When author and lecturer David Horowitz appeared at UCSB, he mentioned that our Muslim students had not condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, implying that this told us something about our Muslim students. His local intellectual soul mate, the like-minded UCSB student Ross Nolan, wrote a few days ago, “The final thing that struck me is how the members of the Muslim Student Association refused to denounce the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas.
This really surprised me, and I was quite frankly disappointed by that organization. … It is the obligation of members of a religion to strongly denounce those factions of their faith who do horrible things in the name of said faith” (“Horowitz Haters Keep Parading Selective Moral Outrage,” Daily Nexus, May 14).
I think that’s completely false. I’ve never felt any obligation or pressure to denounce anyone or anything related to my religious affiliation. What I do condemn are two practices: the now widespread practice of expecting Muslims to condemn other Muslims, their actions or groups containing them; and making insinuations about Muslims when they don’t condemn things, or don’t volunteer to become a spokesman for your views.
I have just a brief sampling of the reasons why this game is so infuriating. First, it is feeding cultural double standards. It is not common for non-Muslims to be expected to condemn anything, especially if the group whose condemnation is sought pertains to Palestine/Israel, then the demand can exacerbate a one-sidedness. I don’t think it’s common to expect Zionists to condemn what is done “in the name of” Zionism or Judaism, or to condemn any related groups or individuals.
Second, these practices expect a potentially intelligent person to quickly adopt a simplistic, all-or-nothing assessment. Hezbollah, one group that was mentioned, is only classified as a terrorist group by the governments of four countries, and only a part of it is so classified by two other governments. Two of those four governments are Israel and the U.S. The “terrorist” label is far from universally applied. Hezbollah has done lots of nonviolent things, including extensive charity work. Is the Muslim expected to condemn all of its charity work, lumped together with everything else it has done, in a single, all-or-nothing condemnation? The Muslims I’ve known were far too sophisticated for that.
Third, the Muslim is expected to condemn things he might not know much about that occur thousands of miles away. How many books do you think the average American Muslim has read about Hezbollah? The Muslims are expected to comment about something they may not want to get involved with. The Palestinian/Israel conflict is explosive and complicated, and I think it’s very reasonable for anyone – Muslim or not – to decline to comment, especially if they have not read very much about it. I haven’t, and I suspect that some who expect Muslims to condemn Hezbollah haven’t either.
Fourth, depending on how it’s presented, a demand that a Muslim condemn what other Muslims have done “in the name of” Islam can imply that a version of Islam is the primary reason why these violent things happen. If violent people say they are following Islam, it does not mean a supposed version of Islam is the reason they were violent. All the violence that I’ve ever seen appeared to have a lot to do with situations, history and personality.
My advice for Muslims is to reject all expectations that you condemn anything, and reject pressure to classify yourself. Some wish to see our 1.2 billion Muslims break up into the “moderate” Muslims, “radical” Muslims, “fundamentalist” Muslims and other categories that, like these, lack a clear definition. The more you are fighting with other Muslims and condemning and refuting each other, the more the opposition likes it. This whole endeavor is supported by those who are busy teaching that Islam – or some supposed version of it – is the cause of violence and other bad things that happen in this world. My advice is to not be of assistance to any of this.