SHAFAQNA- Qinza Najm doesn’t want to behead anyone. After all, she’s an artist, not a jihadist.
But she’s also a Muslim — and in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, she and other New York Muslims are feeling pressure from non-Muslims to condemn evildoers.
“I believe 100% that people should not be killed, but when a white guy commits a crime, not every white person is asked to defend himself,” said Najm, a Lower East Side artist of Pakistani descent.
She’s hardly the only person of Islamic faith to deal with this demand to apologize for the actions of people who live on other continents and whom she has never met.
“Every time a tragedy happens, we pray, ‘Please don’t let it be a Muslim, please don’t let it be a Muslim,’” says Wajahat Ali, the co-host of Al Jazeera America’s talk show “The Stream.” “As soon as we find out it is a Muslim, everyone says, ‘F— my life.’ You realize the criminal actions of a few who are completely unrelated to you will be used (against) your entire community.”
Like virtually everyone on the planet, Ali absolutely condemns terrorism, but not in the loud, vocal, outspoken way that some conservative commenters demand that he should. Indeed, a non-Muslim’s demand that Ali condemn terrorism offends him, implying that every day is “a never-ending litmus test” to make sure he fits into American culture — one that, ironically, prides itself on diversity and acceptance.
“I’m a moderate to radicals and a radical to moderates,” he says. “A liberal to conservatives and traditionalist to progressives. To some Muslims, I’m not even Muslim!”
The ultimate social critic, Jon Stewart, picked up on the current irony in a recent segment on “The Daily Show.” Introducing new “Muslim correspondent” Hasan Minhaj, he demanded that Minhaj condemn the Paris attacks — which he did.
“Jon, yes, as a Muslim I, of course, absolutely, 100%, unequivocally condemn these actions,” he said.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks set of a global outcry to Muslims to apologize for violence committed in the name of Islam.
He was then attacked by Stewart and other correspondents, who said he should have been “denounce-ier.”
“Because I’m Muslim I got to be condemn-ier than you guys?” asked Minhaj. “You guys are holding me to a condemn-ier standard?!”
Comedians can play it for laughs, but most of America isn’t in on the joke. Increasingly, all Muslims are seen as responsible for what happened at the offices of Charlie Hebdo or on the ISIS killing fields of northern Iraq.
Rupert Murdoch responded to the Paris attacks by tweeting, “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” (Retweeted 7,231 times.)
Ali Wajahat is the co-host of Al Jazeera America’s talk show “The Stream” and wrote a satirical essay called “How to How to be a Moderate Muslim: Shake it off!”
The “maybe” is pretty offensive. Worse though was the “until they recognize…” part. Somehow, every Muslim on the planet — 1.6 billion and growing every day — was being called out by the owner of the Fox News Channel to toss out the bad apples.
It’s pretty absurd — so naturally Muslim comic Aziz Ansari treated it as such.
“Rups can we get a step by step guide?” he tweeted. “How can my 60-year-old parents in N.C. help destroy terrorist groups? Plz advise.” (Retweeted 7,265 times.)
“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling also saw the irony of Murdoch’s call for Muslim self-enforcement.
“I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I’ll auto-excommunicate.” (Retweeted 32,076 times.)
Stand-up comic Aamer Rahman tweeted something similar: “As a random Muslim I’ll apologize for this Paris incident if random white ppl will apologies for imperialism, drone attacks and Iggy Azalea.” (Retweeted 18,102 times)
A few days later, Murdoch sent an apology tweet, “Certainly did not mean all Muslims responsible for Paris attack. But Muslim community must debate and confront extremism.” (Retweeted 610 times.)
Debate is just fine for Saks Afridi, who, with Najm, created the Lower East Side artists group, Bolo, which means “speak up” in Urdu. But there is a fine line between calling for debate and acknowledging that he is somehow responsible for the death of people in Paris.
Aziz Ansari asked Rupert Murdoch how his 60-year-old parents in North Carolina can help fight terrorism.
“The terrorists are not Muslim, and they don’t follow any of the beliefs of Islam,” says Afridi. “Nowhere in the Koran does it say you can kill children, or kill people for blasphemy.”
Afridi certainly reacted in horror to the Charlie Hebdo attack. It’s made him think about his own identity as an Muslim New Yorker.
“I see myself as a cultural Muslim,” he says, and then jokes about the term “metrosexual.” “My wife calls me a ‘metromuslim.’”
It’s certainly not the first time an ethnic or racial group has been scapegoated for the behavior of a tiny minority of its members. As each new wave of immigrants came to these shores and past Lady Liberty’s fabled lamp, members of every group have been tarred.
J.K. Rowling tweeted that if she was responsible for Rupert Murdoch she would “auto-excommunicate” from Christianity.
The “bad apples” theory continues today. After Ferguson erupted in protests, former mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed African-Americans, saying blacks should be fighting crime in their own community rather than complaining about white police officers.
“There is virtually no homicide in the white community,” Giuliani said, saying protesters “should be talking about and holding rallies about the problem of black fathers taking care of the children they fathered.”
To scholars of American history, this is just business as usual in the Land of the Free.
“In American politics, when you are racial minority, everyone is clumped in together,” says Samuel K. Roberts, a professor of history at Columbia University. “Even the implication that Muslims in America should make an apology is deeply problematic.”
Linda Sarsour is the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.
And it’s not as if plenty of Muslims failed to condemn the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
After the massive street demonstration in Paris, Iraqi newspaper columnist Aziz Al-Hajj wrote that it is not the French who should be out in the streets, but the citizens of Muslim countries — to show they are united in outrage at extremist violence.
And a Paris imam called the Charlie Hebdo attackers “criminals and barbarians (who) have sold their soul to hell.”
In New York, Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, says that if it was in her power she would “eradicate” all violent terrorists herself.
But she also believes that “as a Muslim, I am not responsible for condemning every act of terrorism committed in the name of Islam.”
Not only are moderate Muslims not required to apologize, she believes, but doing so gives the terrorists a kind of legitimacy – in that we’re now debating them as an issue rather than discussing what they really are: murdering criminals.
“My lack of condemnation should not be seen as celebration,” says Ali, the Al Jazeera host. “The terrorists betray the traditions of the prophet and insult his legacy. And they do no favors to the majority of Muslims who now have to suffer because of their violence.”