There’s a certain ritual that each and every one of the world’s billion-plus Muslims, especially those living in Western countries, is expected to go through immediately following any incident of violence involving a Muslim perpetrator. It’s a ritual that is continuing now with the Sydney hostage crisis, in which a deranged self-styled sheikh named Man Haron Monis took several people hostage in a downtown café.
Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: “As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form.”
This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion. This sort of thinking — blaming an entire group for the actions of a few individuals, assuming the worst about a person just because of their identity — is the very definition of bigotry.
It is time for that ritual to end: non-Muslims in all countries, and today especially those in Australia, should finally take on the correct assumption that Muslims hate terrorism just as much as they do, and cease expecting Muslims to prove their innocence just because of their faith.
Bigoted assumptions are the only plausible reason for this ritual to exist, which means that maintaining the ritual is maintaining bigotry. Otherwise, we wouldn’t expect Muslims to condemn Haron Monis — who is clearly a crazy person who has no affiliations with formal religious groups — any more than we would expect Christians to condemn Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, if someone blames all Jews for the act of, say, extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank, we immediately and correctly reject that position as prejudiced. We understand that such an accusation is hateful and wrong — but not when it is applied to Muslims.
This is, quite literally, a different set of standards that we apply only to Muslims. Hend Amry, who is Libyan-American, brilliantly satirized this expectation with this tweet, highlighting the arbitrary expectations about what Muslims are and are not expected to condemn:
As a Muslim, I condemn acts of sexual assault following time spent as a self-proclaimed spiritual healer specializing in black magic.
— Hend (@LibyaLiberty) December 15, 2014