This article originally appeared on VICE UK
If a stranger demanded that you apologize for something you hadn't done, what would you tell them? Most of us would probably tell them to stop being so aggressive, leave us alone, find the right person to blame, because that's the most sensible approach to dealing with somebody who is completely missing the point.
So I find it odd that many keyboard crusaders seem to be demanding that moderate Muslims around the world stand up and apologize for yesterday's senseless attack on the Charlie Hebdo office by Islamic extremists.
Eclipsing the shortsighted and ignorant reactions to the shooting—Britain First using the attack to flog their bulldog lapel badges, for example, or Nigel Farage harnessing the atrocity to prove his point that all multiculturalism is bad—were plenty of columnists and op-ed writers offering measured, insightful responses. Down at the bottom of a good deal of these articles, however, a glut of non-Muslim commenters argued that Muslims should be taking to the streets to denounce the attacks, to accept the blame on behalf of Islam.
"Why aren't all the so-called 'moderate Muslims' making their voices heard?" they asked. "When can we expect to see a response from the 'religion of peace'"?
Apologies if I'm missing something, but I really don't get the reasoning.
It goes without saying that I feel immeasurable sympathy and compassion for the victims and their families. But asking me to say sorry for the actions of extremists because I happen to be a Muslim is like demanding I apologize for another writer's spelling errors.
Barbaric terrorists who describe themselves as Muslims have nothing to do with me, my beliefs, my soul, or my person. Apologizing for their heinous crimes makes little sense to me when I have absolutely nothing in common with them, and zero understanding of their grotesque interpretation of Islam. Why should I take responsibility for someone else's sins? Sins that I can neither fathom nor comprehend?
I'll go on a solidarity march not because it's my duty to show the world that Muslims don't abet murderers and terrorists, but because I'm a human being and I feel empathy for those who have been hurt. I will talk about my faith and try to dispel misgivings, but apart from that I'm as unrelated to these extremists as the "patriot" having trouble differentiating Islam from violent Islamism in his UKIP-town bungalow.
When the English Defence League held demonstrations in my city, I never saw it as the duty of non-racist white British people to stage an apologetic march. They didn't need to say sorry for the actions of bigots because they themselves are not bigots. Do I appreciate it if activists voice their opposition to racism? Of course I do—I appreciate all forms of humanitarian endeavor. But I also recognize that this can be achieved without apologies that serve no purpose except to placate those who are missing the point.
Moreover, I don't want anyone to connect my understanding of a peaceful Islam with the ridiculous actions of extremists, and apologizing for them will only work to create a link—tenuous though it may be—between me and them. I don't want to have any form of affiliation with a group of inhumane monsters, just like I don't want to eat my lunch sitting next to a piece of graying dog shit. I have the right and the ability to distance myself, so that's exactly what I'll do. To apologize would be to accept responsibility, to accept that Islam as the vast majority of Muslims understand it had some bearing on the murder of those innocent journalists. I don't believe it did, and neither does any other sane-minded Muslim who treasures the value of human life and has imbibed the peaceful teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Plenty of Muslims and Islamic groups are condemning the attack. I condemn it, too, not just as a Muslim but as a sister to anyone who believes in the sanctity of human life. And if we're going on that premise, then the entire population of Earth should be apologizing for the events at the Charlie Hebdo office.
Many Muslims have become jaded by the cycle of newsreels that equate every act of terrorism with Islam. A psychopathic few have maligned the majority, and none of us want anything to do with the poisonous minority for fear of contamination by proxy. It sickens me that regular old Muslims who live their lives exactly like you do (but probably with a bit more praying and, if Ben Affleck's to be believed, lots more sandwiches) have to keep reaffirming to others that they are good people.
An open dialogue is of course a good thing, and I would always champion the power of discussion. But the preposterous notion that all Muslims should apologize for a group of strangers' horrific actions perplexes me. I'd rather spend my time loving the people around me, showing kindnesses to my neighbors, and putting my faith in the power of paying it forward.
The innocent Muslims who do not apologize for the crimes of deranged Islamists are not indifferent to the atrocities. They are still making a stand within their own homes and communities by manifesting the beauty of Islam within their actions and words. Muslims are taught to be beacons of light that attract others to the warmth and radiance of the Qur'anic teachings. We are taught to be kind, forgiving, welcoming, and honest. We are also taught to believe in the power of peaceful prayer. Perhaps that is why so many of us might appear silent.
But still waters run deep, and the vast majority of the world's Muslims—people like my quiet pensioner parents and God-fearing grandmother—are praying for all the victims, their families, and the future.
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