January 2015 — I was in Chapel Hill, musing. Extremists were running wild in Iraq, doing awful things.
One day at Cobb Residence Hall, I ran into some Muslim girls hosting a “hijab-tying party.” They were showing other students how to tie headscarves. It was super cool, and one of the girls seemed so nice that I asked her later, “Would you join an art project with me to protest the extremist crimes?”
She hesitated. “Well, I don’t know enough about that to make a statement.”
This seemed easy to overcome. “Well, you know they’re killing minorities. Can’t you make a statement about that?”
She waved her hands theatrically. “Oh, I’m not in support of killing! I just don’t know enough about that situation specifically.”
I tried again, “I want to dissuade western Muslim girls who flee to marry militants.”
But she repeated that she “didn’t know enough” and left. She didn’t know that beneath a flag proclaiming “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his Messenger” — the same words we say in prayer daily — Yazidi girls were being enslaved.
Meanwhile, there’s a high chance she could launch into a whole speech about how Muslims in Palestine or Myanmar are oppressed.
I also bet she says, “OMG! Americans just, like, don’t pay attention to world events!”
But when it was her turn to pay attention, she did no better. What’s the point of feel-good outreach if its basis of trust and forthrightness is ragged and knotted?
I mentioned her to my Muslim friends. Some thought her crazy, not for skirting my protest (maybe my shoes were too tacky for her) but because every Muslim should know how they feel about girl-enslaving brutes.
Other Muslims said, “Why must we protest extremism when it’s an artifact of American imperialism?”
I pity them — so assured of Muslim purity that even when it’s clearly us wielding the head-chopping axe, it’s still someone else’s fault.
In November 2015, an American Muslim blogger complained of western hypocrisy — that the West mourns terrorism victims in Paris while ignoring Muslim victims in Iraq and Gaza.
I replied civilly, but with fire, that we Muslims have just as many hypocrisies: Where is our outrage at our own genocides or ethnic cleansings in Darfur or East Timor?
The blogger is a prominent Muslim. She should spearhead Muslim self-reflection. Instead, she deleted my comment.
She emailed to say my post was not in her blog’s spirit. OK. But she never modified her own words — they still stand handmaiden to the powerful canon in the global Muslim community which holds: We are always victims, and we never victimize.
A few days later, I applied to be a DTH columnist, and now, unless God wills it, you can’t delete what I say — whether it’s about injustices toward or by Muslims. Without addressing both, how can we create a peaceful world?