Where’s the Outrage?

Something notable happened in Iraq a few days ago – followed by something notable that did not happen.

First, a horrendous car bomb went off outside a Baghdad restaurant, and then another outside a mosque. At least 17 were killed and over 100 injured.

Second, as far as I can tell, no one in Muslim countries protested.

The restaurant was popular with Iraqi police, whose goal is to bring peace to the streets of their nation. The mosque was a place of prayer for Shiites.

It is assumed that most if not all the casualties were Muslims.

But there were no reports of protests in the world’s Islamic communities to decry such barbaric acts.

I bring this up in light of another story that has dominated headlines lately.

Let me quote from a Reuters story of May 13: “Angry protests raged across the Muslim world from Indonesia to Gaza over a report that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran.”

I’m not saying the protesters were wrong to be so angry at Newsweek’s claim that a copy of the Islamic holy book had been flushed down a toilet. Although it proved false, I can see why the image was offensive.

But why hasn’t it been equally offensive in places like Indonesia and Gaza to see Iraqi Muslims blown up daily by terrorist bombers?

There was another recent story that provoked anger in the Muslim world.

A British tabloid published photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear while in U.S. custody. Although Saddam was reviled in the Arab world, many called it an insult to show a Muslim in such a state. America was condemned for one more outrage against Islamic dignity.

Fair enough. The American military has no business letting such photos leak out. Just as U.S. soldiers have no business putting a leash around the neck of a naked prisoner.

But why is the humiliation of a few dozen Islamic inmates worse than terrorist car bombs that have so far blown apart thousands of innocent Muslims?

I find myself thinking now of the case of Nicholas Berg. He was a young American telecommunications contractor kidnapped in Iraq by terrorists and beheaded. They proudly posted an Internet video showing the murder. I watched it. Berg was helpless, his hands and feet tied as several masked men held him down and sawed through his neck. As they did it, they kept shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

You would think Muslims would be outraged at terrorists using their religion to justify cold-blooded killing. But I don’t recall any protests.

There have been similar videotapes of the butchering of other hostages. A number of those victims have been Muslims murdered for working with Americans.

No protests there, either.

At the beginning of all of this was 9/11, when terrorists hijacked not just airplanes, but the image of Islam itself. In that case, I do recall demonstrations on the West Bank by Palestinians. But the people there were celebrating.

I understand that America is seen with such suspicion that a report of a desecrated Koran, or an abused inmate at Abu Ghraib, hits buttons of outrage in the Islamic world.

Our government _ as well as we journalists _ have to understand this and be more careful. America is held to a higher standard. And you know what? We should be.

But a few days ago, terrorists set off bombs in an Iraqi market, killing innocent Muslim shoppers. Body parts of women and children littered the area.

I wonder why that doesn’t violate standards, too.

I look in the news from Indonesia to the Gaza Strip, and I wonder: Where are the protests?

(Mark Patinkin can be reached at mpatinkin (at) projo.com.)