November 19, 2015
I’m a Muslim. I was born into a Sunni Muslim family in the Gulf region, the very same region where Wahhabism (the ideology of Daesh) originates. Yet I am still not Daesh.
It should go without saying that the terrorist attacks committed against the people of France, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are horrendous crimes. It should go without saying that I stand in solidarity with the families and friends and all loved ones of the victims in these trying times. But I stand in solidarity with them as a human being, just like every other person — neither as an Arab nor as a Muslim. I bear absolutely no responsibility for the actions of others.
I’m sorry that the crimes have been committed. I’m sorry, just like every other person says sorry when giving condolences. But I do not and will not apologize as an Arab nor as a Muslim.
I’m not Daesh. I have never been and will never be Daesh. Neither has a single one of my friends or family. I do not know a single person who supports Daesh and its crimes.
I’m a leftist, a progressive. The irony is that I’m probably more progressive and further away from the politics and ideology of Daesh than those who want me to apologize for their actions. And I’m not alone. Progressive Muslims are a minority, but we’re a big enough minority to form our own communities. We have our own organizations. We have our own spaces — we even have our own mosques, some of which are safe spaces for LGBTQ people, some of which have women leaders. We’re so progressive, so far to the left that those who hate us for being Muslims would also hate us for being “social justice warriors” — if only they knew.
However most conservative, orthodox, status quo Muslims I know are in no way associated with Daesh. They are as opposed to this terrorist, inhumane organization as everyone else.
And we, together, the vast majority of Muslims, we are all as much targets of Daesh as non-Muslims. Over the last five months I have been in a Muslim-majority city twice during a Daesh attack. First in Kuwait City and then in Cairo. We can argue all day about why Daesh attacks in the Middle East do not get nearly as much media coverage (or readers) as its attacks in Europe (“Arab and Muslim lives are not as valuable,” “terrorism is more normalized in the Middle East,” etc.), but one fact is undeniable, and that is the majority of Daesh’s actions are committed in the Middle East, and Daesh’s ideology is an extremely narrow interpretation of Islam that makes infidels out of even the most traditional, conservative Muslims.
Calling someone an infidel in Islam is no small act. When you accuse someone of being an infidel, either that person is an infidel, or you’re an infidel for making that accusation. Yet there has been no shortage of Islamic scholars condemning Daesh as un-Islamic.
We are well aware there is a parasite growing inside us. Religious talk shows have taken a very political turn, as have Friday prayer sermons. There have been many calls for unity and against sectarianism. People in all levels of authority are doing a lot of work to reclaim Islam from the fringe elements. And I am talking about the Gulf countries here, some of the most conservative Muslim countries in the world. Even Saudi Arabia has been a target of Daesh. Even Saudi Arabia has said enough is enough and condemned the extremist sectarianism and violence of Daesh, holding a meeting of Muslim leaders in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, to tackle this insidious menace.
Yet we still hear this claim that Daesh is actually “very Islamic,” and Muslims need to fess up and take responsibility. And by who? By journalists who have absolutely no association with Islam. Because, apparently, they’re a better authority on Islam than hundreds of Muslim scholars.
“But Islamic history is filled with crimes,” they say. “Daesh is following the footsteps of past Islamic caliphates.” Yes, we know that Islamic history is not perfect — with some of the Islamic scholars in the Mecca summit acknowledging the precedence of extremism in Islam — just like White and Christian history is filled with crimes, with racism, with genocide, with crusades, slavery, and all kinds of mass atrocities. Yet the rightists who want to hold us responsible tend to be the first to decry “White guilt” and claim they’re not responsible for the crimes of their ancestors, when no one even accused them.
Are all White Americans responsible for the actions of the KKK? Are all Christians responsible for the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church? If not, why then should we be held responsible for the wrongdoings of Daesh?
Why should we be held responsible for a bunch of criminals who massacre people to terrorize the world?