February 18, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2239

Arab Liberals: The Arab and Muslim World Condemns Human Rights Violations Only When Perpetrated by Non-Muslims

February 18, 2009
Special Dispatch No. 2239

In response to the sweeping condemnation in the Arab and Muslim world of Israel's actions in Gaza, and the calls to prosecute Israeli leaders for war crimes, liberal Arab writers have accused the Arabs and Muslims of hypocrisy. The liberal website has published two articles in this vein, by Egyptian liberal Kamal Ghobrial and by Kuwaiti liberal Fahker Al-Sultan. Both writers point out that the Arab and Muslim world is quick to express outrage over atrocities and human rights violations when Arabs or Muslims are victimized by non-Muslims, but turns a blind eye – or even condones the violations – when the victims are non-Muslims, or when Muslims prosecute their own brothers, as happened in Saddam's Iraq and is happening today in Darfur. The writers argue that this double standard stems from the problem of hatred for the other, and especially towards Jews. Al-Sultan emphasizes the role of the traditional Islamic mentality – and of political Islam, which exploits this mentality – in promoting inflexible xenophobic and antisemitic attitudes.

Following are excerpts from the two articles:

"According To These Courageous Jihadists, Only [Muslim] Blood Is Valuable, While the Blood Of Others Is Basically Worthless And Can Be Spilled Without A Qualm; More Than That, Spilling It Is A Kind Of Sacrifice Through Which One Can Attain Paradise"

Kamal Ghobrial wrote: "...[There are] courageous [heroes] who zealously [defend] human [values], especially when it comes to Muslim blood – for, according to these courageous jihadists, only [Muslim] blood is valuable, while the blood of others is basically worthless and can be spilled without a qualm. More than that, spilling it is a kind of sacrifice through which one can attain paradise.

"[I would like to remind] all these people... that [Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir] is accused of spilling the blood of his own Sunni Muslim people. The arm of justice has reached him in order to hold him to account for crimes perpetrated during his presidency against thousands of innocent people. [These crimes] outraged everyone – except, of course, the Arabs, who are outraged only in specific circumstances and in response to deliberate incitement.

"Will we witness demonstrations in the Muslim and Arab capitals and cities calling for international justice to be carried out and demanding that the accused [i.e. Bashir] be immediately turned over to the [international] court to receive the punishment he deserves…? Or will we see the opposite?

"[I believe that,] once we calm down from our emotional reaction [to the plight of] our children and brothers in Gaza, whose blood is being spilled… we will see the avenging angels of the [Arab] television networks, who support terrorism, make an [ideological] U-turn for the second time this year. They will drop the refrains about defending human rights, and rally to the defense of the accused [i.e. Bashir]. More than that... they will claim that the allegations against him are part of the global conspiracy against the Arabs and the Muslims.

"The essential and baffling question is this: The [Arab and Muslim] outrage that is being witnessed by the region and the world – does it [really] stem from human sentiment and solidarity with the Palestinian people? If the answer is yes, we would expect to see the same reaction to the [plight of the] Darfurians… [However, it turns out that the Arab reaction to atrocities depends upon who the perpetrator is].

"The Palestinians were victimized by the Zionist and American enemy… while the Darfurians were victimized by their own leader [who is a Sunni Muslim. It follows that the support for the Palestinian people] does not stem from love for the Palestinians… but from hatred for the other… for Zionists or Christians.

"If the perpetrator of massacres against Kurds and Shi'ites in Iraq, and later [of massacres] in Kuwait, i.e. Saddam Hussein… is [considered] our hero and a leader of the Arab nation, then we will [obviously] disregard his crimes, and wake up only when some [non-Muslim] comes along to rescue us from his brutal jaws…

"[Another] example is the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, they are recruiting thousands in every Egyptian city and collecting money for the residents of Gaza… However, they, the Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, and the [Islamic] Jihad did not bat an eyelid [at the crimes of Bashir and Saddam]. Instead, they encourage terrorism in Egypt, kill its citizens, soldiers, and security officers, and especially target Copts and foreigners..."[1]

"Why Is It That Offenses Against the Dignity Of Arabs And Muslims Are 'Blatant And Obvious' Only When the 'Perpetrator' Is Israel? Why This Racial Discrimination In Defending Human Rights?"

In his article, Fakher Al-Sultan accused traditional and political Islam, as well as its leaders, of encouraging hatred towards the other, and especially towards Jews. He too argued that it is the identity of the perpetrator that determines whether the Arab and Muslim world will condemn human rights violations or ignore (or even encourage) them.

He wrote: "The Summer 2006 Israel-Hizbullah war in Lebanon is a striking example that shows the need to [examine] the essence of a popular religious outlook [prevalent] among Arabs and Muslims – namely the tendency which was legitimized [by the religious principle] of rejecting all non-Muslims. [This tendency is part of] the traditional religious outlook of [various] branches [of Islam]. It is manifested in [the ideology of] political Islam, and is taken to extremes in the actions and policy of Hizbullah...

"The sweeping popular support enjoyed by Hizbullah [in 2006] – was it sincere and natural, or did it stem from the fact that the enemy was the state of Israel, 'the racist religious Jewish [state]?' Perhaps it had to do with the traditional religious outlook of political Islam – [that is,] with the way [in which political Islam] views other religions, especially the Israeli Jew?

"In fact... why are the Muslims and Arabs categorically interested in the fate of the Lebanese and Palestinians, but are not so intensely interested in the fate of other Arab and Muslim peoples, such as the Iraqis, Sudanese, Afghanis, Somalis and others, who have faced much more severe persecution, terrorism and military [violence]?...

"The traditional religious outlook, which is being manipulated by political [forces], has covertly granted categorical religious legitimacy to any struggle against the Jews or Israel. It has also infected the Arabs and Muslims with egomania, so that all backwardness and all killings are [automatically] blamed on the other – on the foreigner or the non-Muslim, and especially on the Jew.

"The [Arab] nations, other than the Lebanese and Palestinians, are not confronting the Israeli 'enemy,' but are fighting a domestic enemy. Consequently, the Arab and Muslim interest in their fate... is shamefully [negligible], and in most cases, [the reaction is complete] indifference...

"When Saddam Hussein invaded and devoured Kuwait in 1990, he deliberately evoked the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, claiming that the way to the liberation of Jerusalem passes through Kuwait... [He did] this because it was clear to him that the popular Muslim view, which is rooted in [the Muslims'] traditional historic-religious outlook, rests on a basic principle which intensifies the hostility towards the Jews and the state of Israel.

"[Saddam] took full advantage [of this fact]... [In this way,] the Iraqi tyrant... managed to enlist the support of the Arab and Muslim peoples, especially the Sunnis [who espouse] the traditional religious outlook. However, at the same time, he accidentally exposed the fallacy and preposterousness of this outlook, and of the politically manipulated devoutness, which are based on the principle of 'support your brother, whether he is the oppressed or the oppressor,' especially when the 'enemy' is Israel."

"We therefore have to ask: What will be the fate of the Muslim peoples who are doomed to [be the victims of] home-grown oppression, terrorism, tyranny and extremism? Why shouldn't they receive the same amount of popular assistance and religious support [as the Lebanese and Palestinians], in order to confront their own dictatorial and oppressive regimes?

"Why [do we witness] these populist Islamist attacks on the actions and policies of Israel and the U.S. – [who are accused of violating] the rights of the peoples, such as the Palestinians and the Lebanese – while at the same time there is conspicuous silence in the face of the inhuman atrocities and tortures carried on in almost all prisons in the Arab and Muslim countries? Why this strange silence in the face of human rights violations of all kinds, including the rights of women and children, the rights of foreign workers, and the political and social rights of individuals and peoples?

"Why is it that offenses against the dignity of Arabs and Muslims are 'blatant and obvious' only when the 'perpetrator' is Israel? Why this racial discrimination in defending human rights? Why distinguish one enemy from the other when the results of the oppression are the same?

"[This approach] is mostly the fault of the traditional religious outlook and of political Islam. The religious scholars who promote this kind of outlook and interpretation are responsible for perpetuating this discriminatory [approach], which can be very simply characterized as inhuman racism. [The proponents of] this approach do not come out against oppressors and against various acts of oppression [as such], but only against acts of oppression perpetrated by Jews, and only because it corresponds to their [religious] outlook, serves their populist goals and furthers their political agenda.

"This approach... finds in the struggle against Israel fertile grounds for promoting its totalitarian religious slogans that correspond to its ideology. It characterizes every crisis as a struggle between what is completely lacking in religious validity and what is absolute religious truth. According to shari'a, [this truth] must be defended even it this contravenes our national and social interests and comes at the cost of thousands of innocent lives.

"Whenever there is a confrontation involving the state of Israel, the politically-manipulated traditional religious mentality... must always draw a dichotomy between the believers, representatives of Allah, and the representatives of Satan, [who are] traitors, agents, infidels and polytheists. This mentality [always] discerns a struggle between the forces of truth and the forces of falsehood, and uses the religious texts as a whip [to enforce its views]. This is meant to prevent any potential criticism against the Muslim side of this burning religious confrontation between the Jews and the Muslims...

"Therefore, the proponents of this type of religious devoutness, [i.e.] those who espouse the traditional religious outlook [and the proponents of] political Islam in some of the Arab countries and societies that are controlled by religious slogans and mystical fantasies, impose the familiar old [method of] resolving their confrontation with the non-Muslims, and especially the Jews. That is, they [hold that] the Muslim public must choose between joining the Muslim side [of the struggle], which is the side of the truth, and joining the [opposite] side, which is the side of falsehood – for there is no room for any intermediate 'grey area' view.

"In their opinion, every individual [is one of two things]: either a Zionist, agent and traitor, or a Muslim who believes in Allah and in the plan of politically guided traditional Islam, and who is convinced that Allah will [eventually] give the Muslims victory and eliminate the Jews and their state...

"Hizbullah's abduction of the two Israeli soldiers in the summer of 2006, as well as Hamas' actions [in 2009, and its decision] to continue firing its wretched rockets [into Israel] – should they not be subjected to objective and comprehensive criticism?

"More than that – should we not subject these two movements [as a whole], their leaders and their ideology, to criticism? Is it correct to deal with such profound and violent crises only by criticizing the Israeli side, while disregarding the political behavior of the religious groups...?

"[These groups] claim that their conduct and policy are based on transcendental religious methods that may not be criticized, since they [emanate] from the true and original divine [source], and represent a divine stance opposing the stance of the devil."[2]


[1], January 13, 2009.

[2], January 12, 2009.

Share this Report: