Monday, 26 February 2007

Muslims: the presumption of guilt

Posting on MSN's News discussion group, (, as lala, I often find myself locking horns with a small but vocal group of posters who demonstrate a strong anti-Islamic bent. Now, let me clarify one thing immediately - I am not pro-Islam. I am an athiest with a dislike of religion in general, and the Skygod religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) in particular. So it feels abit odd for me to be finding myself defending Islam and Muslims, day after day. I feel I have to do so because there are very few other voices raised on that community to counter the tirades of the anti-Islamic crowd. Ironically, I have been chided for this, ith complaints that I am always eager to defend Muslims. I don't start the threads, so my 'eagerness' to defend is more a response to the zeal with which others attack.

So why do I do it? Two reasons, well, three reasons, but the third one isn't very good. First of all, and most importantly, is speaking up for truth. In the three cases I'm gonig to mention here, the attacks were not based on sound evidence. Second, I am always uncomfortable when a minority ethnic group is targetted. Jews in Nazi germany, blah blah blah ... but at the bottom of it, people are being picked on. Last of all (this is the bad reason) I do like a good argument, particularly if I can infuriate rightwing knee-jerk bigots.

I've already commented on the story about King Fahad academy in London, and how they were alleged to be teaching students to regard Jews as monkey's and Christians as Pigs. If you want to read the (extensive) argument about that one, follow this link:

Two other examples of recent jousts on News, where Muslims have been criticised, where I have felt the evidence has been weak or misinterpreted:

First, this horrible tragedy:

Father killed family for being too western
By Nigel Bunyan
Last Updated: 1:58am
GMT 22/02/2007

A father killed his wife and four daughters in their sleep because he could not bear them adopting a more westernised lifestyle, an inquest heard yesterday.

Mohammed Riaz, 49, found it abhorrent that his eldest daughter wanted to be a fashion designer, and that she and her sisters were likely to reject the Muslim tradition of arranged marriages.

On Hallowe'en last year he sprayed petrol throughout their terraced home in Accrington, Lancs, and set it alight.

Caneze Riaz, 39, woke and tried to protect her three-year-old child, Hannah, who was sleeping with her, but was overcome by fumes. Her other daughters, Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 13, and Alisha, 10, died elsewhere in the house.

Riaz, who had spent the evening drinking, set himself on fire and died two days later.

Story continues here:

News discussion thread here:

Basically, my position was that there was no reason to assume the man's religion caused him to commit this horrible deed. if you read the article in full, you'll find out that he had been unable to find a decent job, was probably lonely and isolated due to his limited English and his son was dying of cancer. All of this suggests that he might have been depressed, and his mental illness might have led to his deplorable action. His family's drift away from what he saw as true Islam might have been the last straw, and might have influenced the form of his break down, but a cause? Unlikely. Millions of Muslims don't murder their families, every day. This point was ignored or attacked by the usual suspects, however, who chose not to look beyond the word 'Muslim' when looking for a reason for something happening.

And another one:

Police identify gunman as 18-year-old Bosnian
Linda Thomson, Deseret Morning News

Police Tuesday identified the gunman accused in Monday night's Trolley Square shooting as Sulejman Talovic, an 18-year-old Bosnian refugee who lived in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said Talovic drove his car to the mall, parked in the west parking terrace and encountered two people who he shot before entering the mall.

There, he encountered a female who also was shot right away, then went into a gift shop where there were five people, all of whom the young man shot. Moving through the mall, the gunman tried to shoot others, Burbank said. The chief said he could not say now how many shots were involved in the entire episode.

Burbank praised an unnamed Ogden police officer who took action at the mall to intervene in the incident, and praised the many law enforcement and other agencies that responded quickly and professionally to the crisis.

Until Salt Lake police arrived, it was "basically a shoot-out between the Ogden individual and this individual," Burbank said.


Again, the News debate on this story was extensive. I (lala) get into an amusing shouting match with New Yorker about 200 posts in. We have a 'difficult' relationship. Here's a link to the discussion:

Once again, some people decided that it was enough that this young man was a Muslim. Ergo, he was crazy, and on some blood thirsty Jihad. it was suggested there might be more of them, a terrorist cell intent on shooting up the malls of America. But, think about that one for a moment. If you want to kill as many infidels as possible, would you grab a gun and head down to the mall? look what happened to this fellow: he got gunned down quickly enough. Terrorists operating within the USA would look to more effective means of causing death an panic.

The anti-Islam briade overlooked two important points in their ranting: first, 'Bosnian Muslim' is an ethnic category, not necessarily a religious one. Also, this kid was a refugee. Background investigation soon uncovered that he had fled Bosnia as the horrors of the 1990s ethnic strife unfolded. It was possible he had seen terrible things and been traumatised by them, which may have been the cause of his breakdown. As for the way he expressed it, well, getting a gun and shooting up a nearby school or mall is, sadly, the American way.

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