Georgina Guedes

Muslims don’t need to apologise for Paris

2015-11-20 15:00

Earlier this week, South African Muslim academic Professor Farid Esack said he was sickened by the expectation that he has to condemn those involved in the Paris attacks.

At the same time, in the UK, the Muslim British Council and its affiliates paid to place an ad in the national press condemning and dissociating themselves from the Paris bombings and shootings. “With one voice, British Muslims condemn the Paris attacks unreservedly”, the ad began.

It went on to detail every point of their condemnation and follow-up actions.

Muslims around the world had nothing to do with it

I think that the actions of the Muslim British Council are great. But I don’t think they are necessary, and I don’t think that Professor Esack is wrong. Why should every Muslim in the world have to apologise for the actions of some terrifying extremists, as if they’re in any way connected to them?

I read a Facebook post, which I have unfortunately lost, but it said something along the lines of: “Our freedoms are taken, our homes are bombed, our livelihoods ruined, our cities laid to dust, we flee in terror, we cross oceans, our children drown, we are treated like scum on arrival, and then, when the same organisation that we are fleeing attacks Paris, it is demanded that WE apologise!”

So when Professor Esack says, “I am not condemning anyone. Why the hell should I? I had nothing to do with it...I am sickened by the perpetual expectations to condemn. I walk away from your shitty racist and Islamophobic expectations that whenever your chickens come home to roost then I must feign horror.”

I agree with him. I would hope that he doesn’t have to “feign” horror and that he can acknowledge that a great crime was committed against humanity in Paris, as it was in Beirut, Garissa and Yola and Kano, even if he doesn’t have to apologise for it. But other than that, he’s right.

I’m not sorry either

I don’t feel that I have to apologise for the actions of every white supremacist Christian freak who mows down a school full of students in the United States or a holiday camp in Norway. I get to shake my head and wonder what the hell was wrong with that particular person or society that allowed those things to happen.

No one expects me to take to social media, or pay for an ad in the national press to say, “Umm, just so we’re clear, that guy was crazy, right? And I am not crazy. So I won’t be shooting anyone. For any reason. Kthnxbi.”

Closer to home, I do sometimes feel moved to say, “#notinmyname” in response to certain elements of the white community’s actions. But no one asks me to do that. And when I say it, it’s usually because I want the racist white community to know that they don’t speak for all of us, rather than because I think that black South Africans expect me to speak out.

If white people with Christian backgrounds are exempt from apologising for the actions of lunatics a continent away, the same courtesy should be extended to Muslims all over the world.

What they really mean

Of course, the subtext to the Muslim British Council’s ad is, “Please don’t beat us up or evict us or imprison us”. It’s a sad and messy world that we live in that requires such actions from innocent people, to prevent them from being grouped with lunatics and damned.

So, Muslim friends, if you see me in the street, no need to apologise to me for Paris. I am able to see the distinction.

 - Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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