Do our self-appointed community activists not find it at all problematic that while maintaining a website documenting alleged discrimination against Muslims, they allow people to post inflammatory statements about the Shia, Jews, and non-Muslims in general on their Twitter feed?
Of course not. For those who deem themselves fit to advocate on our behalf feel no compunction about selling us exaggerated stories, half truths and downright lies. Whether a video sowing the seeds of sectarian hatred or a photoshopped image designed to drive others into despair, the end is believed to justify the means. This is not about the pursuit of truth or peace, but about propaganda.
Have we sunk to such depths that we must now make up stories about Fox News, a pro-war, pro-gun, Republican news broadcaster already famous for disseminating untruths about Black people, Mexicans, Arabs, Cubans, Muslims, Liberals and Leftists? Apparently so!
Not content with highlighting genuine broadcasts of this apparently popular US-only news channel, our activists have now begun sharing an obviously fake screenshot of a Fox News item claiming President Obama used a secret Muslim handshake to greet a suspected Muslim — or Police Constable Michael Zamora — on his way into 10 Downing Street with then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in April 2009 (then reported three years later during 2012’s presidential elections, where it remained in suspended animation for another three years until it was finally screen captured and released to the public yesterday on 29 September 2015).
The image is so poorly edited that it is hardly necessary to do a reverse image search on tineye.com to source the original undoctored image — but doing so will reveal that the original screen capture has in fact already been twice used for satirical effect. Indeed its current incarnation must have started out as satire, before it was picked up by serious activists intent on tagging it #islamophobia; surely nobody could actually believe this was real. Sadly they could: the activists’ followers shake their heads in disbelief, stamp their feet about the rampant #islamophobia in their midst and share the unbelievable news report on their own timelines, thus setting in motion another viral controversy.
Is it any wonder we look like complete idiots to the rest of the world? We wail about discrimination and oppression of our people (limited though that category has seemingly become, given widespread sub-sectarian posturing), while failing to acknowledge either the existence of discrimination against others elsewhere or oppression promulgated at the hands of Muslims themselves.
We mix truth with falsehood in an effort to make a more potent case for the sense of despair, victimhood and disenfranchisement felt by the social media generation. Our activists spend their days trawling the internet and news channels for tales of discrimination and prejudice, which they will then publicise via Twitter and Facebook without a second’s thought, where it will be picked up and shared by their followers and their followers’ followers for days on end without pause. And if a story cannot be found, an old story from a decade ago will be trawled up and reported again as if it just happened. Or a story will just be made up, or exaggerated, or turned on its head. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day: bearing false witness is just par for the course in the battle for hearts and minds.
Activism in our communities needs a reboot; nay, it needs a holiday. Truth is meant to be our guiding light: “speak the truth, even if it be against yourselves.” The constant drip-feed of desperation and unceasing torrent of despair is clearly designed to drive individuals towards distraction and radical action. In place of gratitude — so emphasised by the Qur’an — we become a heartless, wretched people unable to see any good in others, driven forward not by the light of faith, but by that perpetual inner anger at the world.
If our self-appointed community activists will not desist — and there’s no indication they plan to — many more will simply withdraw, sick to death of the ever increasing polarisation occurring between communities. We are tired of the constant litany of the misdemeanors of the other, when in real life we are all largely rubbing along just fine. The alternative — the anarchic madness of Syria a prime example — does not bear thinking about.
One day we will have to reflect on the lessons of the Qur’an: about truthfulness, kindness, justice, gratitude. Might we recall the words of Sulaiman one day — peace be upon him?
“This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful, his gratitude is only for the benefit of himself. And whoever is ungrateful, then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous.” — Qur’an 27:40
Or will we just carry on regardless with the constant toing and froing of Left versus Right, Muslim versus Atheist, Sunni versus Shia… scoring points against the other on the basis of a random story reported online or in the press, driving ourselves to utter madness? An individual decision for each of us in these times.