The Politics of Condemnation – Blaming Muslims deflect from others
In the immediate aftermath of the killing in Woolwich on 22nd May 2013, the word ‘condemn’ was heard many times.
Muslim organisations, Imams, speakers and others condemned the act outright, before all the facts had even come in. Some made bizarre generic statements, which did not entirely make sense, like for example “these people are not from our community”. Another strangely declared opposition to terrorism affecting Japan, as well as that occurring in London.
I have little doubt that those who spoke out were both shocked by the killing and were genuinely of the view that Islam did not sanction such an attack.
But the question is: Is it possible to condemn too much?
Even some non-Muslim observers commented that there was problem with the extent of the rhetoric of condemnation from Muslims. It seemed as if the Muslim’s condemning had a guilty conscience – almost as if they were protesting their innocence too much.
It can perhaps be explained out of fear of how Muslims would be perceived by the wider public.
Some was by the ‘usual suspects’ – the ‘rent-a-quote’ brigade of secularists, who welcome a submissive and silenced Muslim community.
But it was clear the Western media was looking for a loud condemnation from the Muslim community – to such an extent that a Muslim is unable to comment on any related issue unless he or she prefaces a comment by words of condemnation.
Whilst speech may be free for others in Britain, it seems a Muslim needs to buy an entry ticket.
Condemnation can go to excess in many ways. In the USA, after the Boston Bombing, the Muslim reaction became so exaggerated, for some prominent Imams it was not sufficient to express sympathy with the victims and say that Islam forbids such an act. They went so far that they did not want to bury one of the alleged bombers in a Muslim cemetery.
What possible harm could there be by condemning too much?
Several problems spring to mind:
- The effective acceptance of collective guilt by Muslim ‘leaders’ shifts the blame of responsibility from the attacker and the thing that drove him – i.e. anger about foreign policy – to the whole Muslim community.
- To condemn one death to this extent can be seen to diminish the value of the lives of thousands killed in other circumstances – for example by drone aircraft – whose killing receives little public condemnation.
- If the problem is seen to lie with the Muslim community, the policies to deal with the problem will target the whole community.
- Why should another Muslim expect to be grilled on something that he or she did not do? When journalists keep asking if Muslims will condemn, Muslim looks guilty, as if he has something to answer.
- We need to be aware that the media posing a question can be a clever way of making an accusation against Muslims, so fuelling Islamophobia. ‘Is Abdul a danger?’ ‘Does Hussain pose a threat?’ ‘Are they a fifth column?’
The Muslim community has become a punch bag for the policies of politicians who send troops to far off lands, to kill and be killed, for no reason of national security whatsoever.
The media completely ignores the politicians who send the soldiers on immoral campaigns, giving an easy ride when they take their seats in the TV studios – whilst at the same time, grilling Muslims in a climate such as this.
Rather than humiliating ministers who send other peoples’ children – rarely their own – to kill and be killed, they try to humiliate the Muslim community.
Some from our community have become like ‘battered wives’ or people who have been relentlessly bullied – once you lose self-esteem, and accept the abuse relationship the bully will step-up their pressure.
There’s a lesson for all of us in how we respond to this sort of episode, and the unforeseen consequences of overreacting – and a necessity to understand and expose these belligerent practices.