Forgiveness and Irony by Roger Scruton, City Journal Winter 2009.
Muslims show a remarkable ability to turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed in the name of their faith and to rally against anyone who disparages it. The notorious Danish cartoons caused outrage, uniting Muslims everywhere in acts of destruction and calls for revenge. A few days later, the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, one of the Shiite community’s holiest places, was blown up by Islamists. But where were the protests, outside Iraq? Far more Muslims than non-Muslims have been killed by Islamic terrorists. But when do those who claim to speak for Muslims mention this statistic?
For that matter, the whole point of the infamous cartoons was to make us look at the atrocious things done in the Prophet’s name. Does he approve or doesn’t he? Muslims must face up to this question. But a rooted double standard often prevents their turning on fellow Muslims the self-righteous anger that they turn on enemies of the faith.
Such double standards are the direct result of the loss of irony. They stem from an inability to accept the otherness of everything, to stand outside one’s own opinions, and even one’s own faith, so as to see it as the faith of someone else. Not that Islam has always lacked irony in this respect: the works of the Sufi masters are full of it. But the Sufi masters (I think of Rumi and Hafiz especially) belong to that great and self-knowing Islamic culture on which the Islamists have turned their backs, embracing instead the narrow-minded bigotry of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab or the self-deceived nostalgia of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyid Qutb.