Responding to the 11 most popular comments on my 'Muslim Apology' blog.
Last week I published a blog titled ‘A Muslim Apology’, since then the blog was picked up by various news agencies. With the blog going so viral, it brought me an out pour of appreciation but also some heavy criticism. I do not wish to engage with the people who sent in abuses and hate mail but I do feel for a constructive debate to be moved forward on the subject, I should respond to some of the criticism. Due to the number of comments, it is not humanely possible for me to respond to every single one individually so I am using the platform of my blog to address some common concerns.
Here is my response to the 10 most popular responses to my blog
1. “Nobody is asking all Muslims to apologize.”
I believe some people mistakenly took this blog to be my response to the Charlie Hebdo incident. I have written at length about my personal feelings on that day in my blog ‘Why Charlie Hebdo Matters’ (http://shehzadghias.com/the-agora/2015/1/15/why-i-feel-charlie-hebdo-matters).
The Muslim Apology piece was specifically in response in to the people on different social media outlets asking all Muslims to apologize. I begin the article with that as the premise. There have been some people even appearing on mass media channels asking for all Muslims to hel responsible. #KillAllMuslims even trended on twitter. Fox News in particular was promoting a very Islamophobic agenda, in fact I address some of it in a video I made. (https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=765041930241676&theater)
No single piece is meant to encapsulate the sum totality of everything. This particular piece was in response to the specific people preaching the need for all Muslims to apologize.
I find the notion of collective responsibility nonsensical. The particular device of ‘satire’ was used specifically to amplify that point. Unfortunately, the satire was lost on many, which leads me to the second popular comment I received.
2. “You are taking credit for inventions by other Muslims.”
The whole point of the article was to show how senseless the idea of collective responsibility is. The idea that I deserve any credit for any invention by any Muslim is as nonsensical as the idea that I deserve any of the blame for the terrorist activities by some Muslims.
I am glad that some people will able to reach the point where they realize how nonsensical it is for any Muslim to take credit to the good things done by other Muslims and make the logical conclusion that it is equally nonsensical for any Muslim to be responsible for the actions of another.
The entire modern legal system relies on the notion of individual responsibility. If there is to be a collective responsibility, why limit it to simply religion? I believe economics play a much greater role in the creation of terrorists than religion. Shouldn’t the entire world be responsible for the state that humanity finds itself in?
3. “Why are you not criticizing the terrorists?”
But I am. I have condemned the terrorists who committed the shootings multiple times. I have repeatedly condemned terrorists in Pakistan. I condemn TTP, ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other militant organization anywhere in the world committing terrorism.
I have actively participated in protests against them. I have tried to leverage my position to exert pressure on my government to act against them.
However, the fact that these organizations exist does not make every Muslim a terrorist nor does it make Islam an inherently violent religion.
As a Muslim I have a greater stake in people hijacking my religion to promote their own ideologies than non-Muslims. I will keep fighting against them to ensure they do not pervert the narrative but I will also condemn any violence committed against innocent people under the guise of a war against terror.
Going back to my hypothesis that economics may just be a greater factor than religion in the creation of these terrorists, I would like to add to that that the fact that these terrorist organizations are Muslim is an historic coincidence.
As history has played out, many of the Muslim nations have found themselves impoverished; Poor socioeconomic conditions is a big factor in the popularity of these militant organizations in these regions. Lack of education, economic resources and opportunity pushes a lot of people towards terrorism. Now if history had played out differently, maybe we would have seen a lot of militant organizations in the world belonging to different religions but it has not so it incumbent on the progressive Muslim world to rid itself of this cancer.
The economics also play a large factor in answering the question raised by some people, which said “Why are so many Muslim migrants terrorists?” They are economically impoverished, which is no justification for committing any terrorist act but it might explain the frequency of Muslims being involved in such cases.
Also Muslims have lost a lot more at the hands of these terrorist organizations than non-Muslims. Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives fighting the war against terror.
4. “Hitler was not a Christian.”
I feel the use of satirical device worked against the clarity of the message in this scenario. Hitler was born into a Christian family, he was raised as a Christian, whatever his own personal beliefs came to be do not matter.
I do not believe the terrorist organizations are acting based on Islamic values and I do not believe Hitler acted based on Christian values. The religions are not intrinsically evil; it is how people use them to promote their own ideologies.
The political elite of these terrorist organizations is misusing religion to promote their own political ideologies. I do not believe they are Muslims. They may themselves not believe they are Muslims. The use of the Islamic narrative may simply serve as a populist notion they can use to get followers. We do not know their personal beliefs, and it does not matter.
If I am a Muslim, these terrorists are not Muslims. They have more in common with Hitler than they do with either Islam or Christianity or any major religious tradition in the world.
I just find the narrative around events problematic. A terrorist who is Muslims is highlighted as being a Muslim terrorist whereas no other religion is ever associated with terrorism. I find both ISIS and the KKK equally deplorable. They both use religious symbols but whereas the ISIS is promoted as a Muslim terrorist organization, the KKK is not reported as a Christian terrorist organization.
For the record, I am not asking all Christians to apologize for Hitler. Once again, satire people.
Also people claiming that Christian nations fought against Hitler, well almost all the Muslim countries are also fighting against the Muslim terrorists, and suffering the most at their hands.
Both instances go to show, terrorism is a global issue, not a religious one.
5. “Muslims did not invent astronomy.”
Due to the paucity of words you get from newspapers for your pieces. A lot of times you have to make your point more succinctly than you would have liked.
I find it strange that some people dismissed the entire piece based on any single fact they might not have agreed with in the article.
It is true that the study of the stars, moons and planets have existed for centuries. People before Islam relied on astronomical knowledge but a large part of the science that we know today as astronomy has its foundations in the works of Muslims.
I am sure hunters and gathers knew “2+2=4” but it was developed into a field of ‘mathematics’. This is a very basic analogy to explain the point that I am trying to make.
However, even if you feel you may disagree with a certain fact reported we can exchange our research and find the factual evidence to rectify it. The idea that a lot of people used such petty differences to attack my characters says more about their character than it does about mine.
6. “Why don’t you go back to Pakistan?”
I will. I love my country.
I do not feel any country or region in the world is intrinsically evil. I appreciate everything the United States of America has given me but I also appreciate everything Pakistan has given me. Just because I might not agree with many of the policies of both the countries, does not mean I will take a moral stand against the entire country and every single member of the population.
Does Pakistan have its problems? Yes.
Have I written extensively about those problems? Yes
Will I go back and look to improve the lives of Pakistanis? Yes
7. “America is not a religion.”
Some people found the jump from religious organizations to asking countries to apologize for their wars to be on a slippery slope.
As a citizen of a country you have more of a say in the policies of your country than a person belonging to a religion has on the actions committed by members of the same religion.
The problem is that some people take one example from history and use it as the complete truth. Without putting everything in its historical and sociopolitical context, you will never be able to understand any occurrence.
The centuries of colonialism and imperialism have contributed to the global divide in the world. The creation of the Empire and the hegemony of the United Nations disenfranchised a large number of people in the world, creating the space for militant organizations to operate in.
If anything, a nation officially apologizing to other nations for atrocities committed by that nation in the past actually makes some sense. The Australian Government officially apologized for the atrocities committed against the Aborigines. More country should follow their lead.
8. “British Imperialism and American crimes were not done in the name of religion.”
Religion was a factor into a lot of the colonizing missions. It was also a factor in the institution of slavery in America. However, economics played a huge role there as well, as I argue it does presently. Neither were the colonizers, or the slave masters, great Christians nor are terrorists great Muslims.
All these instances are perversions of religion done for the purposes of economic or political gain. It is true that some foot soldiers may believe it is genuinely being done for the glory of their religion but the puppet masters who build the narrative surely know better.
In the experience of the sub-continent, the British colonialism brought about a lot of conservative and regressive policies in the region in the name of Christian values, which we have now adopted as Islamic values. Homophobia and the demonization of dancing girls are two such examples.
The British colonizers looked at the native population as savages; they were not good God fearing Christians. The British conducted mass conversions in the sub-continent.
You cannot rid a historical occurrence of all its sociopolitical factors. Religion, ethnicity, class, race etc are all factors that play into a historical event. You take one of these factors and devoid it of all the other factors shows a very myopic view of history.
9. “Pakistanis have no history of their own, which is why they keep tracing their lineage to the Arabs.”
I was born in Sindh, my father was born in Sindh, his father was born in Sindh. I take great pride in the rich culture of Sindh. I think of the Mughals as invaders and I believe the cultural history of Sindh is extremely rich.
However, this article did not have anything to do with all of that so it would have made little sense to write about any of that.
When people respond with such grand generalizations, I realize that they have nothing to argue against the specific content of the article itself.
The article was not Pakistan specific but I could also point out many achievements by Pakistanis in the past 60 years that rival achievements by any other nation. To name only two, Abdus Salam won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 and Malala Yousoufzai wont he Nobel Peace Prize this year.
10. “There are similar achievements by all religions and cultures.”
Thank you for that. There is no cultural hierarchy.
There is no guarantee that people of a certain religion will be better than people of another religion. There are people who commit atrocities, they may belong to any culture, religion or race. The group is not to be blamed for the actions of those individuals.
Also just like nations, religious groups also rise and fall. There was a time the Islamic world was the cradle of civilization making the most rapid advancements in technology, that time may come again but only if we improve ourselves by applying ourselves to the world of books rather than guns.
The point to highlight the history is to show that it is not the religion that necessarily derives these people towards violence. There are a multitude of historical and sociopolitical factors.
11. “Islam is much more violent than Christianity.”
I do not know why a lot of people in the comments made the Islam and Christianity binary in the comments. If it felt like I was bashing any religion for the glorification of another, I apologize about that. It was never my intention. Islam teaches us to respect all religions.
I reiterate I do not believe any religion is intrinsically violent; it depends on the person what they choose to focus on or how their interpret it.
I am not in a position to judge which religion is more violent than the other. I have read the Quran but I have not read the holy scriptures of any other religion. I cannot respond to this comment without having done so.
However, I can say that Islam is not a violent religion.
I hope this clarifies my position personally and leads to a more positive discourse on the subject rather than engaging in arguments that lead to nowhere on social media. Let’s have a constructive conversation so that we find some middle ground, rather than lose the very ground we stand on, together..