Why do Muslims play victims of free-speech but make excuses for apostasy and blasphemy?

Published: September 25, 2015

The billboard displays the message, “Muhammad (pbuh) believed in peace, social justice, women's rights”. PHOTO: NORTH JERSEY

The billboard displays the message, “Muhammad (pbuh) believed in peace, social justice, women's rights”. PHOTO: NORTH JERSEY The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) initiated a nationwide campaign to ‘create awareness about (Islam)’ PHOTO: ICNA

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), as reported by The Express Tribune on September 1, 2015, initiated a nationwide campaign to ‘create awareness about the religion (Islam)’ by displaying billboards that, as ICNA spokesman Nadeem Baig stated, hopes to,“raise awareness about the faith and to dispel myths about the Muslim Americans”.

The billboards contain messages such as how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) supports ‘peace, social justice and women’s rights’.

Photo: Islamic Circle of North America Facebook page

Yahoo News also covered ICNA’s crusade and the comments section got flooded by anti-Muslim vitriol. Such comments demonstrate that Islam has a poor image in America, thanks to the TalibanBoko Haramal ShababDaesh and Saudi Arabia. The ‘lone wolf’ attacks on the army recruiting centre in Tennessee further add fuel to the fire. And ICNA wishes to counter just that.

So how effective are their billboards? Will they foster greater understanding of Islam? Or will they be seen as propaganda?

Americans, like most people, dislike proselytising. Unfortunately, despite good intent, ICNA misfired. Platitudes from Muslims are not what the Americans desire. Americans want assurance concerning free speech and tolerance towards not just the ‘people of the Book’ (Christians and Jews), but also homosexualsatheists, apostates, Buddhists, Hindus, etcetera.

The First Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Non-Muslims in America want Muslims to respect values that neither favour nor prohibit the exercise of religion. Too often instead, they see acts of religious chauvinism that create a negative impression. For example, the Council of Islamic American Relations (CAIR) recently filed a discrimination lawsuit, as reported this September by CBS News, against an airline when a Muslim woman did not receive special accommodation.

Prominent Muslims such as Mehdi Hasan refuse to unconditionally support free speech by saying,

 “None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech.”

Islamic academics, such as Rutgers professor Deepa Kumar, tweeted:

When such statements are passed, Americans justifiably wonder why mainstream Muslims harbour such bigotry and claim victimhood, while they make excuses for extreme views such as apostasyblasphemy laws and a culture responsible for the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

Moreover, Americans see what happens to Muslims or former Muslims who critique, such as the bloggers in Bangladesh who are being murdered or the sadistic treatment of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. These reformers risk their lives or are singled out (by Deepa Kumar and her ilk) as ‘house Muslims’ and ‘native informants’.

Just ask some of the prominent reformers of today and tomorrow, Qanta AhmedM Zuhdi JasserIrshad ManjiMaajid Nawaz, and Asra Nomani, whose messages for promoting tolerance are embraced by mainstream America. Barack Obama also understands and promotes American values when he said,

“We, therefore, believe in… the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear.”

Christianity espouses this philosophy of ‘turn the other cheek.’ Buddhism as well,

“If others speak in dispraise of me, you should not give way to resentment, displeasure, or animosity against them in your heart.”

When groups such as ICNA and CAIR have made such statements, without any ‘buts’, the perception of Muslims will ameliorate. As is, ICNA’s abstract terms of ‘peace’ may be a start, but without a clear message, their billboards come off as advertisements.

Caleb Powell

Caleb Powell

The writer is a Polish/Persian American and worked overseas for eight years, in East Asia, the Middle East, and South America. He now lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. He Tweets @sonofmizrahi (twitter.com/sonofmizrahi?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Peace be upon the world

    We are not against muslims….we are against there ideology…they dont respect other people…..you can see many christians,hindu’s,buddhist,jains,jews in mosques or each other religious places…but probability of muslims respecting and going to these places is almost nil….i have personally notified this…and moreover….they are less accomodative….when in minority..they demand secularism and free speech and there own law on land of secularism such as india/west/america……they want there own law bit will not abide by general common law of country in secular country….as they become majority or population increases in these country…….Peace be upon the world……..Recommend

  • ivehadit

    Muslims aren’t a monolithic group. People have differences of opinion, perception, understanding, education. Muslims don’t speak with one voice. To lump everyone into one basket is wrong. Too bad the author can see this “fine” point.Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    Sorry Caleb, you are preaching to the wrong crowd. The Pakistani has a perpetual feeling of victimhood where only Muslims have rights in non-Muslim majority societies and even the slightest incident makes national headlines like the Texas clock kid but non-Muslims can lose their lives in Muslim majority societies without any hope of redress like the Christian couple from Kot Radha Kishan.Recommend

  • vinsin

    If Justice is what Islam stands for then Indian Muslims have no right to be in India.

    1.3 million killed in Iraq not by USA but Muslims themselves.Recommend

  • Krranti 2020

    Hit the nail on the head – muslims want to use free speech and democracy to impose their laws and remove free speechRecommend

  • ajeet

    The billboard seems supremacist instead of something trying to bring communities together. No other minority feels the need to do this in America. If they don’t like first amendment, they can move back to Arabia.Recommend

  • gtr

    if they were really right, if they were really following the principles of humanity like tolerance, peace and respect, they wouldn’t need billboards to tell they’re right.

    Actions speak louder than words.Recommend

  • sameer

    Lot of evangelical Christian are also against homosexual; so do americans have bad perception of Christian? Oh no, Christian are part of mainstream America whereas Muslim are not part of mainstream America. As for story of Tahera, she did not even request special accomodation. She felt insulted by air hostess. As for for Deepa and Medhi comment, what they said was 100 % right.Recommend

  • Khan

    Anti-Islamic gibberish from a guy using impossible standards and extreme generalizations. Such folk will continue to be rightfully ignored by MuslimsRecommend

  • sameer

    A lot of Muslims including so called extremist Muslim condemn attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is really disgusting that you are justifying hatred of Muslim. How about if American start condeming their govt for their support of Israel and Gitmo. If they start condeming then American govt will stop supporting Israel and close GitmoRecommend

  • Pakistani

    I am really glad we get this perspective – thanks ET for publishing. I wish we got more American views, and they were also translated for the urdu pressRecommend

  • Milind A

    For once an article calling a spade a spade.. Muslims flaunt their faith and bring it in public domain, making it susceptible to attack – either accidently or by design.. Then they whine and turn violent at the slightest suspicion of attack on their faith. The hypocrisy doesn’t end here – a Muslim upon Muslim genocide (Darfur etc) is overlooked, but the moment any non-Muslim commits an outrage on Muslims its a big issue..Recommend

  • fatima

    I see your point Caleb, great way of articulating it!Recommend

  • jay

    its very simple when Muslims are in minority they play victim card, ” the whole world is out to get us” mentality. once they settle and form majority they will play the aggressor, and every one else becomes a second hand human ! facts remains that Muslims are treated way better in non Muslims countries than non Muslims are treated in Muslims countries. The Syrian that have arrived in Europe are acting like a cute lamb now, let them settle and form small bands of like minded people they will turn wolf and devour the same people who gave them refuge . ladies and gentleman this is a typical Muslims for you….Recommend

  • Urvashi

    This article is honest. And right to the point. We need freedom of speech because you are a democracy. You have no right to criticise us because it is against our religion. I call this hyper-rational attitude to life. That is the beauty of the mindset of modern day’s Muslims.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Thank you for pointing it out. They love playing the victim even when they’re the perpetrators.Recommend

  • Guest

    Deepa Kumar speaks for Muslims. That is a good thing. But she is not a Muslim. Perhaps if more non-Muslims also spoke for Muslims, then the situation would be fair.Recommend

  • kdp ukp

    To This Secular Muslim, Ben Carson Had a Point
    Take it from someone who’s been fighting it her whole
    adult life: The sad truth is that too many Muslims want to mix mosque and


  • Shine

    Well, just open up your eyes n read it again. Its Ms Deepa Kumar, a Non Muslim who tweets tht US war killed the scores of Iraqis. You Indians are always dying to drag India on a Pakistani news comment board. Better do a simple google search on the number of victims by US bombings in Iraq n Afghanistan. Recommend

  • Shine

    Your knowledge of Muslim upon Muslim genocide is totally baseless. let me ask a question tht if a Non Muslim kills a muslim n justify it by saying ‘tht its okay cos Muslims also kill other Muslims so wats tht big deal’, so does tht justify?? Recommend

  • Shine

    You are wrong. Better come n see how the so called sophiticated Hindus fying from India to Arab countries like UAE, Qatar, KSA to earn TAX FREE income n even they demand equal right, which they dont get in their countries, from the arab countries where they work. Recommend

  • Jayman

    What is wrong in demanding equal rights? Did they want the Gulf nations to introduce Hindu laws?Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    There is a difference between demanding equal rights and demanding special rights.Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    Read your article. It is enlightening!Recommend

  • Fahimuddin

    Freedom of speech is right but blasphemy starts from Lie. It is ok for us if some one accepts Islam or not, personal choiceRecommend

  • Nana

    why drag pakistan in the talk. The author is talking about all Muslims not specifically of Pakistanis but your hatred for pointing Pakistan out knows no bound.Recommend

  • Nana

    learn how to spell ‘their’Recommend

  • genesys

    They demand for the very rights which are denied to minorities in their home countries and therein lies the hypocrisy.look at the flooding of ‘refugees’ into Europe to claim social benefits and be social parasites rather than work in their home nations.Recommend

  • genesys

    No they work and get paid but have no citizenship rights nor can they settle down.Recommend

  • Sid

    Dont make up stories please. At least not for something very easily verifiable. Many Indians in Arab are mostly Indian muslims vs Indian Hindus. And Indians Hindus and Muslims are far popular in assimilating with the religion and local culture rather than shouting for any special “Hindu laws” in any country. Unlike muslims who demand “Shariah law” for themselves. Muslims need far more reservation for themselves in any foreign country then people from any other religion. And this is not comment out of thin air, but much easily verifiable fact. Choose any medium you want.Recommend

  • abhi

    so now islamists have started putting billboards in US for propaganda! This is really too much. “Peace” when spoken by an Islamist is a very dangerous word.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    India houses more Muslims than Hindus in Arabia. Muslims atleast live with full freedom and have equal rights in India, unlike Arabia.

    If 180 million Muslims can live in India, with full rights, why not Hindus? Arabs are not giving charity, they employ us. FYI Charity does not equals slavery.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Nobody uses that as a justification. If you don’t know the true meaning of English words better avoid using them.

    What we are saying is your reaction to the same event by 2 different people is hypocritical.

    Your Paksitani Army killed 3 million Bengalis in 1971, it has destroyed entire villages and pushed the poor people of FATA onto the streets. 2 million Internally Displaced. Thats 2 followed by 6 zeroes!

    Poor innocents have been killed and are being called Terrorists, with no way to verify their actual identity.



    But, you guys are more worried about Beef ban in India, than the lives of these millions of people. Not a single person has been tried for killing those 3 million Bengalis in 1971. Not one.
    Why this selective outrage?Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Victimization comes naturally to Muslims all over the world. Most Muslim societies, even those in Western countries, are tribalistic in nature, to varying degrees.
    No wonder ISIS received so many followers from Western countries.
    If we continue to hide the truth citing Political correctness, innocents will die. We have to chose between PC and the truth.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Anti-Islamic is not such a bad thing. As long as he is not inciting hatred and just calling out the hypocrisy and is pro-Human Rights, he has every right to criticize any topic in the world.

    Critique of Religion and ideas is a core principle of Democracy and Free Speech.

    He is speaking of Human Rights and right to free speech. If you ignore him, you are only aping an ostrich. You cannot silence the pen.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Where did I say that the tweet was from a Muslim? What about victims of zarb e azb?

    I just said Muslims do not believe in justice.Recommend

  • Nana

    readers may have details in Asoka Raina’s Inside
    RAW: the story of India’s secret service published by Vikas Publishing House of New Delhi. The creation of Bangladesh was masterminded by RAW in complicity with KGB under the covert clauses of Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation (adopted as
    25-year Indo-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation in 1972. Mukti Bahini was not all about “freedom fighters” alone. It was trained and led by RAW with RAW operatives manning this insurgent organization. It not only
    massacred non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis, it also killed and raped Bengali population wearing the uniform of Pakistan army to drive a wedge
    between people and the armed forces.

    Excerpts from the book.Recommend

  • vinsin

    How many Muslims voted for Partition of Indian in 1946 election? Even Jinnah promised that 99% of Subcontinent Muslims would vote and he reached very close by the end.Recommend

  • vinsin

    And when Muslims will speak for Kafirs?Recommend

  • A. Singh

    You can also see the hypocrisy of Pakistan and its people about Kashmir and its people. The concept of freedom and democracy does not and has never existed in Islam (which means “submission”, the very opposite of “freedom”). They claim they are fighting for the J&K’s “freedom struggle” yet Islamic rulers in 1000 years of occupation never considered “freedom” for the natives whose land they occupied and ravaged and natives they forcibly converted or killed. The Western countries in which Muslim populations are growing will find that those Muslim ghettoes, now no-go areas already, will start demanding a state for themselves because of “a two nation” theory advanced by Jinnah, and other Pakistan Movement instigators.Recommend

  • A. Singh

    Apologists come in all shapes and sizes. Dig deep enough and you will find some self-serving motivation of this woman.Recommend

  • A. Singh

    They do not threaten violence. Big difference.Recommend

  • Najeeb Ullah

    Mate don’t even go there after Modi accepted the Devine interference recently. Not to forget the mass killings of muslims and sikhs in secular india. If you think that actions of not more than few thousands can be applied to a religion of more than a billion people than there is a fundamental flaw… And please note that I belong to FATA and I was internally displaced once along with my family too…Ostrich, please do ask your government about its active interference in FATA and Bolochistan.Recommend

  • Najeeb Ullah

    You don’t make any sense. What I am able to deduce from your comment however is that you rot inside from a disease called “being racist”.Recommend

  • Najeeb Ullah

    Is there any proof for a defence mechanism called “generalisation”?Recommend

  • Faulitics

    The “pious” trolls have suddenly gone missing.Recommend

  • Soul Speek

    Islam is a one way street. if you get influenced by that billboard and accept Islam, I am afraid you have lost your right to criticize Islam for anything you feel against. The punishment for apostasy in Islam is death.

    In any other world religion, you can go in and out as you wish. You can even become an atheist. No one will come and harm you.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Your knowledge of Muslim upon Muslim genocide is totally baseless”

    Oh yeah.. How could I forget, that a true Muslim can never kill another Muslim? The ones killing their fellow Muslims are not true Muslims..

  • Milind A

    “Better come n see how the so called sophiticated Hindus fying from India
    to Arab countries like UAE, Qatar, KSA to earn TAX FREE”

    that’s called mutual give-and-take. brother.. Unless you’re aware, the world works that way.. Hindus work there and Arabs benefit from it.

    And I’ve yet to see Hindus taking out a protest for equal rights, rioting or blowing the hell out of people for not allowing right to worship or clamouring for Hindu law or holidays for Hindu festival, something which Muslims do in Western countries..Recommend

  • Milind A

    Very true.. In fact most of the ‘brotherly’ Gulf countries have put checks on Pakistani Muslims travelling there. Pakistani passport is a liability in those countries as well. Hindus overall are accepted.Recommend

  • Milind A

    But when its ‘Islam khatre mein’, especially cartoons or Palestine/Kashmir, all those differences are set aside and the result is a monolithic mob burning property, lynching minorities and blowing up ‘kafirs’Recommend

  • Milind A

    Yes they do have… Most of those evangelicals are ridiculed and criticized by Americans. The perception may not be as bad as for Muslims, because these Christians, don’t vandalize property or blow up people.Recommend

  • Parvez

    If one digs deep into the bowls of bodies like the ICNA and ‘ Interfaith dialogue ‘ groups in America, it becomes apparent that they are less worried about their Faith and more so about their status as Americans in their community……its a apologists stand they take…..making the exercise almost counter productive.Recommend

  • KarachiAgnostic

    This is the hypocritical way most of family and friends act. Criticism of other religions and stories of percecution flows freely of their tongue but never when we are the persecutors. I am sure if I admitted to apostasy I would be disowned or physically assaulted by my own family.Recommend

  • Nana

    What’s your problem when US has allowed them to put up a billboard?Recommend

  • Human

    Thanks for seeing atleast a word, rather than being blind to the whole paragh.Recommend

  • Shine

    Well all ur facts us based on wat u watch on some news channels arent u. If Muslims are blowing up them selves tht wat abt Pateels who torched scores of properties for equal right n wat abt black americans, who originally belong to Africa demands equal rights oin US? Well do sum google search bfore u give ur not so expert oppinion.Recommend

  • Shine

    Haha. Well ur version of logic os no damn funny. Better come to UAE n see how many Hindu indian are working over here. Its quite easy for yhe bunch of people like u to blame everything on muslims n show hindus are the purest n innocent amongst all.Recommend

  • Human

    perhaps if more muslims speak for non-muslims, it would be fairer..
    but a lot of them would also get killed like Salman Taseer..
    just a suggestion.. not rebutting you or something..Recommend

  • Manoj

    there arent many christians hunting down homosexuals,, & the very very few that do get thrown into jails…. & no christian courts killed them.. perhaps few hundred years ago.
    just saying that there’s some difference.

  • http://kashifmd.com/ Kashif Chaudhry

    On apostasy laws and blasphemy laws, if you ever want to discuss them with me publicly, I am available to. Here is my debate on apostasy laws with a new atheist blogger: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kashif-n-chaudhry/does-the-koran-endorse-ap_b_5539236.html

    And here is my challenge to him on blasphemy laws: http://kashifmd.com/2015/01/12/challenging-anti-theist-ali-rizvi-to-a-debate-on-blasphemy-laws/

    These laws are unislamic and American Muslims like me and my community openly condemn them. Did you omit our mention deliberately?Recommend

  • Sid

    There is none. But same applies to you, doesn’t it ?Recommend

  • Sid

    Wow….and where did I say Hindus are the purest ? Just because I point some flaw in muslims does not automatically imply that Hindus are purest. But some fact about assimilation in western society by Indians (not just hindus) is far far better than muslims. Name any country where Hindus are seen as threat. Muslims are viewed as threat by many countries. And this article is the fact pointing to the reality that muslims have to set up such billboards defending Islam or set up seminars in UK to preach others how good Islam is , while Hindus do not have to. Keeping aside your’s and mine religious belief. Neutrally, please point me what is wrong in my comment.Recommend

  • Nana

    Thank you for not learning to correct your mistake. What’s your take in it? You didn’t write it.Recommend

  • Nana

    Why are Indians so worried about Zarb e Azb? That’s our problem. Keep your crocodile tears for what your army is doing in IOK and Tripura where women were forced to protest naked against the rapes by Indian army. The pictures of naked women can be found on google under the heading ‘ women protesting naked against Indian army rapes.’Recommend

  • Najeeb Ullah

    How does it apply to me.. Enlighten me please!Recommend

  • Milind A

    We’re talking about Hindus protesting in Gulf nations. Patels aren’t killing anybody and they’re not using Hinduism card.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    That’s a pretty ignorant comment, based on how broadly it smears people labelled ‘Muslims’.

    One, holding modern Muslims responsible for crimes that people (not necessarily even their ancestors, as religion in India has remained rather fluid) committed a thousand years ago, and implying that the transgressions by India today are a form of ‘payback’ for what transpired a thousand years ago.

    I hope you get your news from someplace other than British tabloids and Fox News, on how Muslims live in the West.


  • A. Singh

    Perhaps my comment was “pretty ignorant” (everyone is ignorant about many topics). That said, Faraz, you did not address any of my points. Give me one example from Islamic history where a Muslim majority state that occupied and ruled over natives and their land(s) willingly gave those people their “freedom” as you insist that the Indian leaders do. Unlike Indian Kashmiris – where Nehru did not allow people from elsewhere in India to move into Kashmir, Pakistan made no such provision for its illegally snatched and occupied portion of Kashmir. Indeed it gave away half of that portion to China as if it could. Did the foreign Muslim invaders and occupiers have any plans to give the original inhabitants of Indiaheir freedom? And then to vacate that territory? The non-Islamic British colonizers did give independence and did leave. Perhaps I was wrong in painting All the world’s Muslim with one broad brush – Sorry! But a large chunk – by some estimates 20-25 per cent of the 1.6 billion faithful – old some nasty views (e.g. apostasy, infidels, holy wars) that “good Muslims” like yourself seem to be in denial about but the rest of world now only knows so well. Have a great day in your safe cocoon!Recommend

  • A. Singh

    That is very good to know. But can you in good conscience say that those openly expressed views in America could also be expressed in a devoutly Muslim country, say, Pakistan? And isn’t that what the author of this blog piece is saying?Recommend

  • hindi_is_an_islamic_origin_lan

    Indian proxy Muslim PM Narendra Modi, Proxy Muslim party BJP (Bharat Jihad Party) is wanting to convert India into a Muslim country with imposition of the Islamic origin language Hindi at Indian tax payer’s cost, and Indian PM does not even speak in Indian languages, only in the Pakistani language Hindi. Shame!Recommend

  • Videlicet

    America and Israel? This is partially why the world is suspicious of muslims– rather than see the world as nations allying, competing and struggling for economic reasons, they tend to treat all muslims as brothers and rest as the ‘other’. Muslims in any country will support a foreigner-muslim over a countryman-kafir.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Rightly so ?!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    RAW, they are good at it, aren’t they?Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    They are using it as satire on humans!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Countries with migrant communities should give reciprocal rights which minorities in their home countries enjoy.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Tell this to Mansoor Al Hallaj and his tribe . “Ana Al Haq”.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    You are a miniscule minority dear brother. What Islam need is reform and its structure resisteps it tooth and nail.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    America supports Israel because it is in their national interest, nothing less, nothing more.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    They don’t kill who differ in opinion!Recommend

  • Abdul moiz

    We do hold cigarettes responsible for cancer ..and ignore countless exceptions
    I can make a case for cigarette by showing interviews of People puffing in their 80s, while giving examples of fitness nuts like Jim fixx who died pretty early
    And ftee would buy the conspiracyRecommend