Guest contribution by Samee Sulaiman
The United States is responding to the murders in France with the familiar cycle of spectacular emoting that we have seen over and over again in past events.
Included in this cycle are those outraged by this slight on freedom of speech and those who are outraged that Muslims again are receiving disproportionate attention and blame for the horrific forms of violence occurring all over the world. I have always been part of the latter group, but recently I have become too cynical to respond to these things, so I just ignore them. What I cannot ignore anymore, however is the hypocrisy that all of us continuously enact with our expressions of disgust.
Those of a progressive or leftist mindset might think they know what I am going to say, that portrayals of the loss of Muslim life are never as tragic, or that the violence of white people is never considered as horrific. No, we know this. We have known this for decades and centuries.
What is so terribly ironic about the current discourse is that both the bigots and the progressives have fallen victim to the same trap: that when we express our thoughts in these moments we have reduced Muslim life to only its coarsest biological definition. For when we express outrage at these murders or respond to that outrage only with arguments about disregard for Muslim life and white/Christian/secular/imperialist murder, we forget one thing: it is precisely that the people who have suffered the most attacks on their freedoms in these democratic countries and the nations they occupy, bomb, and destroy are Muslims.
There is no greater testament to this fact than the 500-page summary of the so called “torture report.” One need not read through the entire account of atrocious experiments in human degradation to deduce one fact. Only Muslims were being tortured.
And this targeting continues. It is Muslims who still rot in Guantanamo without due process. It is Muslims who are being renditioned to foreign countries with vicious regimes for more vile methods of torment. It is Muslims (including American citizens) being assassinated without trial under the direct orders of the President of the United States. It is Muslims who must fear their community members in their places of prayer. And it is Muslims who must fear the consequences of their dress, their activities, and their speech more than anyone else in this country.
The bigots in this conversation are demanding that Muslims respect their freedom of speech, while they show total disregard for even the most basic forms of human rights and dignity for Muslims.
Even progressives have been criminally silent on the eroding of our civil liberties and that is because of one fact. Most progressives have no reason to believe they will suffer from these violations.
To say it all more concisely, the way people are talking about these events shows that freedom of speech and other fundamental rights are simply not important when concerning Muslims. For the political right, this is true because of a total disregard or disdain for Muslims at large, and for the left it is because this issue has been lost in the list of priorities.
Unfortunately, the cycle will continue until our words do not simply aim to protect Muslim lives, but to protect Muslim life. That is, we must be willing to take it one step further and place as much importance on the rights of Muslims as everyone else.
Samee Sulaiman is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and is pursuing further graduate studies. He is from and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.