In July of 2018, an Egyptian young man noticed something somewhat awkward about a zebra in a Cairo zoo; it didn’t look like a zebra. After a closer look, Sarhan discovered the zebra is just a regular donkey painted in black stripes. After the viral post, the Egyptian zoo vehemently denied the animal was a donkey and insisted on it being a 100% typical zebra. The humorous story became a source of much social media memes and jokes for days. For me, this humorous anecdote is more than just a funny story, but it is a symbol of the disease of denial in which much of the Arab and the Islamic world chose to immerse itself.
Last year, in the US Military Institute in which I taught, I passed a lesson to my students centered on the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East and their dwindling populations. Later the same day they mentioned it to another Muslim teacher who then told them angrily “Those are all lies. Christians live in Muslim countries peacefully.” My students came to me later confused and baffled. I didn’t know what to tell them. Should I tell them that their own teacher which they love and respect is in denial? Or even worse, lying?
Many Muslims insist and demand us to believe their world is an oasis of reason, peace, and tolerance and its western bigotry, aggression, and Islamophobia that are the cause for the plight of the Muslim world. Never mind the virtual absence for human rights, the persecution of minorities, the low status of women, the Sunni-Shia civil wars, ISIS, beheadings, refugees, the destruction of antiquities, the sexual repression, the killing of journalists, the bombings of churches and shrines, the antisemitism, and the brutal autocratic regimes.
Following the media storm caused by the MEMRI exposition of Muslim children singing about chopping off the heads of the Jews in a Philadelphia Muslim Society video, the Muslim communities rushed to deny the video was made under any supervision. They asserted it was a case of innocent “oversight” and refusing to name any individuals involved in making of the video.
In 2017, Linda Sarsour made gave a speech to the Islamic Society of North America, in which she called upon Muslims to jihad to protect themselves quoting a prophet Muhammad about the jihad against a tyrant. After the lash back she denied she meant what everyone thought she said. She is also has a proven track record of denying women face any issues in Islam and that prevalent Israel hatred are related to antisemitism. Similar remarks were made by the two democratic congresswomen Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar who deny their anti-Israel bigotry is just masked antisemitism. Over the last weekend, a pregnant mother and her child were killed in Gaza by a failure of Islamic Jihad weaponry as they were launching a barrage of missiles on Israeli citizens. The Islamic Jihad and Hamas, for days, denied the incident and declared Israel murdered the woman and her child. Not to mention the constant denial of the Palestinian Authority they support terrorists and their families through generous monthly payments funded by the global aid their receive.
In September of 2007, Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, declared in front of hundreds of students and faculty members in Columbia University, “There are no homosexuals in Iran.” While his own regime hung gays in public, a practice which continues till today. In January of 2019, the Egyptian president Sisi, in a 60 Minutes interview completely denied Egypt is holding any political prisoners. “We don’t have political prisoners or prisons of opinion.” all while his prisons are holding some 60,000 political prisoners, a few of them are American citizens. The Saudi government forcefully denied their murder of the dissident journalist Khashoggi, only to admit it a few days later after mounting global pressure. However, they claimed it was only an accident.
Those are but a few examples of the epidemic of denial which encompasses much for the Muslim world from Tehran, to Riyadh, to Gaza, to Cairo, to Philadelphia. Denial which left much of the west perplexed as to what is actually happening in the world and quite encumbered by its fear of questioning the credibility of an entire culture. This constant denial and lying about the true nature of life in the House of Islam, and our inability to point it out, leaves no room but for paranoia and fear. We need to stand strong in our convictions, firm in our beliefs and refuse to spread the lies of those who refuse to face the truth. There are homosexuals in Iran. Women, Christians, and many minorities suffer immensely under the rule of most Muslim countries. Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization murdering both Israelis and Palestinians. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib are antisemitic. Egypt is a brutal repressive dictatorship. Antisemitism is a common sentiment among Muslims of the world. Indoctrinating children with hate is a crime against all of us. And finally, painting a donkey with black stripes do not make it a zebra, it makes an abused donkey. We shall all insist on telling the world the truth and refuse to bathe in the river of Denial.