Why Do People Expect Me to Apologize for the Boston Bombings?
If you have the internet connection to read this post, you surely know about the bombings at the Boston Marathon. This news is horrifying, depressing, and once again a stark reminder of the vulnerability of each and every day, and the tragedy that can lurk around any hidden corner. I wrote about coping with current events like this in August, and my sentiments then were my sentiments after Sandy Hook, and the same sentiments I feel today.
Except for one difference.
While we don't know who did it, with reports like that of CNN correspondent John King, who erroneously reported on Wednesday that investigators had arrested a dark skinned male in connection with the Boston bombings, and people being kicked off a plane because passengers didn't like their look or their language, it's pretty clear to me that we suspect who did.
Since fifth grade, when a band of students accosted me and demanded an explanation for the Gulf War, I've been put on the hot seat and asked to explain why someone who is of the same faith as me did what they did. After the Oklahoma City bombing, my history teacher glared directly at me as he told the class that once we find out which country is responsible for this we will bomb them until weeds can't grow. (Of course, it turned out that the latter was a white dude from Oklahoma, and the weeds of foreign countries lived to see another day.)
When I was in graduate school, after I presented on internment camps, a fellow student calmly told me that if Muslims were ever sent to interment camps, she saw nothing wrong with it even if 99% of them were innocent. I wrote about this seven years ago:
Like the rest of the U.S., I fear another terrorist attack, but I also fear the blame I will take for it from my fellow Americans. I fear mass hysteria and mob mentality. I fear internment camps. Punishing me for the acts of others. Acts I DISAGREE WITH. Acts that frighten me too.
People from professors to friends have told me that if Muslims are not speaking out in droves against terrorism, then our silence equals complicity. There are over one billion Muslims in the world. Almost four times the size of the United States population. Most Americans don't feel that the actions of a stranger in South Dakota or New York, or even those of our next door neighbor, speak for us -- but as Muslims, we must go out in throngs to disavow the actions of a stranger who happens to be one of 1.6 billion people who call themselves Muslim. David Koresh was Christian. The BTK killer went to church faithfully. Should I assume Christians love the actions of these men because they did not make a public announcement ("We as Christians do not condone murder. We are peaceful as a faith. These people do not represent us"?)Baraka wrote a fantastic post where she included a quote from Anne Frank's diary: "Oh it is very, very sad that for the umpteenth time, what one Christian does is his own responsibility; what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews." Such is it nowadays for Muslims.
I hate what happened. I hate that there are children orphaned and parents who will never be whole again because of the actions of hate. But I also hate that I can't feel what I feel without also worrying about the blame that may come my way because I might share the same skin color, or faith of the person who perpetrated the crime.
I am not perfect. I make mistakes every single day. And there are things I can apologize for. If my son disturbed your Target shopping experience because he wouldn't stop singing twinkle twinkle little star into the toy microphone I foolishly handed him, I'm sorry. If you were stuck behind me while I was driving our new car a smidgen faster than glacial, I'm sorry. If I completely messed up transferring the homemade pizza onto the pizza stone and you didn't
particularly like the result resembling baked islands of Indonesia, I'm sorry about that too.
But I can't apologize for James Holmes because I too am a college graduate. I can't apologize for Columbine because I was once a school kid and also picked on for being different. And I can't apologize if the culprits turn out to be Muslim because I am a Muslim. I can't apologize for it and I can't explain it because the truth is I had nothing to do with it and because I don't know why either.
Nearly every Muslim organization in the U.S. and abroad has
come out to express both their condolences and their reiteration that
they do not support violence such as this. This is a good thing to do for any institution of faith, to express their sadness over these acts. It is also important for Muslim organizations to disavow because the question of culpability of the entire religion lingers on the minds of some. But these are different from apologies. We don't know who did it yet. But no matter who did it, the only ones apologizing should be the ones responsible, and that? Is wholeheartedly not me.
"Often times I have hated in self-defense; if I were stronger I would not have used such a weapon.” Khalil Gibran