#JeSuisCharlie: Muslims Have Nothing to Apologize For

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 3.06.15 PM

Screen grab from Journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin's Facebook page.

I participated in the online support campaign #JeSuisCharlie and I still support all attempts, by anyone, to highlight the importance of freedom of speech.

I was never a big fan of Charlie Hebdo, but that they have the right to publish whatever they want is, for me, non-debatable. If you’re bothered by something, write about it, ‘complain’, do something – that’s your right. I couldn’t care less if you think that drawing a Messiah or a Prophet (capital M and P are intentional) is offensive. Being offended is not a right, it’s your choice.

Besides the horrific attack, what bothered me the most was thousands of people asking, “why aren’t Muslims condemning this?”

The answer is they are, you’re probably just ignoring them. Muslims, like pretty much anyone else – except the Neo-Nazis who relish it -, have been condemning terrorism since Day 1, which, for most Westerners it seems, started on September 11, 2001.

How is being a Muslim relevant here? If you were a Muslim, I understand the need to do so given the environment you’re living in. Every time a Muslim farts somewhere in the West, there has to be a certain number of ‘fellow Muslims’, preferably in the West and Middle East who condemn them, a scenario exclusive to Muslims, not Christians or Jews. How can ‘we’ connect to the “Muslim World”? Why isn’t the “Muslim World” more tolerant? Just look at these questions, how they’re phrased.

Please, stop it.

There is no such thing as the Muslim World, just as there is no such thing as the Christian World or the Jewish World or the Buddhist World. There are countless Muslim communities in the world, with similarities, as human beings and as part of the same religion, but with many more national, cultural, and individual differences. There are Australian Islams and there is French Islams and there are Saudi Islams and Malaysian Islams. Hell, there’s even a Chinese Islam (would you believe it?!) – fun fact: Aladdin was a Muslim Chinese. What kind of discussion would a Sufi Turk have with a Saudi Wahhabi and with a Twelver Shia Iranian? You’d need an interpreter first of all to translate and I can assure you that yours truly, an Atheist, would have more to talk about with the Sufi and Twelver than the Sufi and Twelver would with the Wahhabi, or even with each other. In fact, I have a feeling that Saudi Wahhabism, which is located where the West’s favorite oil kingdom is located, is the most detested ideology in Islamic history. Where are the ‘Is Wahhabism a threat to Civilization’ debates?

Am I to apologize for the support of State Terrorism by fellow Atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens? Am I asked by Theists “why aren’t you condemning them!”? How many Christians need to apologize for the Terrorism of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda ‘in the name of Christianity’? How many Christians had to apologize for the Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting (the terrorist thought they were Muslims)? Why do Christians get to it’s-politics-not-religion it, but not Muslims?

Netanyahu gets a boner whenever terrorism strikes in the West – he knows how to use that as hasbara (public diplomacy) – and prefaces “we as Jews” whenever he declares that Gazan children are about to be slaughtered. Over 500 children were murdered in Gaza in 50 days last summer – which he called “making noise“. Would Bin Laden have gotten away with calling 9/11 ‘making noise’? Do I message my American Jewish friends every time this Neo-Nazi par excellence makes a racist speech (which happens to be all of his speeches)? Do I message that one Ugandan man I met in my travels and ask him to please speak out in the name of Ugandan Christianity?

This is absurd. It’s collective ridicule. It's collective punishment, and collective bullying of 1.6 billion people who subscribe to the Islamic faith. That’s a lot of people regardless of whether the #KillAllMuslims folks wish to accept it or not (note: a huge number of them seem to be Americans, not Europeans). Why is it that we have debates with the title “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” – debates that don’t necessarily even include Muslims. What kind of question is that? And haven’t you already answered it yourself? The only common denominator in such debates is not Islam itself, but hatred of Muslims.

And any discussion that includes some vilification of that old heterogeneous, not-a-historical, religion is a no-brainer. Think of how insulting it must be to hear the word “Moderate Muslims” describe pretty much every Muslim in the world as though they were a minority in a sea of madness. Imagine, for just a moment, what it must be like to be a Muslim in the post 9/11 West. 

I remember the day when the filth known as Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people on July 22, 2011. I had just landed in Madagascar for a project and met Eirik, a Norwegian from Bergen. There was no talk of the dangers of Norwegian Christianity – Breivik is a Christian – on civilization. We understood it for what it was: Terrorism, pure and simple, with its own internal messed-up logic. A crime of unspeakable proportions that requires no special condemnation by “Moderate Christians” – we did not ask our ‘Moderate Christian’ friend from Kenya to apologize! Have you read Breivik’s ‘manifesto’? I (unfortunately) have and it’s a mess of Far-Right Zionism, Islamophobia and anti-Marxism, not “Christianity”. Europe was being invaded by Islam! How many more Europeans today believe that psychopath in their hearts? Just hang out around any YouTube video that remotely deals with Islam and see what kind of comments Muslims get. Oh but it is easy it is to forget Breivik! Muslims, not so much. They need to be reminded every single day that there is someone somewhere calling himself a Muslim and doing things in the name of Islam. Thank goodness I don’t get associated with crazy Atheists, I’d never hear the end of it.

Just to make things clear. This is not a defense of Islam, nor is it a criticism of Islam. Both deal with very vague concepts that are decontexualized and removed of all meaning. Words like ‘terror’ and ‘tolerance’ only mean something when the ‘Other’ is being depicted, not when we talk about ‘Us’. Which Islam should I be defending/attacking? Whose Islam? The Islam of the 21st century? The Islam of Europe? France? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Turkey? Malaysia? China? Australia? The Islam of Tariq Ramadan? Mehdi Hassan? Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al Ash-Sheikh? Rahmi Yaran? Can we put them in a category? Can we put 1.6 billion people in one category? I have absolutely no idea how to do that, and I have yet to read any article by anyone who did. Islam exists in society, with its own context, its own time, its own detractors and supporters.

This is a criticism of a very dangerous game that only benefits the very wealthy who are immune of the repercussions of mindless hatred. It is the average food seller on the street that will be attacked, not the Saudi Grand Mufti – the latter can do whatever the hell he wants (repeat after me: Oil). It is the poor Muslim immigrant from Tunisia who will be punished, not the rich Muslim ‘investor’ from Qatar. This very, very, very dangerous – I cannot stress this enough – game of Othering never ends well, which is exactly what the Neo-Nazis want. As a non-Muslim French commentator, sitting alongside a local Muslim Mufti, said on French television yesterday evening: “this is not just an attack, but a trap.” And let’s not fall for this trap. This terror attack was a terror attack, period. Condemn them, ask them to explain themselves, ask them to apologize.

Based in Lebanon, Joey Ayoub covers Palestine, Lebanon and the Middle East for Global Voices and runs the blog HummusForThought, where this post was originally publishedHe wishes to push fellow Atheists to speak out against discrimination of all kind, including religious groups. He tweets at @JoeyAyoub


  • cantloginas_Momo

    Very good piece!

  • Marie Bohner

    I could not agree with you more. We are going towards a very dangerous path by asking Muslimq to stand up against these attacks, as if they were not doing anything already. This is ridiculous and dangerous. I also agree about the parallel with Breivik and the Christian community. Thanks for this essential post.

  • Nevin Thompson

    Good piece

  • Vestias

    without a free press no one is free

  • But aren’t people who don’t know this now considered ignorant? I thought ignorants were marginalized in most societies.

  • Eagleeye7

    The world has been deceived far too long and articles of this nature that defends the rights of Muslims and seeks to perpetuate the submission or death of non-Muslims must be rejected with the contempt it deserves.

    Just as most Muslims do, Ayoub wilfully and deliberately avoids the real issues at stake, thereby authenticating the murderous actions of Jihadists in this incident and all the other happenings all over the world. We also understand that the work of the apologists are part of the grand scheme of dominating and destroying the infidels, as all non-Muslims are referred too.

    The murder of the French, for whatever reasons and by whomever, is not the issue. To understand this issue, it must be contextualised. People who are driven to murder because of Jihadism happens to be Muslim (this is no co-incidence) are united in the cause and in their injunction, and follow the dictates of the Quran and the prophet called Muhammed.

    Over 5000 people were killed in December alone in different parts of the world, many of them Muslim in the name of Jihadism as reported by the BBC in their article, “Tracking the month of deadly attacks”. These actions gives expression to the desire of an Islamic Caliphate where Islam reigns supreme throughout the world. All Muslims are aware of it, it is taught by Muslims to Muslims and they are made to understand
    what their role should be. A comprehensive report is given by IslamicAwakening dot com on the Islamic Caliphate.

    To punt this line of “Please get off my back and leave me alone” is extremely disingenuous as it seeks to put critics of these actions on a guilt trip and extract sympathy from them while giving the perpetrators licence to perpetuate their evil deeds!

    • bumboclot

      Wow 5000 killings out of over a billion Muslims? So what are the rest doing if they are ALL supposed to be in some kind of holy war? Delusional.

      • Eagleeye7

        Yeah, that’s 5000 killings in one month. That’s globally. It is not confined to any specific area and does not revolve around any political issue. The actions are random but purposefully chosen.

        Islam teaches that it is the supreme religion and every other must be subservient. The establishment of the Caliphate is the means to achieve that, dammit. Don’t you read your Quran. It is your religion, bumboclot that accounts for me and every other Non Muslim.

        So whether you support the Jihadists or radical Islamists is immaterial, it is your religion that teaches it. Whether you follow it or not, is immaterial. Your fellow Muslims all over the world subscribes to it in obedience to the “holy” commands of the prophet Mohammed.

        Islam is evil. Listen to Wafa Sultan on youtube, a fellow Muslim, who loves Muslims but has declared war against Mohammed as the chief protagonist and the teachings of the Quran that prescribes Sharia Law (the foundation of the Caliphate) and Jihadism ( the means of achieving the Caliphate).

        Call yourself a Muslim, then you need to educate yourself. Don’t be a hypocrite and pretend that Islam is a peaceful religion when it is not. You must have a backbone, you need to stand up and be counted. Or otherwise live a lie and let your friends, neighbours and colleagues believe that you are for peace when in fact you support the brutal endings of their lives and the certaintly of death.

    • I’m a Christian-raised Atheist, but whatever floats your boat. The rest of your post is essentially the very fallacy I’m warning against.

  • KeinJunkMail

    Meh. I am certainly not saying that most Muslims support terror; however, to say that in this context that the residents of Christendom (yes, there is a special word for “the Christian World”, despite your selective ignorance) equals the adherents of Islam and the responses of the two should be identical is choosing to close your eyes. If the select group of Muslims who commit acts of terror claimed a motivation other than religious, then you might have a point, but the truth is they do it in the name of Allah. If they claimed to be fighting for “brown power,” or a “free Palestine” then people would expect those associated with the claimed motive to denounce them.

    Do Americans demand to the police denounce racially targeted violence? Yes. Do they have a right? Yes. Does making that demand imply that these demanders think all police are violent discriminators? No, but people know that if the good police don’t make clear to the bad that their behavior will not be tolerated within the ranks, then the cleansing will come from outside, and really, nobody wants that.

    I am an American living in Germany. Do my neighbors demand that I condemn those acts of the US government when they do not represent my views? Hell yes! Do they have a right to? Absolutely. Do I do it? Yes. I also happen to have a minority religion that comes under intense scrutiny all the time. When a member of my religion commits a crime, his religious affiliation is always mentioned in the media, even though these crimes are almost always free of religious context. Am I quick to condemn it? Loudly and clearly. I am compelled to make clear that my religion abhors that behavior, even before the rest of society condemns him.

    And so your story about “its just Muslims” is patently false. Go ask American Jews how often they have to make clear their stance on Israel’s actions. Ask Christians living in Muslim countries. You had better believe that when Christian Terrorists (i.e. those that kill in the name of Christ, and sadly there are such crazies, despite his pacifistic doctrine and way of life) commit their terrible deeds in Muslim dominated lands, that their neighbors righteously demand that Christians renounce such people and acts. Good for them.

  • bumboclot

    The extremists want nothing more than to be recognized as representative of “All Muslims”. How pathetic that the bigots in the west are so happy to agree! Not only are they insulting the millions of Muslims who despise the extremists, but they are giving such a massive amount of undeserved respect to the extremists!
    Why is that? Simple. These arrogant, violent, desperate, murderers have finally found a way to communicate with the masses of the western world. They speak through the only language the west actually pays attention to: destruction. When a Muslim says “No more violence!” nobody will ever care or listen. But if a Muslim blows something up, suddenly he is the ambassador of ALL his kind. The saddest thing about the whole situation is how much we glorify their message simply because they chose that method.

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