February 8, 2006

How often? I don't!

Umm Zaid wrote: "How often do you feel obligated to condemn or speak out against something when no one has specifically asked you to? For example, many of us feel obligated to repeat, over and over, the fact that we don’t condone terror, etc. It’s true, but I don’t think it’s effective.

"My feeling is that by now, people who are really interested in knowing what the regular Mozzies of the mainstream think about terror have figured it out, and only those who are interested in stoking the flames of hate still say, “Why don’t they condemn terrorism?” every time a Muslim dares to raise his or her head."

I don't. I gave up "apologizing" for the misdeeds of others long ago. I'm not interested in abasing myself in front of others for whom an "apology" isn't owed. If they don't like it, too bad for them.

When I was working on my recent post, The Fog of War, I read an interesting comment by director Errol Morris in an interview he had with Tom Ryan, film critic for the Australian newspaper, The Sunday Age. In the interview, Morris talked about how Robert McNamara hasn't "apologized" for his role in the Vietnam War, and he ultimately wondered why people expected McNamara to apologize. As a result of this thinking, he came up with his "theory of apologies," which I think is directly applicable to Umm Zaid's situation.

Tom Ryan: Did your view of McNamara change, though, as you were sitting there talking to the man, watching him close to the edge of tears as he talks about the death of Kennedy, seeing him actually confess to you his sense of guilt? Or do you read that still as a kind of performance for the public?

Errol Morris: Can't it be both? For example, people get very angry at McNamara because, they say, he hasn't apologised. “How come you didn't get him to apologise?” Sometimes they get angry at me. And I remember thinking, “At what point during the interview do I want to hear this man apologise? Is this really what I want to hear?” And I thought to myself, “No, I don't. Because there is no apology for Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand Americans dead, literally millions of Vietnamese. Why would I want to hear 'I'm sorry'?”

And then I started to wonder: why is it so important to people that he apologise? Why is this such a big thing for many, many people? And I developed a theory of apologies – that we like apologies because they empower us. If someone you don't like apologises to you, you can just say, “I don't accept your apology. Screw you!”

I believe that people wanted McNamara to apologise so they could reject it.

-- Errol Morris, Robert McNamara and The Fog of War

Likewise, I won't apologize for the burning of the various embassies, nor the flag burnings, nor some of the stupid placards. Nor do I apologize for various terrorist incidents. I didn't do them. Nor is Islam at fault, which means that I won't apologize on behalf of my religion either. Nor do I expect the Danish people in general or the Danish government to apologize either because, like me, they are not directly responsible for this controversy. However, I do expect apologies from the cartoonists, from JP's editors, and from all the other editors who have published these cartoons. I will also say that none of the "apologies" JP has issued have been, IMO, sincere. I expect these apologies to be sincere, not for my sake, but for their sake. The cartoonists and editors will be questioned about their deeds by Allah (swt), and I wonder just how far a "freedom of expression" excuse will go with Him.

Some other Muslim bloggers have said they believe that this controversy is a test from Allah (swt), and that is something I can buy into. But it's not just a test for Muslims, as they have implied, to see how well we will react. It's also a test for the Danes and other Europeans. Indeed, all of the world. And it is with sorrow that I see that these Danes, Europeans, and others are failing the test as well, exposing themselves to the world to be racist, intolerant, hypocritical bigots.

But I don't expect them to apologize.


Anonymous said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

Do you think condemning acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims and condemning them are the same? I don't, but I think we are expected to do both. Most people I know will not apologize, as well they shouldn't, but most people I know also feel like they're under some obligation to condemn, whether it's when talking to the media or to their co-workers.

JDsg said...

Wa 'alaikum salaam.

"Do you think condemning acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims and condemning them are the same?"

I assume you mean "...apolgizing for them are the same?"

The two are not technically the same but, as you further wrote, "...but I think we are expected to do both." I agree. I believe most people, when they ask if we "condemn" such-and-such act of violence, they are really expecting the apology to be wrapped up inside the "condemnation." In that respect, I and some other Muslims I know feel that when we are asked to "condemn" such-and-such, we are really being asked to apologize. Code words.

I liked Ann's comment on your blog: "My children aren’t growing up constantly hearing negative things about Muslims and thinking they have to apologize for things done by people all over the world - and then worrying about the backlash." (My emphasis.)