — from TV host Bill Maher to atheist author Richard Dawkins — for insulting Islam. Writer Glenn Greenwald has supported the campaign to brand writers and thinkers, such as neuroscientist and atheist Sam Harris, as having “anti-Muslim animus” just for criticizing Islam.
Most of the criticism takes place online, with anonymous bloggers targeting supposed Islamophobes. Not long after the cable, a network of bloggers launched LoonWatch, which goes after Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists and other Muslims. The bloggers have labeled Somali author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a born Muslim but now an atheist opponent of Islamic extremism, an “anti-Muslim crusader.” Robert Spencer, a critic of extremist Islam, has been called a “vicious hate preacher” and an “Internet sociopath.” The insults may look similar to Internet trolling and vitriolic comments you can find on any blog or news site. But they’re more coordinated, frightening and persistent.
One prominent target of the honor brigade’s attacks was Charlie Hebdo, the French newspaper where several staffers were recently killed by Islamic extremists. According to some accounts, as the killers massacred cartoonists, they shouted: “We have avenged the prophet Muhammad.” The OIC denounced the killings, but in a 2012 report, it also condemned the magazine’s “Islamophobic satires.” Its then-secretary general, Ihsanoglu, said the magazine’s “history of attacking Muslim sentiments” was “an outrageous act of incitement and hatred and abuse of freedom of expression.”
That’s how it’s done.
[I]n so many Muslim communities now, saving face trumps critical thinking and truth-telling. This is why reform from within Islam is so difficult. In my experience, if you try to hold the community accountable, you’re more likely to be bullied and intimidated than taken seriously.
Two years ago, Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, was so battered by online attacks aimed at silencing her that she experienced a physical response to the stress and anxiety, and ended up in an emergency room. When I met her in her office near the White House, she pulled up her sleeves to show me the marks left by IV injections that the hospital staff had administered to get her necessary fluids.
“The attacks just killed me,” Al-Suwaij said, wearily.
Bullying this intense really works. Observant members of the flock are culturally conditioned to avoid shaming Islam, so publicly citing them for that sin often has the desired effect. Non-Muslims, meanwhile, are wary of being labeled “Islamophobic” bigots. So attacks against both groups succeed in quashing civil discourse. They cause governments, writers and experts to walk on eggshells, avoiding important discussion.
It’s very interesting to know that some of this is being orchestrated by the OIC. Very interesting indeed.