I was days away from penning a piece about how we should neither ask or give ‘collectivist’ explanations for acts of violence carried out by people 1) using Islam as a justification, 2) with Arabic/Islamic/Muslim names, and 3) veiling their illegal, violent and inhumane activities behind a language and rhetoric of Islam.
But Ali Eteraz beat me to it, and did it more articulately and with greater clarity. By the way, I have quoted from Eteraz’s works in the past. He has also recently published what looks like a fascinating memoir. The book is called Children of Dust and chronicles his journey from a village in Pakistan to the USA where he remained the rest of his life.
In a piece called Muslims Should Raise The Other Finger , written in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings and the massive outcry against ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islam’ that emerged overtly or surreptitiously (and obviously not for the first or the last time), Ali gets right down to it and says:
There is no need for one Muslim to condemn the crimes of another. Collective responsibility cannot, and should not, be accepted. Where one accepts collective responsibility one opens the door to collective punishment. Are Muslims individuals? Or are they one singular marionette that pirouettes each time its string is pulled?
Saving a particular, and well inspired, bile for a certain individual who recently wrote a very stupid piece in the Huffington Post
One of the most egregious acts of kowtowing to the “massa” occurred recently in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings. At Huffington Post, Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Salam al-Maryati wrote an article directed to Muslim-Americans, extolling them to “amplify our Muslim American identity.” No thanks. The only thing I’ll amplify is the length of my middle finger.
Time again there is an outcry against ‘Muslims’ that insists and demands that they [the Muslims] condemn acts of individuals or individual groups, as if this community – hundreds of millions of people, dozens of different cultures and ethnicities, hundreds of different histories and heritages, and dozens of political national groups were all somehow tied to each other and aware and responsible for the acts of all within it.
No other group is expected or asked to perform such demeaning and degrading ‘collective’ apologia. A Jewish settler slaughters a Prime Minister, but he is quickly seen as an ‘individual’, ‘an extremist’ and unrepresentative of his people. A Christian fanatic blows up a Government building in Oklahoma, but churches are not raided, nor charities closed. Christian soldiers in America’s armies are out there killing and murdering civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and yet few are exploring the pages of the New Testament to find its ‘genetic’ coding for violence. Or insisting that every Evangelical take responsibility for their actions and ‘do something about it’. A post office shooter kills off colleagues he finds boring, but we never investigate his religious feelings or delusions as a source of an explanation.
But god-forbid you have a 1) Arabic name, 2) come from a country with a predominantly Muslim heritage, or 3) traveled to or worked in or slept with a prostitute from a country with a predominantly Muslim heritage, and all bets are off and we are in the realm of the ‘mass condemnation’ and ‘mass apologia’. The ‘Muslim’ community is called to task by political leaders, and all sorts of self-appointed ‘leaders of the community’ emerge from their rats holes to speak for ‘us’.
Who are these people?
Islam has no clergy. And no illiterate, provincial or self-selected Mullah or Maulvi speaks for me or anyone in the community. It is not their role, it is not their responsibility, and it is not something anyone in any community has asked them to do. But from the morons at the Vatican to the morons at the White House, we repeatedly seen this pathetic theater of some lame-duck ‘Muslim’ leader – never heard of before or since standing alongside a bunch of self-righteous and pleased ‘Western’ leaders and playing the ‘moderate’ card. As if standing there with George Bush and mouthing stupidities about ‘the peaceful nature of Islam’ is what is needed and not what will only further encourage collectivist generalizations and racist simplicities.
So with Ali Iteraz I say – fuck you – not just to those who attempt to collect everyone of any random/vague or specific Muslim heritage into a mass, but also to those so-called ‘Islamic’ leaders who have the audacity to speak on my behalf. To turn and see acts of individuals and groups as acts of an entire, diverse and complex community is simply racist i.e. the belief that all members of a group posses characteristics and abilities (in this case, a propensity and preference for religious violence!) specific to that group!
So the next time someone asks you ‘Why is Islam so violent?’ or ‘What is your community doing about this?’ or ‘What is wrong with Islam?’, just indeed look them in the eye, smile, and say ‘Fuck you, you racist!’ There are extremists, morons, deranged individuals carrying out criminal acts all over the world. They come from all backgrounds, classes, ethnicities, religions and nations. To understand a crime we have to investigate it as a crime.
Crimes have personal, political, economic and social reasons and we are better off exploring these, than the pages of religious texts or the ‘psychology’ of ‘a belief’ to see if something in their DNA makes them uniquely susceptible to murdering, or creating illegal settlements, or faking weapons of mass destruction accusations, or building gas chambers to take out another ‘entire’ people.
Footnote: In 2005 I met a very well known American photographer in Jerusalem. I was on my way to Gaza and she was just returning from there. Upon learning that I was of a Muslim heritage, her immediate reaction was to ask me where in the Koran she could find an explanation for suicide bombings.
It took a few minutes for me to overcome my amusement and a growing disdain for this individual. I did however find a few moments of control to respond.
I turned to her and said only this – that I found it laughable that despite spending 3 weeks with the Palestinians of Gaza, and witnessing first hand their desperate conditions, their daily humiliations, their powerlessness to fend off the systemic violence inflicted on them and their children, their hunger, joblessness, and general hopelessness – conditions that have continued for decades and maintained because of an Israeli occupation, that she was searching the pages of a religious text to understand why the Palestinians engaged in retaliatory violence!
I believe that she kept looking in the pages of the Koran. She may still be looking after all these years!
Her pathetic cowardice and determined recism – one that erased the lived history and daily experiences of human beings, experience that she had seen with her own eyes, and chose instead to wallow in ‘religious’ fantasies and collective simplicities was just too appalling to behold. Suffice it to say, she has gone on to win many awards for her work. In a mainstream world where the mediocre is the magnificent, I would expect nothing less.