Whenever you write something, especially whenever you get something in print, it's easy to re-read it and cringe. Sometimes justifiably and sometimes not. My recent column (in the Pioneer Press
, or a slightly different version in the: Indy Star
) is just such a column. I've gotten a lot of nice comments about the column, and in a lot of ways I'm proud of it, but in a lot ways it's making me cringe. And justifiably so.
Why? Because I open with a question -- which would make the Prophet sadder, the libelous cartoons or the violent reactions of his followers. Even though I answer that the actions of his followers is a betrayal of the Prophet and a bigger insult to him than the cartoons, I'm still uncomfortable with the fact that I pretty much equated nasty words/pictures with violence. Duh. Obviously, killing and burning on the part of his supposed followers is way worse! There is simply no comparison -- drawings vs murder and mayhem. It's like comparing gnats to killer bees. As I said... duh!
Which brings me to the issue of apologetics (otherwise known as the "yes, but..." syndrome). Looking at the column objectively, it probably wouldn't be perceived by most people as apologetic -- I didn't excuse the violence, or try to explain it, I condemned it roundly and showed how it was totally unIslamic. And yet, isn't placing the offense of the cartoons on a level with burning embassies in a way apologetic? Isn't that saying your pictures are as bad as violence, when in reality they are no where near as bad? Doesn't it minimize the significance of that violence, by saying it's no more important than a handful of offensive drawings? Is that not, in itself, apologetic in some ways?
This is, I believe, a huge issue for moderate, liberal, and progressive Muslims. We feel so shamed by the actions of our radical brethren that we are driven to explain why they do what they do. We rush to make their evil deeds seem less evil, so that we are not stained quite so badly by their actions. I believe this is a fatal mistake. I believe we need to stop explaining and go on the offensive.
One, because we are never going to successfully combat extremism if we are busy explaining why it isn't so bad, really. After all, radicals are going to take that as a sign that we actually agree with them, but that we're just not brave enough to say so. What they need to hear is other Muslims saying, this is wrong. It's un-Islamic. Period. No justifications, no explaining away.
Two, because while we are telling our neighbors it isn't so bad, we water down our own resistance to these things. We start to believe well maybe they are justified, maybe allowances should be made. Baloney. We know better.
Three, because anyone with half a brain sees through apologetics for what they are. Trying to cover the stench of militant actions by covering it with perfume doesn't work -- we just smell like skunks in the lilac bush. The only way to really stop stinking by association, is to wash ourselves of it completely.
Four, it's good for the soul. Truth sets our hearts at ease. Truth is Divine, and when we speak truth, we are blessed with peace.