Gang Rape and Global Ethics: The New Challenge of Phobic Orientalism
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
Alternet’s apology two days ago for helping an anti-Islamic attack go viral around the world raises the issue whether, in its words, “Today we have a phobic version of Orientalism—expecting and only seeing and reporting the bad and the ugly”.
The question is whether the power of the internet to expose Islamophobic disinformation and delegitimize it is greater than the power of the internet to promote falsehood either deliberately or innocently, as in the case of Muslims who spread the now debunked myth of a Saudi shaykh legitimizing gang rape.
The Qur’an states that whoever is guilty of spreading defamatory tales about another person without proof is just as guilty as is the originator. But does this apply to one whose objective is to attack the story in order to bring out truth and support justice?
This issue caused the board of the Center for Understanding Islam in 2007 to block the publication of my book, The Natural Law of Compassionate Justice: An Islamic Perspective, which consisted of two parts, the first of more than a hundred pages explaining what Islam is as a religion and the second of more than a hundred pages explaining what it is not. Merely repeating the lies in the second half spread by Islamophobes in order to debunk them was thought to be almost as bad as deliberately to support them. A few copies of the book were published in January, 2010, by a private individual at his own expense and copies appear occasionally even on Amazon, but this now is an exceptionally rare book. A question now has arisen whether it should be republished.
The same issue arises all the time about the utility and morality of exposing various genocidal events, like the Allied fire bombing that killed a quarter million German refugees from Eastern Europe in Dresden at the end of World War II or the “disappearance” of five million Germans during the expulsion of Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1946 and 1947. My files contain probably the best evidence about this latter crime anywhere in the world, but I see no point in ever making it public. The only advocacy for its publication came from Neo-Nazis who had their own evil agenda.
The media industry of Islamophobia has been in full swing ever since the collapse of Communism almost a quarter century ago. One question is whether it would it be better to ignore it and instead explain enlightened Islam, or whether the emphasis should be on exposing and thereby spreading the lies of the Islamophobes as a means to stop it?
Perhaps there is no answer to this factual and moral question, but the power of evil going viral in the era of instantaneous communication by individuals to millions of other individuals makes this issue increasingly important in the new era of global ethics and normative jurisprudence, once termed “moral theology” in traditional Christian philosophy and now in Islamic jurisprudence called the maqasid al shari’ah.