It’s an unfortunate reality for minority groups that they are often pressured to embody exemplary behaviour. Because of a tide of suspicion and hostility often flows against minority groups (some more than others), these groups must often model a standard of morality, fastidiousness, and earnestness that is not required of members of the majority group, simply as a matter of survival. Failure to perform in this way usually means that the entire group is punished for the (ordinary and expected) transgressions of a select few. Black folks know this as the “twice as good” phenomenon.
And so it is with some self-loathing that I congratulate the leaders of the London Muslim Mosque for releasing a statement condemning extremist violence:
Muslim leaders in London, Ont., say they “unequivocally condemn violent extremism of any kind” following the identification of two young Canadians from the city as participants in a deadly attack in Algeria earlier this year. Chair of the London Muslim Mosque, Rob Osman, said at a news conference Tuesday that “the Association of London Muslims has and will continue to unequivocally condemn violent extremism of any kind, as this is the opposite to the core teachings of Islam.”
CBC News has learned that two al-Qaeda-linked militants, Xristos Katsiroubas, 22, and Ali Medlej, 24, came from a comfortable middle-class neighbourhood in London and were former high school friends, who may have attended the mosque. The attack on an Algerian gas plant left more than three dozen refinery workers dead, the final 10 of whom were reportedly tied to gas plant piping and killed in a massive bomb blast.
Munir El-Kassem, imam of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, also spoke at the news conference, and said that “we as Muslims are as concerned as everybody else.” El-Kassem said the families of the two suspects were not known to him or his colleagues.
The condemnation, coming off the heels of revelation that two Canadian youth (with a third possibly implicated) were responsible for a terrorist attack, is precisely the kind of thing that secularists have been decrying “moderate Muslims” for failing to do. In the sense that they took the opportunity to speak out against violence and specifically address the issue, I congratulate them and think they are doing the right thing. That being said, I cannot help but feel some reflexive shame in knowing that this group, which has only a fleeting connection to the people who carried out the attacks, undoubtedly felt pressure to do so. Indeed, I find it not-at-all hard to imagine that some reactionary columnist would find it “suspicious” had they failed to do so, and would have interpreted their lack of specific condemnation as a blanket endorsement.
Indeed, the comment threads of the story have rapidly filled with people saying that “Islam is particularly prone to terrorism” (an assessment that I am sorry to see that PZ Myers buys into as well), speaking with faux certainty about ‘terror mosques’ and noting how “we didn’t used to have these problems before we let refugees in” – ignoring, of course, that these kids weren’t refugees, and that religious terrorism is not a new phenomenon in Canada. This, despite the fact that the story is about how these actions were specifically condemned by the community they’re busy blaming.
At any rate, while I am glad the Association of London Muslims has spoken out (and while I do note that their ‘No True Muslim’ stance is irritating as shit), I am sorry both that they felt it was necessary to speak out against something they have no association with, and that it will likely not be enough to safeguard them from the suspicion and xenophobia that is sure to come their way.
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