Tom Friedman asks in his New York Times column today why we haven’t seen Muslims protesting in the street after the Mumbai attacks:
On Feb. 6, 2006, three Pakistanis died in Peshawar and Lahore during violent street protests against Danish cartoons that had satirized the Prophet Muhammad. More such mass protests followed weeks later. When Pakistanis and other Muslims are willing to take to the streets, even suffer death, to protest an insulting cartoon published in Denmark, is it fair to ask: Who in the Muslim world, who in Pakistan, is ready to take to the streets to protest the mass murders of real people, not cartoon characters, right next door in Mumbai?
After all, if 10 young Indians from a splinter wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party traveled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the central train station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the imam and his wife at a Saudi-financed mosque while they were cradling their 2-year-old son — purely because they were Sunni Muslims — where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets.
So what can we expect from Pakistan and the wider Muslim world after Mumbai?
I can provide an answer: apathy and rationalization, and not just from Muslims. Deepak Chopra blamed it on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as if the causation was reversed. While Bollywood condemned the terrorist attacks, some followed Chopra’s example.
Has Friedman seen massive protests in the streets against radical Islamist terrorists in these Muslim countries, ever? Did any of them protest the 9/11 attacks, or the Madrid attack, or any of the large-scale attacks on Western civilians or previous attacks in India at all? Either we heard ululating or deafening silence, punctuated with a few diplomatic missives about solidarity and the occasional criticism on the effect the attacks have on Muslims.
In other words, we can either expect delight or a collective yawn from the Muslim world. It’s been a week since the attacks commenced. Thus far, all we’ve gotten is the latter. Why would this surprise Friedman, given the history?
And what does that tell us about the attitude towards the terrorists among the Muslim nations? They may not endorse terrorist attacks, but they certainly don’t strenuously object to them, either. While we’re wringing our hands over interrogation techniques, and not for bad reasons, they’re indifferent to mass murder. At some point, the world — or in Friedman’s tiresome terminology, the “village” — will have to come to terms with that reality.
Muslims will not care about terrorist attacks until the cost becomes too high for them. The risk-to-reward ratio hasn’t reached that level yet, and probably hasn’t come near it. Mewling about the “village” and asking for a little outrage won’t do it, either.
Update: SANEworks has a few thoughts along the same lines.