Is It Islamophobic to Ask Muslims to Condemn Terrorism?

In the wake of the hostage taking in Sydney Australia, Vox‘s Max Fisher says it’s time to stop asking Muslims to condemn terrorism. Fisher calls the practice of giving space to Muslim leaders space to comment after a violent incident, “Islamophobic and bigoted.” But is this really any different than what the progressive media routinely does after a violent crime?

This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. Theimplication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion. This sort of thinking — blaming an entire group for the actions of a few individuals, assuming the worst about a person just because of theiridentity — is the very definition of bigotry.

Considering the scope of the claim Fisher is making he doesn’t spend much time establishing it as a significant problem. In fact, he only links one example of the kind of bigotry he has in mind. It’s a story headlined “Muslim community ‘shocked’ by Sydney cafe siege, say ‘misguided’ individuals misrepresenting faith.” It seems like an odd choice as an example of bigotry for a couple of reasons.

First, the story is written by Mohamed Taha, a writer/producer for ABC Australia. I reached out to Taha to ask about his background and what he thought of his work being labeled “Islamophobia” but he did not respond in time to be included in this story. That said, if Fisher wanted to pick one story to represent the bigotry he perceives in the media, perhaps he should have picked one not written by a writer named Mohamed.

Second, the story itself quotes Aftab Malik, a member of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, saying, “My reaction is one of shock, horror, aversion and of deep concern.” According to its website, the UN Alliance of Civilizations exists to promote “intercultural dialogue” via “direct public statements or appearances.” It was formed in 2005 after a series of high profile terrorist bombings like the 9/11 attack in the U.S. and the attack on London on 7/7. It’s whole purpose is to, “to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions — in particular, between the so called Western and Muslim societies.” In other words, commenting for news stories after an incident like the hostage situation in Sydney is precisely why the Alliance exists.

So before we move on it’s worth pointing out that the author of the piece (presumably at least) and the person commenting with the imprimatur of the UN do not seem to see the questions as bigoted or Islamophobic. Maybe there are other examples Fisher could point to but he failed to do so and thus failed to really make his case.

But there is another way to look at this and that’s the sheer hypocrisy of someone in the progressive media complaining about connecting innocent masses of people to violence. If we step back a bit, it’s not hard to think of many similar circumstances in which organizations, especially conservative ones, are expected to answer for violent incidents that arise in the news. After an abortionist is shot, for instance, the media immediately asks pro-life groups for comment. Are all pro-life Americans involved in every act of violence connected to their beliefs? Of course not. But the media still asks the question.

After a mass shooting in Tucson we were told it was time for a national discussion on violent rhetoric in politics. Progressive voices were viciously eager to connect the violence to Sarah Palin’spolitical district map which featured what looked like crosshairs. They completely ignored similar maps featuring bullseyes created by Democrats. The media also ignored the death wishes and assassination fantasies spewing from angry progressives toward Palin.

The President used the memorial service for the victims of the Tucson attack to talk about the need for a new tone, which of course solidified the idea that the old tone was somehow at fault. In fact, none of the rhetoric (or the map) progressives had obsessed over was relevant in the case. The shooter was mentally ill, he was fixated on Giffords and he had never seen Palin’s map. But we still had the national conversation and conservatives were still asked to repudiate their rhetoric as if it were connected to a crime.

And speaking of crime, every time there is a significant incident of gun violence in the United States, the NRA is asked for comment. After the Newtown shooting (another incident involving a lone, unstable person) journalists were keeping track of the number of days since the NRA’s latest tweet. Should responsible gun owners be cast under a dark cloud every time someone with mental problems commits a horrible crime? Many gun owners would say no and a majority of Americans seem to agree with them. But that hasn’t stopped the media, especially the progressive media, from running with the narrative every chance they get.

Hectoring people with questions about acts of violence they are notconnected with has been part of the left’s playbook for years. What Fisher is angry about is exactly what many of his fellows in the progressive media do to conservatives at every opportunity. Actually it is different in one crucial way. As Fisher admits in his piece, asking Muslims for comment after a violent crime is, “explicitly and earnestly designed to combat Islamophobia and promote equal treatment of Muslims.” Conservatives being hectored by the media after a violent incident aren’t on the receiving end of any similar good intentions.