When Muslims suffer around the world in the hands of Americans, Russians, Serbs, or Israelis, the Arab and Muslim countries are very active in condemning the attacks and violence. Their governments complain and raise funds, diplomats protest, the media report, and the citizens demonstrate against "crusaders and infidels."
But when Muslims suffer in the hands of an Arab regime, then there is barely any condemnation of the violence and crimes in the Arab and Muslim world.
Since 2003, Sudan's western province of Darfur is an epicenter of a conflict between the mainly "African" rebels and the Arab-controlled Sudanese government and their proxy militias. It is estimated that about 200,000 people have died in the conflict from fighting, disease, and starvation. The UN and aid agencies estimate that over two million Darfurians, out of a population of about six million, are living in refugee camps in Darfur and neighboring countries.
The Sudan's ruling elite portrays itself as an "Arab" regime both at home and abroad. Some would say that this explains the lack of concern for the Darfur conflict in the Arab world. But things change when we consider the fact that both sides in the Darfur conflict are Muslim and that the Darfurians, both Arabs and Africans, are Sudan's most devout Muslims.
Even though Muslims are the victims in Darfur, the fact that they are the victims of an Arab regime prevents Arab and Muslim countries from acknowledging the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, let alone speaking against the horrendous crimes committed against innocent civilians in this Sudanese province.
Many people in the Arab world don't even know about the conflict and human suffering in Darfur as there is hardly any news about Darfur in the Arab media. The only exceptions are the Aljazeera and Alarabya news networks.
According to Lawrence Pintak, a journalist and Arab media expert, the Darfur conflict is not covered by the Arab media as "it does not fit the template of Arabs being the victims and other people the aggressors."
The involvement of many international humanitarian organizations in Darfur and the attention given to the conflict by the Western governments and media are "perceived by a large portion of Arab public opinion as yet another 'Western intervention' in an Arab country's affairs." Some Arab journalists even claim that the Darfur conflict is nothing but a "Zionist-American conspiracy to carve up Sudan and plunder its resources."
Rami Khouri, a Lebanese journalist, writes that the silence in the Arab world "is not specific to Darfur or Sudan, but rather reflects a wider malaise that has long plagued the region: Arab governments tend to stay out of each other's way when any one of them is accused of wrongdoing, and most Arab citizens have been numbed into helplessness in the face of public atrocities or criminal activity in their societies."
The Arab countries and organizations such as the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Countries have shamefully ignored the conflict in Darfur. Not one Arab or Muslim leader "have spoken out against Khartoum's policies in Darfur" that have targeted innocent civilians, destroyed entire communities, displaced millions, and killed 200,000 people.
Some Arab and Muslim organizations and countries publicly support the Sudanese government and its actions in Darfur. In 2004, the Arab League rejected any sanctions imposed on Sudan. Pakistan was one of the countries that blocked any meaningful actions by the UN to stop the Darfur conflict, claiming at the UN Security Council that "the human suffering in Darfur was insufficient to provoke serious reflection on whether Sudan was fulfilling its responsibilities to its citizens."
After the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in May 2006, many Arab countries promised to financially contribute to Darfur's development. However, no money was ever received from the Arab Development Fund and "the results of development and humanitarian meetings were not translated into action in Darfur." The fact that "Canada has pledged more aid [to Darfur's displaced people] than all the Arab countries put together" says it all.
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