After the recent murder of twelve people in Paris, France, ostensibly by Muslims offended at their victims’ desecration of the prophet Muhammad in their satirical paper, a number of Muslims across the world took to the airwaves and the Internet in order to denounce this round of violence as “an un-Islamic act.” In our post-9/11 world, this is, unfortunately, what is expected of Muslims in the Western world, where they constitute a religious minority with a tenuous grasp on acceptance by the larger populace. However, the plight of religious or ethnic minorities frequently targeted for persecution themselves does not change the fact that this case of mass murder was an Islamic act, contrary to all the denunciations posted on Twitter.
Now, I am not saying that Muslims are inherently violent or that those Muslims denouncing these killings are actually lying about the content of their personal beliefs. What I am saying is this: if these killings were perpetrated by Muslims who were motivated on the basis of their religion, then it makes no sense whatsoever to describe these acts as “un-Islamic.” After all, I am not a Muslim, and so I am ignorant of the internal debates in that community as to what constitutes a true expression of Islam. How am I, therefore, supposed to evaluate whether an act perpetrated by Muslims in the name of their religion is really a genuine religious deed?
I got in trouble a while back when I described Westboro Baptist Church, famous for their “God Hates Fags” slogan, as a Christian organization. A friend of mine who has long been a student of Christianity with aspirations toward ministry herself shot me down, saying that they by no means constituted “true Christians.” But they are motivated by the same Bible as she. They call themselves Christians. Who am I to dismiss their claims to that identity, especially since I have no other way of evaluating it? Consider Christianity like a book club (albeit one that focuses pretty heavily upon one specific book, with different members using different translations). The fact that I differ with other members of the book club on how best to interpret said book does not mean that we’re not members of the same club. Sorry, but those Westboro folks with their cheap signs and evil glares are your brethren and sistren, whether you like it or no.
So when journalists are beheaded for the pleasure of YouTube viewers, that is an Islamic act. When gynecologists are shot down for performing legal medical procedures, that is a Christian act. To describe it otherwise is simply an attempt to disown the darkness that lies somewhere in your own canonical texts, in the ideology that you hold dear. Until you own that darkness, you cannot take the first step in shining some light upon it.
Point being–it’s enough to denounce murder. That should be the end of it. Spare me your theological concatenations as to why this particular act of murder should not be considered a true expression of the ideology that so clearly motivated it. I honestly don’t care.