How many times do we need to apologize for ourselves? How many times do we need to say sorry for the actions of people we don’t know, for crimes we have never committed?
I’m not apologizing anymore. There’s no reason for me to.
The merciless murders of three Syrian-Americans at UNC-Chapel Hill show that terrorism has no boundaries—Muslim, atheist, or anyone else—and that blind hatred isn’t limited to Muslims. Yet how much media coverage did the UNC shooting receive?
The US media didn’t cover the shooting until there was intense social media backlash. The Arab American News noted the coverage by a British publication a full five hours before major American coverage began. What does that say about the fate of Muslim-American victims at the hands of our media? Has Chapel Hill set the standard for more stereotyping, more hatred, and more marginalization of the Muslim-American community?
Compare UNC’s coverage to the coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Within minutes, my Twitter feed exploded with possible suspects, maps of the area, and breaking headlines across the board. Opinion pieces criticizing the inaction of local Muslims and lamenting the reign of ISIS flooded the news for weeks after the attack. And who could forget the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, which prioritized hate speech over the rights of minority voices.
The Charlie Hebdo artists didn’t deserve to die, but that doesn’t mean they should be venerated. Freedom of speech has its limits, and that line is crossed with the blatant defamation of other religions. And in a country that preaches freedom and tolerance, Muslim women worry about how they’ll be treated if they choose to wear a hijab.
Why is it that when a Christian or Jewish or atheist person commits an act of terrorism, the media almost never mentions the person’s religious affiliation? And yet, when a Muslim person commits one, “Muslim” is bolded in every headline? When a Muslim is responsible, the word terrorist is thrown around without a moment’s hesitation, and an entire population is held to blame for the radical actions of a few crazy extremists. Muslim-Americans are considerably more likely to experience racial or religious discrimination, and yet we are often forgotten when we are the victims.
According to the US media, Muslim lives matter only if they are the ones on the shooting side of the gun, the triggering side of the bomb—not if they are the ones being killed, not if it is their families that are being torn apart by raging bullets.
I will not apologize for my faith because of the actions of radical terrorists. It is grossly unfair to label an entire population on the basis of the actions of a few. Islam is not only a religion, but also a culture, deeply rooted in the values of love and peace and caring for one another. These terrorists have twisted and skewed the words of the Quran to justify their actions by saying they’re carrying out their duty as Muslims, when, in reality, they’re not truly Muslims at all, and do not represent our beliefs in the slightest.
So no, I will not apologize or suffer the consequences of the disgusting actions of others. Followers of Islam—23 percent of the world’s population—are punished by stereotypes that are perpetuated because of those who just happened to call themselves Muslims, and that’s ridiculous.
It’s 2015, people. How much longer will we judge an entire group based on its vocal minorities, or perpetuate double standards against entire cultures, or preach tolerance and equality while discrimination clearly still runs rampant? We’re not sorry for making noise about injustice, for getting angry about the hijab ban, or for being on the right side of history.