Muslims cannot claim a monopoly on anger over the events in Gaza while ignoring the suffering of other Muslims and non-MuslimsA Muslim writer tries to do what her religion apparently cannot - spark human empathy within the Islamic community.
Much has been been written about the Gaza conflict and several pieces concern the impact that events are having on British Muslims – whether it's alienating them from the political process or driving them to radicalisation.
More than a few commenters, such as Johnton, have claimed that the UK's Muslim communities have largely remained silent on the other catastrophes and atrocities to have affected their brethren in recent times. Two years ago, at a press conference, I asked Fareena Alam of the Muslim magazine Q News why Muslims were so quick to condemn western governments for their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet appeared to show little heartbreak or anger over suffering in Darfur.
She replied that it was "shameful" the way British Muslims had responded to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan: "We can get hot and bothered about Iraq. There is a lot of information about Darfur. There is no doubt this is Muslim-on-Muslim violence. In this situation where are these values we talk about, that killing one life is about killing humanity? It is a huge embarrassment to us. We need to have a very big conversation about this."
It was a subject I explored in a podcast about attitudes towards the ummah, the global family all Muslims are supposed to belong to. In reality people only refer to it when it suits them. I remember talking to Iraqis in London who said they were criticised by fellow Muslims for having allowed western soldiers into their country. They also said they had little or no social contact with the more prosperous and established Muslim communities in the UK and that they were seen as outsiders. That they were Shia Muslims further increased their sense of isolation. So much for solidarity.
Another case of a pick-and-mix approach to the ummah involves members of the Afghan community in Birmingham. They didn't have access to local mosques or community centres where they could meet or pray. Birmingham has a larger-than-average Muslim population and you would have thought someone could give them room hire at a reduced rate.
I appreciate that conflict in the Middle East has long been a lightning-rod issue for Muslims, but Muslims don't have a monopoly on this outrage. Besides, if you believe in the ummah then be consistent – not just when you believe there to be a western enemy. Here's another thought, instead of crying foul when it's just Muslims who are suffering, why not react this way when anyone is affected, regardless of what they believe? When there's a hurricane, a cyclone or civil unrest that leaves people dead, homeless or in the grip of oppression? It is your duty to protest and react, not because you're Muslim, but because you're human. Looking after your own – and only your own – gives the lie to the idea that Islam is a religion of compassion. In fact, it says Islam is a religion of self-interest.