On extracting apologies from Muslims for the Charlie Hebdo massacre

I want to talk about the apologies being extracted from Muslims, the requirement they distance themselves from the CH massacre by 50 miles of condemnations. It is politically judicious for imams & Muslim politicians to speak out as a defensive measure against vandalism & assaults on mosques & Muslims. But it is grotesque that two billion Muslims must endure interrogation about where they stand on terrorism or whether they’re glad CH got taken out.

Because this resonates in my life, I’m going to intrude into the story. When I was a child in the 1950s my family moved to Fergus Falls in northern Minnesota. It was during the McCarthy era & a time of religious & political intolerance. The town was predominantly Lutheran at the time & there was considerable hostility toward Catholics. It was my first encounter with social hatred. Not only did classmates taunt us but teachers too. I vividly recall a lesson in elementary school on the Inquisition & watching the teacher relish my extreme discomfort.

Lutheran boys were not allowed to date me nor girls be friends. The girl scout leader would ask unseemly, nosy questions about my parents (who had a lot of kids) & my home life–& I eventually had to leave the troupe from discomfort. Such crap went on for years until my family moved to another city. From such experiences, rebels are born. But also more timorous souls get crushed. My response was to become more ardently Catholic. And later more ardently rebel.

That happened within Christian denominations with relatively inconsequential theological differences. The way history is taught in US schools, entire continents & empires are lopped off to buttress Eurocentrism. When I first encountered the Islamic Empire in my own reading it was like discovering a parallel universe. For those without access to Arab scholarship, it’s not easy to study because so little is available in US libraries. I know that because I’ve scoured the shelves in at least four major city library systems. That’s why many people don’t know enough to query the media narrative about Islam & terrorism.

It is certain that most people don’t know squat about Islam since most haven’t mastered their own catechisms. I still can’t define the differences between Lutherans & Catholics that so plagued my childhood. It’s easy to patronize Muslims by saying they needn’t be defensive, no apologies necessary, but this isn’t just a personal thing. It’s a matter of mosques being vandalized, women in veils being attacked, children being shunned, civil liberties being denied, & wars being promoted.

You can’t compensate for the lack of available scholarship to understand political developments by talking through your hat. Islamic fundamentalism is not near as scary nor as powerful as US-NATO aggression. That I know. We condemn the slaughter of children & the kidnapping of young girls by Islamist paramilitary groups but not more vigorously than we do US-NATO bombing. Because in truth, the history of Islamic fundamentalism is not rooted in theology but in the barbarism of colonialism & war.

Leave a Reply