This week, more than 100 Muslims have died and thousands more have been arrested in China. Yet not a peep of protest has been heard on the streets of Cairo, Karachi or Tehran. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it seems, is too busy imprisoning and herding Iranian Muslims to jail to hear the outcry in Xinxiang, while Egyptian religious leader, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has also ignored the persecution of the Uighurs. China, after all is the trusted ally of the Arab world.
This is not the first time the so-called ummah has shrugged off the massacre of fellow Muslims. During Kosovo's war with Serbia, Islamists depicted Kosovar Muslims not as victims, but as American agents. More recently, the genocide of Darfuri Black Muslims at the hands of the Arab janjaweed militia and the Sudanese government has passed unnoticed by the larger Islamic world.
My friend, the Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy explained this phenomenon: "Many Muslims only pay attention when America and Israel behave badly." If Israel invaded western China, she mused, maybe the rest of the Muslim world would wake up, cry foul and protest.
It is worth noting that on Monday, thousands of Egyptians did come out in Alexandria to protest ... but not against the Chinese government. Their anger was directed at Germany, where a racist hate-monger had murdered Marwa Sherbini, an Egyptian woman (a crime that I wrote about in Wednesday's Post).
The Muslim demonstrators in Alexandria shouted a bizarre chant to express their anger. "There is no god but God, and the Germans are the enemies of God," they screamed. The chant is a twist on the Muslim oath and declaration of faith, "There is no god, but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God."
But where were these protesters when, on Dec. 30, 2005, hundreds of Egyptian riot police stormed through a makeshift refugee camp in central Cairo to clear it of 2,500 Darfuri Muslims, beating to death 28 people, among them women and children? Were those lives less valuable than the life of Marwa Sherbini?
Yesterday in the Post, I wrote that Sherbini's "murder will prove to be manna from heaven" for the Islamists. They, I argued, would use it "as the ultimate symbol of the West's 'war against Islam,' and to fuel the propaganda that Muslims are victims."
Unfortunately, I was correct. Within hours, the tragedy was being held up as symbolic of the West's hostility toward Muslims. The Canadian Islamic Congress led the charge, accusing the Canadian media of "intentionally" ignoring the news of Sherbini's murder. Apparently, my commentary about the crime on this newspaper's Editorial page -- not to mention articles on the subject in The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star -- wasn't
good enough for CIC president Wahida Valiante, who said that "the Canadian media are still locked into a discriminatory double standard when it comes to news events involving Muslims."
Ms. Valiante further accused the Canadian media of abdicating its responsibility to inform Canadians of "a growing menace that has plagued Europe for centuries."
Elsewhere, there were calls for revenge and a boycott of German goods. No one in the Middle East mentioned the fact that the German court had imposed a fine on one of its citizens for uttering racist epithets against a Muslim woman.
We Muslims need to wake up to an ethical challenge. It is immoral for us to stay silent when Muslim-on-Muslim violence takes place, but yell at the top of our lungs when the victims suffer at the hands of non-Muslims. This is a double standard that the Koran prohibits: It urges Muslims to "speak the truth" even if it hurts us.
Marwa Sherbini should not have died, but we know that the German judicial system will come down with the full force of the law on her killer.
Moreover, no one seems to be looking for the murderer of another Muslim girl. Neda Agha-Soltan was shot dead in Tehran by the Iranian government-backed militia. No one protested her death in the Muslim world outside Iran, nor asked for her killer to be brought to justice. Why? Perhaps because her killer was a fellow Muslim.
The question remains:Will Muslims come out to the streets and chant, "There is no god but God and the Iranian government is the enemy of God"?
-Tarek Fatah is author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. Currently, he is working on his second book on the roots of Jewish-Muslim friction, to be published by McClelland & Stewart in the fall of 2010. Fatah is also co-host of Strong Opinions, an afternoon talk show on CFRB 1010 in Toronto.