Liberal and Muslim media outlets expressed outrage Monday over a Newsweek cover photo and essay discussing the drawbacks of appeasing “Muslim rage,” as Newsweek dubbed it.
The article, by scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali—a former Muslim who renounced the religion after the 9/11 terrorist attacks—argued that the Western tendency to apologize for offensive free speech only emboldens Islamic extremists.
The magazine’s cover, which depicts two incensed Middle Eastern men screaming in the direction of the camera, drew sharp rebukes from liberal-leaning and Arab commentators, who accused Newsweek of stoking Islamophobic fires in America on heels of violent attacks on U.S. interests in the Middle East.
The Center for American Progress’ ThinkProgress blog fumed that Ali and Newsweek had published the “Islamophobic ‘Muslim Rage’ cover in response to [the] embassy attacks."
The liberal blog, which itself has faced charges of anti-Semitism in the past, went on to accuse Ali of being an anti-Islamic crusader.
The Atlantic also seized on the emotive cover photo, declaring: “Thoughtfulness has flown out the window at Newsweek this week, as [editor] Tina Brown traded in a little bit of integrity and placed her bets on Islamophobia being a big seller with the magazine's screaming ‘Muslim Rage’ cover.
Blogger Alexander Abad-Santos went on to charge that Newsweek is intentionally inciting the Muslim world.
The publication “still went for the big, generalizing cover. And the team over there knows exactly what they're doing,” he wrote on the Atlantic’s blog.
Since hitting the Internet this morning, the cover has morphed into a meme, generating a Twitter hash tag, #MuslimRage, which is being used by the article’s critics to mock Ali and Newsweek.
“In its own ugly way, this Newsweek [sic] cover is almost as inflammatory as the Muhammad video itself,” Greenwald tweeted.
In her piece, Ali meditates on how U.S. leaders are allowing Muslim extremists to limit free speech.
“If the U.S. follows the example of Europe over the last two decades, it will bend over backward to avoid further offense,” she writes. “And that would be a grave mistake—for the West no less than for those Muslims struggling to build a brighter future.”
She goes on to note that while the attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere were originally thought to have unexpectedly occurred following the release of a low-budget anti-Islam YouTube video, they were actually “planned in advance.”
“The riots in Muslim countries—and the so-called demonstrations by some Muslims in Western countries—that invariably accompany such provocations have the appearance of spontaneity,” Ali wrote. “But they are often carefully planned in advance.”
The majority of Muslims in the Middle East endorse anti-U.S. hostility, Ali wrote.
“The Muslim men and women (and yes, there are plenty of women) who support—whether actively or passively—the idea that blasphemers deserve to suffer punishment are not a fringe group,” Ali explained. “On the contrary, they represent the mainstream of contemporary Islam.”