Who speaks for Muslims?

Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:

“Birmingham will not tolerate the disrespect of our Prophet… You will have repercussions for your actions.” So claimed a leader of a Muslim protest against the film The Lady of Heaven. There were similar protests in cities from Bradford to London. Fear of “repercussions” led the cinema chain Cineworld to withdraw the film from all its outlets; another chain, Showcase, soon followed.

But who determines that a film is “disrespectful”, and to whom? Who speaks for Muslims? The Muslims who made the film? Or those who feel offended by it?

Whenever there is a protest about a film or a book or a play deemed racist or disrespectful to a particular community, many, particularly on the left, take those claims at face value, especially if that community happens to be Muslim. They take at face value, too, that the protesters are in some sense speaking for “the community” or the faith. Yet what is often called “offence to a community” is often a debate within those communities. And nowhere is this clearer than in the row over The Lady of Heaven.

More here.