by Tarek Fatah
As a Muslim, my struggle against Islamofascism has been long, and at times, a lonely one.
We liberal and secular Muslims are the indispensable canaries in the mine. We are chirping at the top of our tiny lungs to the rest of humanity: Islamism poses a threat to the existence of the civilized world. But it seems the carbon monoxide has already taken its toll. The West is turning a deaf ear.
From Bangladesh, where an epic struggle is taking place, to Birmingham in the United Kingdom where Malala Yusufzai recovers from being shot in the head by the Taliban, Islamists have declared us liberal Muslims not just traitors to our faith, but apostates worthy of public beheading.
In this struggle, Muslims had mistakenly hoped we would have the support of feminists, trade unions and the liberal press. We were naive.
As Meredith Tax, author of Double Bind: the Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left, and Universal Human Rights, writes:
“In the last ten years … some groups on the far Left have allied with conservative Muslim organizations that stand for religious discrimination, advocate death for those they consider apostates, oppose gay rights, subordinate women, and seek to impose their views on others through violence. This support of the Muslim Right has undermined struggles for secular democracy in the Global South.”
For the last five years, recognizing the intellectual bankruptcy of the left, we Muslims have relied increasingly on social media to influence public opinion. Both Facebook and Twitter have given us the ability to bypass the liberal media. Uprisings in Dhaka’s Shahbag Square and Cairo’s Tahrir Square could not have been possible without the existence of social media.
Now it seems these doors, too, are closing.
On Monday morning when I tried to share Meredith Tax’s critique on my Facebook page (where close to 10,000 people engage with me), I was in for a rude shock—Facebook had suspended my account.
A message popped up stating that I had violated ‘community standards’ when I shared a picture showing a young Australian Muslim girl in hijab carrying a sign:
“Jews haven’t Learn (sic). They need [picture of swastika] more than before”.
I copied the picture from the Australian Jewish magazine J-Wire and posted it as my Facebook ‘cover’ with a caption denouncing Muslim anti-Semitism. My posting of the picture was clearly an act condemning anti-Jewish hatred among my own Muslim community, not endorsing it.
However, someone in Facebook was so offended at my exposure of Muslim anti-Semitism, they shut me down on the charge of spreading hatred against Jews.
According to Facebook, the types of things that aren’t allowed include: “Hate speech, credible threats or direct attacks on an individual or group.” On the question of “hate speech” Facebook says, “We do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.”
I wrote to Facebook, as well as Mark Zuckerberg, asking them to explain how anyone would consider my post to be “hate speech” when I was doing exactly the opposite—fighting it. Other than a machine-generated response, I got no answer.
Which begs the question. Do owners of social media platforms like Facebook have the right to arbitrarily expel ordinary citizens from sharing the public space, purely on the basis of political opinion?
Facebook and Twitter are earning hundreds of millions of dollars, and good for them. But they are the public space, the new Hyde Park. The right to access ‘public spaces’ must be protected as our right to free speech.
Otherwise, Facebook and Zuckerberg should move to China or Iran.
Categories: Contributor Columns