It can be a challenge to strike a balance between empathizing with tragedies and preserving one’s dignity by refusing to capitulate to collective guilt.
It goes without saying that the events that took place on the morning of January 7th, 2015, as perpetrated by three gunmen in Paris, France, were heinous and unjustifiable. But equally unjustifiable is the call and charge, from amongst Muslims and against Muslims, to condemn violence “perpetrated in Islam’s name”. While both vocalizations may appear to have credence, I believe it is an insidious and slippery slope to communal suicide.
I have received several requests today from members of the Muslim community to address the tragedy involving the staff of Charlie Hebdo. While I understand the sentiment to hold community meetings and the like, I believe it would be an error to hold an event for something as particular as this. None of us, by and large in the Muslim community, are in disagreement as to the heinous nature of what was done but I do believe it a detrimental act of getting into the business of apologizing for acts which we did not commit or condone; no matter how you spin it, that is what we would be doing. In fact, and I am not alone in this assessment, it is precisely this kind of response from the Muslim community that can further exacerbate those fringe elements within our community to seek extreme measures for perceived injustices.
To be frank, I am also concerned about allowing the dominant culture to dictate what is or what isn’t a “good Muslim”. Should our condemnation not meet their approval (and the goal post on this seems to be ever shifting) then can we all not be criminally held as suspicious? It is akin to the structural racism that faces of us African-Americans, when white America says things like “you could get ahead or do better if only you tried harder or weren’t lazy”. This rhetoric encourages Blackamericans, to not strive for excellence, but to strive for dodging the ridicule of whites. This can be a pernicious and never ending maze which we run ourselves ragged through.
Our focus as Muslims, now more so than ever, must be vigilantly on being true to Allah and His Messenger, which has, does, and will always suffice any group, in anytime and in anyplace.