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Notes from America

By Ahmed Tharwat It seems every time a Muslim or group of Muslims behave badly, the rest of us Muslim Americans are asked to respond to the situation, to try to explain their motives and to react to their horrible acts as if we were experts on terrorism or have special insight on Muslim rage. …

Ahmed Tharwat
Ahmed Tharwat

By Ahmed Tharwat

It seems every time a Muslim or group of Muslims behave badly, the rest of us Muslim Americans are asked to respond to the situation, to try to explain their motives and to react to their horrible acts as if we were experts on terrorism or have special insight on Muslim rage.

We are interrogated and experience something akin to EIT, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”, and “Forced Condemnation Reaction” of violence and extremism. As an example, Don Lemon of CNN asked human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of The Muslim Guy, “Do you support ISIS?” Do we need to say the obvious to show our patriotism?

I’m tired of being asked to condemn other Muslims, explain others’ actions and even to spell my name. I don’t have any answers or reactions that are different from anyone else’s – Muslim or non-Muslim. As John Stewart put it on his show “…not to make sense of this because there is no sense to be made of this.” Rather the goal was, as always, “to keep going”.

The media condemnation came swiftly. The knee jerk reaction of the media to the #CharlieHebdo tragedy was to put Islam on trial and to condemn 1.6 billion people. This became the headline of all 6 o’clock news shows. The #killAllMuslims social media trending reached more than 100,000. How did this all start, and how did we reach this madness?

It was around 11.30am in Paris, Stéphane Charbonnier was in his editorial meeting with his staff, like every Wednesday morning, at the French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo. The rest we know from sources like the New York Times, who went for the kill describing the “orientalist clash of civilization” event in a minute-by-minute update of the horrible attack.  I quote, “Unbeknown to them, a scene of terror was unfolding at their doorstep – one that would grip the world’s attention and set off new fears across Europe about a rising clash of civilizations, between radical Islamists and the West”.

The Guardian was more modest in its outburst, with a front page headline stating, “An Assault on Democracy”. Then we have the Muslim apologists:  “Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect,” vented #SalmanRushdie. And more, “…the relentlessly murderous soul of radical Islam has attacked the very foundation of Western civilization…” noted NY Daily News featuring another cartoon of its own, depicting a vicious looking bearded man – apparently a radical Islamist – standing with his pointed sword toward a hand holding a pen with a caption, “STILL MIGHTIER”.

Thousands of Muslims are killed every year by our own military expansionism and lust for power, freedom of speech is shot down everyday by Arab Muslim dictators that we support, insulting Islam in Saudi Arabia is flogging, but those of us who are writers will not consider our pencils broken by such killings. But that incontestability, that unmournability, just as much as the massacre in Paris, is the clear and present danger to our collective liberté.”

Bill Maher’s vitriolic rants about Islam have become the talk of the town, and the atheist comedian has become the darling of the nuts on the Christian right. Within hours of the Paris attack, he ridiculously claimed that “…millions of Muslims support the Charlie Hebdo Attack.”

The talking heads all over the 6 o’clock news described the attackers with words that are usually reserved for Muslims and non-white villains; words like, barbaric, uncivilised, Islamic extremists, and jihadi. Thousands of people in France and around Europe gathered to march in vigils of solidarity holding the sign “Je Suis Charlie” or I’m Charlie.

This hyper-reaction of the Western media reflects self-righteousness and universal absolutism, much the same extremism as the dogmatism and paranoia that Muslims extremists fall into. One camp gets its venom from religious fundamentalism, while the other gets it from secular fundamentalism, where nationalism has become the new religion.

In fact, for anyone interested, condemnation of the attack by Muslims came from all over the world, a fact ignored by CNN and Fox News. Muslims don’t condone such an act or the killing of innocent civilians, and may deny or react in disbelief that a Muslim could be capable of such actions. Some may suspect conspiracy, such as one frustrated Egyptian TV host who vented, “…it is the act of the French state to crack down on Muslims in France and a prerequisite to get involved in North Africa.”

Those who like to believe that the #CharlieHebdo attack is a direct reaction to the insult of Islam or the prophet through satirical cartoons don’t get the whole picture.  This isn’t just about cartoons of the prophet, any more than rape is about what the victim is wearing.

When a crime is committed by a Muslim, it is seen by the West as sociologically and culturally-based and the entire culture is condemned. However, a crime by a Westerner is seen as deviancy by an individual, as a psychological problem, like in the Columbine, or Newtown massacres, or Atlanta bombing. Sky News reported that a 38-year-old German male nurse, identified only as Niels H, admitted to killing at least 30 patients between 2003 and 2005, because he was bored. This kind of aberrant behaviour is usually presented as just an act of a disturbed individual who lived outside of mainstream culture, not an assault on Western civilization or on the rights of people to be sick!

Letting a few criminals define a billon and half Muslims is absurd and dogmatic. The suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack were born and raised in French secular culture and apparently led a life of drugs, sex, and violence. To claim that a visit to Yemen led to their radicalisation is naïve and self-serving. The question is not what happened to them in Yemen, but what happened to them in France.

The Charlie Hebdo tragedy can’t be explained by religion or culture; it is only explained in the sick minds of the killers alone, not the Charlie Hebdo cartoon. Many Muslims saw the cartoons from the satirical magazine but were not provoked and managed to stay calm.  Don’t snipe – unsubscribe.


Ahmed Tharwat is host and producer of the Arab American TV show Belahdan, freelance writer and public speaker. He blogs at www.ahmediatv.com

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  • Anti-Western Westerner

    I will reiterate what I have said before:
    The West is not at war with radical Islam. It is at war with the East. It is gathering its people for a great confrontation, which it will sadly lose.
    In the East, the people are smarter than their media and know to take everything reported or opined with a grain of salt. In the West, the media is smarter than its people and the people are easily manipulated.
    The entire West is sick, not just these individuals.

    • Abrogation

      How hypocritical and how absurd like the majority of “Easterners”1 (i.e. Muslims). I bet that you writing this on a computer or other device with internet; using cars, watching TV and so on. Guess what, they were invernted by Westerners. Why don’t just go to the “East” and stop using all the things invented or produced by non-Muslims. You are like the IS propaganda who ask Muslim doctors, engineers from the West to join them and they don’t realize that they are doing everything to prevent people to be educated in other than their doctrine. And even they morder with mostly things made by the West.
      And just remember that the most of the Easterners are either Chinese, Indians ,Japanese which make 2,5 BILLION people and they are also “sick”.
      I suggest you leave the West and go to sane countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan. While there please, convince them not to emigrate to the sick West.

      • Anti-Western Westerner

        Typical of a Westerner to cite Western inventions and that Easterners are unapologetically ungrateful. Well, this computer may have been invented in the West, but I bought it with my own money. So, it is mine now. God bless capitalism, a Western invention! How about all those things invented by the East the Westerners use daily without even a thought of its origin? Beer, Wine, contraception, even modern-day medical disciplines such as Opthalmology are stoked in Muslim science. I suggest you drop & boycott all Eastern inventions too you blind son of a pig.

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  • sam enslow

    Use Fox News (Faux News) when it supports your prejudices but cry when you become the target. Be upset when people try to understand how Islam can be used to justify terrorism? Why not discuss Wahabbi/Salafi teachings or the speeches delivered from Mecca? Why not admit that Maher us right, too many Muslims accept these actions. Perhaps it is time for Muslims to question those who present themselves as their advocates. This is a difficult job as seen in the US when ‘average’ Christians are forced to challenge the far right members of that faith, sometimes called The American Taliban.

  • Rick D

    This is a horrible article that should never have been published here. Serious? We, in the US, are always told that we are Islamaphobic. Ridiculous. When an action like this is carried out, most people simply would like Muslims to condemn those actions, instead of blaming them on the Us, the West, or Israel. These people hate. They want to control the world. And we too often see Muslims in Europe and in the US with hate-filled twisted rallies against Israel and the west. All we want to see is that middle-of-the road Muslims will be honest and open and show that they do not support these actions. When a terrorist action occurs and all you can do is blame israel, then YOU are adding legitimacy to those terrorist. The thousands killed in Europe, Somalia, Nigeria, and many others at the hands of Muslim fanatics… the missiles sent to Tel Aviv… they occur silently amongst the Muslim people. But when the west or Israel react to defend themselves and there is anger, then suddenly the Muslim world wakes up and condemns them. Now if you were a terrorist, wouldn’t you read that as a license by Ahmed Tharwat to murder?

  • Bakri

    Yah Allah! How can Muslims be so ignorant that they don’t even read the qu’ran!!! At least in my Qu’ran, published by Saudi Arabia, the comment to the ayat saying, in essence, “chase all the infidels and kill them wherever you find them” ABROGATES all the other ayats about relations between muslims and non-muslims. Which part of the qu’ran don’t you understand, Ahmed? Daesh, Taliban, Boko Haram, Saudi Arabia authorities, the Paris killers, they are the real Muslims. You and most of the 1,5 B others are not.

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