We've had a letters-to-the-editor conversation in the local paper going on recently, between people who think Muslims are being unfairly expected to apologize every time acts of terrorism are discovered to be planned or perpetrated by radical Islamists and people who think that a) this isn't actually true or b) Muslims should apologize, or at least be clear about the fact that they are against such acts.
One such letter was written by Maher Arar, whose story is known to most Ottawa residents if not most Canadians. The letter is titled "Muslims Have Nothing to Apologize For", and can be found here. Arar states not only that Muslims should not be expected to apologize, but speaks negatively of the imams and members of the Muslim community who have done so, in part because the suspects referred to haven't always been conclusively proven to be guilty. He also decries the fact that this is a unique phenomenon to the Western people/Muslim people dichotomy, and that no one paints all Christians or Jews with the same brush when a Christian or Jew commits a crime.
I have mixed feelings about this. I don't want every Muslim person to feel like they are constantly expected to apologize for a minority of homicidal zealots who perpetrate atrocities under the auspices of their religion -- but I really appreciate it when they do. I would say the important part isn't that they're condemning specific people who may or may not be proven guilty, but that they're condemning the whole radical Islamic agenda. I have heard enough imams make equivocal, hedging statements about 'jihadist' acts to really appreciate when someone of the Muslim faith says flat-out that Islamic terrorists are wrongheaded, criminal and must be stopped. On the other hand, I get that it must seem unfair and tedious if you are a Muslim and you feel like all the eyes on your street turn to you every time some yahoo blows himself up thinking he's headed for paradise and a bunch of willing virgins.
As for the argument that people don't judge other groups based on the actions of a few? I think that's total crap. Would you want to be a Catholic priest right now? Do you think they don't feel they're being scrutinized by every parent with a vulnerable child? I just listened to a piece on the CBC about a town where ATV operators are in a feud with the other members of the community; some people drive the ATVs irresponsibly, tearing up farmers fields among other things, and the responsible drivers claim that they are being penalized and judged based on the actions of a few reckless morons. I'm not defending it, but I think it's ingrained in human nature -- we can't know everything about everyone in a certain demographic, so we extrapolate from the examples we have. I have an overall negative opinion about cyclists; a few of my friends are cyclists, and I believe them when they say they obey the rules of the road and don't run stop signs or weave in and out of traffic, but the majority of my experiences as a driver seems to indicate that all the cyclists I don't know personally are dumbasses with death wishes.
I don't have any answers, this is just something that's been on my mind. I thought I'd throw it out there and play Bear in the Big Blue House, by asking What Do You Think?