September 25, 2017

Je suis juste moi

As a Muslim living in America, I am offended by having to defend others’ right to offend my beliefs.  Especially in the past few months, I feel like I often have to be the voice of the other side and apologize for the acts of people who claim to share a faith with me.  And, while I do condemn the acts of all terrorist groups, I feel it illogical for people to constantly be asking for Muslims to clarify where they stand with Muslim extremists.  Countless news anchors bring members of the faith and interview them, culminating in the question, “Do you support ISIS?” or “Do you support freedom of speech?”  In discussions about Islam and events in the Muslim World, I am often the only one who knows enough to provide another perspective other than the news report of Muslims who shoot other people because they don’t align with their beliefs.

It hurts when people expect me to bring some new idea to the table that defends terrorists’ actions so they can be right about how all Muslims believe in resorting to violence.  No matter how many articles there are published by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, it seems as if the defense never stops.  To make matters worse, its difficult to bring a controversial idea to the conversation because the second I say, “terrorism is wrong, BUT-“, I get cut off because this is a defensive game.

So, let me clarify: I do not condone any terrorist attacks that have happened ever.  Whether it is by people who claim to be Muslim, or whether they be any other person who has ever committed an attack of extremism in the past.  What I do condemn are certain responses to these attacks.  Muslims should not have to claim responsibility or apologize for the acts of extremists.  Are Christians asked to apologize for the Westborough Baptist Church? Do we still ask Germans, “Do you think the Holocaust was wrong?”  I think the difference here is that unlike the history of Europe or the ideologies of Christianity, people are not as educated and informed about Islam.  Ignorance is at the core of judgment and prejudice.

Specifically with the Charlie Hebdo incident, many Muslims, including myself, do find the drawings of the Prophet Muhammad offensive.  There are certain interpretations of the faith that believe his face should not be portrayed as a sign of respect.  Despite the disturbing quality of the cartoons, many Muslims still sympathized and shared their condolences with the families of the staff and the people of France.  In fact, a Muslim policeman died defending the cartoonists.

In regards to the newest issue of Charlie Hebdo, recently published, there are two different thoughts that come to mind.  On the one hand, congratulations for the publication’s resilience and bravery.  On the other hand, concern that they are disregarding all the members of the Muslim community who defended both the cartoon and their faith, only to be shown once again that what they say doesn’t matter.

While I do not condone the actions of Charlie, I condemn the actions of terrorists, so I am not Charlie Hebdo; I am Natasha Ladhani.

 (Natasha Ladhani ’16, Features Editor)

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