Message to Muslims: I'm Sorry

Category: Americas, Life & Society Topics: Muslims Channel: Opinion Views: 8417
8417

That's reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I'm going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.

I'm inspired by another journalistic apology. The Portland Press Herald in Maine published an innocuous front-page article and photo a week ago about 3,000 local Muslims praying together to mark the end of Ramadan. Readers were upset, because publication coincided with the ninth anniversary of 9/11, and they deluged the paper with protests.

So the newspaper published a groveling front-page apology for being too respectful of Muslims. "We sincerely apologize," wrote the editor and publisher, Richard Connor, and he added: "we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page." As a blog by James Poniewozik of Time paraphrased it: "Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human."

I called Mr. Connor, and he seems like a nice guy. Surely his front page isn't reserved for stories about Bad Muslims, with articles about Good Muslims going inside. Must coverage of law-abiding Muslims be "balanced" by a discussion of Muslim terrorists?

Penguins

Nicholas Kristof

Ah, balance - who can be against that? But should reporting of Pope Benedict's trip to Britain be "balanced" by a discussion of Catholic terrorists in Ireland? And what about journalism itself?

I interrupt this discussion of peaceful journalism in Maine to provide some "balance." Journalists can also be terrorists, murderers and rapists. For example, radio journalists in Rwanda promoted genocide.

I apologize to Muslims for another reason. This isn't about them, but about us. I want to defend Muslims from intolerance, but I also want to defend America against extremists engineering a spasm of religious hatred.

Granted, the reason for the nastiness isn't hard to understand. Extremist Muslims have led to fear and repugnance toward Islam as a whole. Threats by Muslim crazies just in the last few days forced a Seattle cartoonist, Molly Norris, to go into hiding after she drew a cartoon about Muhammad that went viral.

And then there's 9/11. When I recently compared today's prejudice toward Muslims to the historical bigotry toward Catholics, Mormons, Jews and Asian-Americans, many readers protested that it was a false parallel. As one, Carla, put it on my blog: "Catholics and Jews did not come here and kill thousands of people."

That's true, but Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor and in the end killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda ever did. Consumed by our fears, we lumped together anyone of Japanese ancestry and rounded them up in internment camps. The threat was real, but so were the hysteria and the overreaction.

Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.

Many Americans honestly believe that Muslims are prone to violence, but humans are too complicated and diverse to lump into groups that we form invidious conclusions about. We've mostly learned that about blacks, Jews and other groups that suffered historic discrimination, but it's still O.K. to make sweeping statements about "Muslims" as an undifferentiated mass.

In my travels, I've seen some of the worst of Islam: theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God's bidding.

But I've also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.

I'm sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

******

Source: New York Times


  Category: Americas, Life & Society
  Topics: Muslims  Channel: Opinion
Views: 8417

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Older Comments:
BELLO MUH'D FROM NIGERIA said:
ITS OK
2010-09-27

SAMIN FROM USA said:
Salaam/Peace Mr. Martinez,

I think no Muslim in the USA, hate this country or even think USA is big satan. If so why we stay here. Why we pay tax, why we involve in community activity for the betterment of USA. Why many of us send our sons and daughters in the military, and fighting for USA in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places. Why Muslim's owned company hires non Muslim employee and on and on.

Criticizing can not be translated as hate or not loyal. Doesn't agree on a certain policy doesn't mean hate too. During Vietnam war many American criticize the war, during the black movement era, African American criticize USA's policy to them, this days many Latin American criticize the policy of federal and state gov. to immigrants from Latin America. Do/did they hate the country or the states that they live, not at all.

Regarding ground zero is sacred, first of all the Islamic Cultural is not in Ground Zero. If it's in Ground Zero, I myself don't feel comfortable with it. Secondly it's not a mosque. Moreover why the Oklahoma federal is not consider sacred, why there is no restriction to build a church the place of worship of Timothy McVeigh, near the building.

All human including American make mistake, what we think is good not always be the case. Similarly what we think is bad, not always bad. In many cases our opinion change overtime, here one of the example:

Reagan: Taliban 'moral equivalent of America's founding fathers'
http://www.legitgov.org/Reagan-calls-Taliban-moral-equivalent-Americas-founding-fathers

So don't be over confidence with your opinion, later on you might find your opinion is incorrect. Similarly regarding the Islamic Cultural Center near ground zero, you can agree or disagree that totally your right. Good or bad, it's very subjective.

Also regarding your comment that in majority of Muslim country freedom of warship is not guarantee. I think is the other way around, if we can not say "none" only very few Muslim country that not give it's citizens to warship whatever the want.

You can very easily make a statistic how many churches in Muslim majority country compare to how many mosque in Christian majority country. How many Christian majority countries have Eid as national Holiday, compare to how many Muslim majority countries have Christmas as national holiday. How many Christian majority countries have Friday as the holiday compare to how many Muslim country have Sunday as Holiday. In Indonesia they have Christmas, Easter (Good Friday), Ascension of Jesus, of course new year. During Christmas time you will see Marry Christmas billboards, in every corner of the city there. More or less, you will find similar story in Egypt, Malaysia, Turkey etc.
2010-09-27

HECTOR MARTINEZ FROM USA said:
I do not apologize to muslims, and resent you posting a letter from one man apologizing for how he personally feels and make it look as thought 95% of americans feel that way.

I resent the building of a mosque near ground zero, that area is sacred, and the builders unyielding refusal to not build really shows me the sensitivity and understanding that muslims posses. To me, it's like building a church near muhammads tomb, how would muslims feel about that?

I've spent several hours reading your articles, and they are clear that muslims are virulently anti-israel and anti american.

It appears to me that most muslims do not care that the rights afforded to them come from the lost lives of hundreds of thousands of americans thru countless wars. If we ( USA) are the great satan, why have so many muslims come to her shores? I know the right of not being murdered or hauled off to jail for speaking your mind, or living and worshipping as you please could not be said of most muslim countries.

Why do so many muslims remain silent while living in this country, they have nothing to fear, but again, by reading what's on this website, it is clear that most muslims in this country speak of their new homeland as the great satan, they are still being preached to by an antiquated systematic way of thinking that reaches back to their home countries.

As a christian I've desparately wanted to embrace my muslim brothers and welcome them and ask them to help us make this world safer for all religions and nationalities, but I read your websites writings and ideology, and all i do is weep.

Hector L Martinez
New York NY
2010-09-26

SAMIN FROM USA said:
Kam,

I did a quick "google-ing" but I ddin't find any solid pove that he is muslim. I just wonder, where you did get the info. Just too make sure you were not "day dreaming".
2010-09-26

WESTERNFEMINISTA FROM AUSTRALIA said:
I'm sorry that this was ever posted. I do not want this man apologizing on my behalf - I have nothing to be sorry for.
2010-09-25

ALIYYAH FROM UNITED STATES said:
Thank you for looking at the other side. I listen to radio, who I usually think of as liberal towards Islam, speak on Islam or the whole 9/11 mosque thing. They use phrases like Muslims have rights too, and we have to treat them according to our laws, but what I don't hear them say is, "Not all Muslims are terrorists", "Islam isn't a terrorist religion", "It's crazy that this is even a subject since what does a mosque have to do with terrorism?". It's like they allow for the tearing down of the religion, but say we should still give the rights under the law. Thanks for acknowledging that there is a difference.
2010-09-24

KAM FROM - said:
For those people who do not know the religious affinity of mr. Nicholas D. Kristof , here is a news. He converted to Islam few years ago. It his right and I respect it. So do you expect any remarks critical about his faith?

Some time they say, a new convert -Catholic- is more catholic than pope himself! Just a fact of life. Wa Salaam

I hope Iviews would have the courage to publish my views.
Kam
2010-09-24

A RAHMAN FROM UK said:
Atleast there is one educated person in USA !
2010-09-23

MOHAMMAD YACOOB FROM USA said:
In this regard, I would like to say that there are more schools in the United States than any other country in the world; there are more libraries in the United States than any other country in the world; there are more books in the United States than any other country in the world, and yet there is more ignorance about Islam in the United States than any other country in the world.
MOHAMMAD YACOOB, Hawthorne
http://articles.latimes.com/1991-02-12/local/me-984_1_islam-anti-muslim-feeling-textbook

I wrote this on February 12, 1991 in Los Angeles Times.

Ignorance is the greatest threat to civilized society. The US Muslims have always condemned the activities of the Muslim terrorists throughout the world. Still people in the US keep on saying that we do not condemn enough.



Dr. Maher Hathout, Senior Advisor of Muslim Public Affairs Council of America wrote, some time back, an article in Los Angeles Times about terrorism and the response of the US Muslims. An exact quote of what he wrote is not available at this time, however, in part, he wrote something close to this: "We always condemn terrorism, speak against terrorism, proclaim and shout that it is against Islam to engage in terrorist activities. We are shouting and you can't hear it, because you are deaf."

Let us work for tolerance, harmony and pursuit of understanding.
May God bless America, humanity and our space ship - the Earth.

Mohammad Yacoob
2010-09-22

MOHAMMAD SYED FROM USA said:
Thank you, Mr. kristof, for being a voice of reason and fairness.
2010-09-22

BABANDI A. GUMEL FROM U.K said:
Dear Nicholas Kristoff. We say Jazakallahu Khairan for your objective sincere apology. If all people are like you the world will live in peace not living in pieces as we see today. We know people like so and so do come to the forum only to hurt the feelings of Muslims and insult the Deen. We need fair minded people like Kristoff coming to this forum encouraging inter personal objective dialouge which could lead to better understanding between the Muslims and the non Muslims helping us to move forward not backwards. Again we say May Allah reward you with the best reward for your fair objective analysis.
2010-09-22

PROF.M.NYAMATHULLAH FROM INDIA said:
I salute you,Sir, for being so reasonable and fully aware of realities about "Much-maligned Muslims and Misunderstood Islam!"

By your enviable piece you have proved that the 1,400 years old Quranic statement is true now and for ever! "THOU WILT FIND THE NEAREST OF THEM IN AFFECTION TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE (TO BE) THOSE WHO SAY: LO! WE ARE CHRISTIANS. THAT IS BECAUSE THERE AMONG THEM ARE MEN DEVOTED TO LEARNING AND MEN WHO HAVE RENOUNCED THE WORLD! AND THEY ARE NOT ARROGANT!" (HOLY QURAN 5:82).

LET PEACE PREVAIL!
2010-09-22

HALL FROM MALAYSIA said:
Why you feel defeated romesh chander?
2010-09-22

ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Why is Nick Kristoff apologizing? Did he do any harm to muslims or say anything nasty to muslims? It is like somebody else apologizing for me making 'anti-muslim' statements. Do their apologies mean anything or just empty words.

Let the people who did harm to muslims apologize. Unfortunately, they are totally silent.

Frankly, I consider apology by Kristoff meaningless and even silly.
2010-09-22