The Muslim community throughout the world was in uproar two months back when a crudely made movie mocking the Prophet Mohammed surfaced on YouTube. From peaceful protests in places like Hong Kong, Germany and London to provocative rallies in Australia to chaos and violence leading to loss of lives in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East, the anger of Muslims took several routes.
They were rightly indignant about insults aimed at the sacred symbols of their religion, and Muslim religious leaders blamed it on the double standards of US freedom of speech and Islamophobia of the West. Non-Muslims also condemned the movie.
Now Muslims face another major incident involving their faith. A Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, who was championing the cause of education for girls, was attacked by a group claiming to be champions of the religion. Gunmen sought her out from the school bus while she was returning home and shot her in front of other children. She survived and is recovering in a hospital in Britain.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility and, more shockingly, threatened to shoot her again when she returns, while saying her family were also legitimate targets. All this because Malala wanted girls to have the right to education.
The majority of her countrymen were outraged at this attack. A candlelight vigil and a couple of mass protests were held in the country. Government and the powerful army promised to take action against her attackers and offered a substantial reward to anyone providing information that could help bring the attackers to justice.
But, unlike the passionate protests that continued for days across the Muslim world two months ago, there were hardly any reports of demonstrations or condemnation of this heinous act committed in the name of their religion. Community and religious leaders whose outrage was so vocal were deafeningly silent this time around, from Australia to Hong Kong to Europe.
Leaders across the world raised their voices to condemn this attack. But very few Islamic religious leaders joined them, publicly at least. This silence on their part is one reason a twisted image of the religion persists in the minds of sceptics.
Islam stands for peace and the salvation of humans. But, as with every religion, often groups with narrow and parochial views flag themselves as its true custodians, distorting the religion's image.
Religious leaders everywhere have a right to protest against attacks on their religion. But they also have a duty to condemn crimes committed in the name of their religion. Their silence is almost equal to condoning such acts.
Hari Kumar is a Post journalist