It is an undeniable fact that Christians and Christianity are often derided in the popular press, in comedy, in literature and numerous other outlets. More often than not these occurrences go unchallenged and even unquestioned. When the attack is on Islam by contrast, the argument goes, the response is one of public outrage. ‘They would never have got away with saying that about Muslims.’
Unfortunately for this argument, I don’t believe this to be particularly true. When there is an outcry, it comes from Muslims, not from the community at large. Recently when Australian homosexuals decided to perform a play in which Jesus was portrayed as ‘gay’ as part of their Pride festival, the outcry against it came not from the general public, but from the Australian Muslim community. I believe it is perfectly reasonable for a community to speak out in its own interests, and this is only what Muslims are doing when they campaign against attacks on their beliefs, their prophets or their God.
It is true that left-wing journalists will occasionally speak out in defence of the Muslim community. There was, for example, a report by the Runnymede Trust a few years ago on what they termed ‘Islamophobia’. In fact, around that time, I wrote an article on this issue for the student magazine in which I made various points which I, as a Muslim, would no longer subscribe to. But the Runnymede report was about much more than words said against Muslims. Christians, by and large, are not the victims of violent attacks in this country because of their faith; Muslims, by contrast, are. Muslim women are regularly assaulted on the streets of Britain, shouted at or spat upon. When Muslims face a situation like this, at the same time that books are published, for example, which call the best women of Islam ‘whores’, it would be foolish to sit down and shut up. There is nothing stopping Christians from crying out in their own defence; the lobbying is simply something which they must organise for themselves, rather than expect others to do on their behalf.
Beyond this, however, I would argue that many things are said about Islam for which you will hear no words of condemnation. Because they come from respected sources, rather than in the form of humour on a pathetic comedy show, perhaps you will not even notice them. Things are said about Islam or associated with it, which nobody would ever think of associating with Christianity. How many times have you heard the term ‘Islamic Terrorists’, for example? How many times have you heard the term ‘Christian Terrorists’? I would suggest: thousands of times for the former and never for the latter (thought you may have heard of Catholic/Protestant terrorists in the case of Northern Ireland). Is there a public outcry about this? Only from Muslims.
When the Today newspaper carried the headline, ‘In the name of Islam’, against a picture of the charred remains of a dead baby the day after the Oklahoma bombing, there was no outcry about that. There was no apology to Muslims when it emerged that the bomber was in fact a white ‘Christian’ (he claimed this of himself) and that Muslims had nothing to do with it. But in the days between the bombing and the true culprit being caught, mosques all over the United States were vandalised and Muslims were assaulted. One could argue that Muslims are engaged in terrorism, so this label is fair: but, in fact, Muslims are not even engaged in proportionally more terrorism than other groups around the world. It is just that the statistics do not speak; the focus of reporting does. The point is that many things are associated with Islam which are not greeted with the general outcry that a statement such as the one in my title presupposes.