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I’m sorry I won’t internalize collective responsibility #MuslimApologies

This past week at the UN General Assembly, in reference to the threat of terrorism, particularly, acts committed by Muslims, President Obama stated the following:  “Second, it is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.” Later in his speech, Obama praised a campaign launched by British Muslims called #notinmyname, which seeks to distance the acts of a few from what Islam preaches.   Obama’s statement herein was emblematic of the burden that has been placed on Muslims around the globe that positions the entire population of 1.1 billion individuals as collectively responsible for the actions of a handful of Muslims. As a Muslim American, living in a post 9-11 United States, I have continuously asked myself why I should be responsible for condemning such acts when I, like the majority of Muslims around the globe am in no way, shape or form involved with and/or privy to any of the acts of violence that have been committed by other Muslims.   As a Muslim, can I explain the acts of violence by other Muslims based on our shared identity?  NO.  But can I work to explain this violence through a scholarly endeavor that undertakes an understanding through the a socio-political lens that actually investigates the myriad of factors including war and occupation that lead to the rise of such groups?  Absolutely. While politicians and Islamophobes alike continue to pressure the Muslim community into nonsensical apologies based on a homogenized identity, many Muslims have, unfortunately, internalized the narrative of collective responsibility, leading them to issue condemnations of acts of violence and terrorism based only on the fact that we share one piece of our identity.  Coupled with the ever present voice of those calling for Muslims to speak out against Muslim terrorists, those who have stepped up to this plate, have not presented a counter-narrative as they purport, but rather an internalization of the dominant narrative where Muslims are guilty until proven innocent.  Most ripe in this sense is Frantz Fanon’s quote in which he states the following:  “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”   As one of many Muslims who has been repeatedly frustrated by the burden of collective guilt, I decided to design a t-shirt that responded to this charge with cynicism and sarcasm as a way of fighting back.  Below is the t-shirt design debut:

This message of resisting collective responsibility resonated with many Muslims on Facebook, and upon the suggestion of a friend, the #MuslimApologies was launched.  Within hours, the hashtag was trending, with Muslims apologizing about everything from incorrect McDonald’s orders to World War I.  Some of my tweets are included below in addition to what I think are some of the funniest ones: 

I will end this blog with one question to all my fellow Muslims:  What are you sorry for?


  • Published by
  • September 26, 2014 5:00 pm


Profile Photo by Inusah Mohammed Awall

The fate a lot of Muslim Ummah face, for belonging to a religion whose philosophical underpinning is “Peace”. Unfortunately for some of us, distant happenings have made people to collectively describe all of us as inherently violent.

Profile Photo by Dr. Samuel Mahaffy

Thank you for sharing your response to President Obama’s remarks and deepening the conversation.  You speak with both truth and conviction.  Any blaming or implied blaming of the Muslim community for acts of extremists who hijack the deep spiritual teachings of Islam, is completely inappropriate.  It only enhances prejudice and stereotypes.  The real question that must be asked, as I see it, is how we have all collectively co-created an environment in which ISIS and such extremism came to have such predominance?   At some level, ISIS is a co-construction of the dynamics of power, control and exploitation with a mix of an enormous amount of ignorance and disrespect for the religions, traditions, cultures, people and autonomy of the peoples who live in this part of the world.  That culpability runs deep. It is also a bi-product of our collectively being bystanders to oppression, injustice and discrimination.  This leaves me wanting to move from the question of who should be apologizing for ISIS and extremism to the question of how can we be active in peacebuilding and restoration of relationships across faiths.  I do wish to see the interfaith community speaking with clarity correcting misperceptions around fundamentalism and extremism from all faith traditions and pointing the world back toward the teachings of the prophets, saints and teachers who have always pointed toward the path of peace, mercy and compassion and the way of being in the world that brings peace and happiness rather than suffering and death.  Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.  I hope this will lead to deepening conversations that bring healing.  Kindest wishes,  Samuel Mahaffy

Profile Photo by Richard Close

I think these are real brush off responses.

As a Christian we are still apologizing for the Crusades and much of the terrible salivary from colonialism and the slave trade into the US. We are still paying a price for this. We live with this. In scripture is called sin in the camp.

We look at the lesson Rwanda taught us. When part of a household does something wrong we all pay a price. But it goes round and round forever until we police our own, rebuke our own. We must face off our own evil and deal with it. Rwanda taught us that. ]

I have been in many heated debates within my own religion about the sin of violent gaming and killing. In the US we have had 44 school shooting since the massacre of Sandy Hook first grader that is ten minutes from my home.

In each argument against violent media and angry News I have used Jesus and won the argument. Do not forget the Gandhi used Jesus in South african and Gandhi called on Hindu and Muslins to take care of their own.

Apology and self policing is a part of the healing processes. We can not forgive until we recognize what is wrong. We have forgotten that America was once divided into civil war over political – religious reasons. We lost 10% of our country and divided families over it over slavery and then burst into riots of the 60s about racism. 

In the 60s I remember the racial jokes in schools, by the 70s they were gone and ver un kool. This was achieved by self policing. 

Right now Academia in the US is persecuting any Christian paper or one on values out of strong backlash from the Radical right republicans.  

When our religions get run by dictators and politician they become corrupt. Muslin, Christian and of course many cults and mallitia. No one is better armed on calling these leaders on their sins than people within their own religion. 

Democracy is a self policing process. And no religious leader is above reproach. 

I is false to think that Muslins or Christian are above rebukes. If we hold that as an ideal than we have failed to learn from the lives of Martin Luther King Jr, Martin Luther, Gandhi Ji sacrificed for us.

The truth is Christians should be< and are upset about the Iraq war, Muslins should be upset about terrorism. And we should be both proactive to stop it. Both our religions have the theologicals tools to do so. But to sit back and say we have nothing to do about it makes us part of the problem.

The Muslin community should rise up against terrorism and the Christian community should also rise up against the radical wrong. But the truth is we hide behind intellectual relativeness of the blogs. Obama is spot on right However he missed the point the US Christians should also but in jail the US war mongrils, corporations and bankers that rape the poor of world for profits.

Mean while China sits in shadows making billions on war and walking away with all the spoils of our children lives. Some China seems to be like teflon in sponsoring these wars and then gaining the mineral rights.


Profile Photo by Courtney Roberts Conrad

Maybe one day Americans will start apologizing for drones, and Gaza, and 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq and …. but don’t hold your breath.

Profile Photo by Jack F. Sigman

Muslims are killing Jews in France over what happens in Israel.

Muslims killed 3000 in the USA on 9/11 over what is happening in Israel.

Don’t apologize. It appears most believe such an apology is insincere.

Based on the Muslims dancing in the streets after 9/11, who could believe a significant number of Muslims, the mainstream, do not celebrate these events?

Profile Photo by Suzette Henry Campbell

It is unfortunate that the actions of a few misguided elements should be used to vilify other members. Propaganda is a powerful tool that is used to divide and conquer. Yes, the evil perpetrated by ISIS, has to be neutralized and there may be an opportunity for those who are agents of peace to do this. Discredit their narrative through strategic and timely data that is anchored to the tenets of Islam.

Profile Photo by Olya Kenney

I agree with Richard Close. Taking things to ridiculous extremes just makes me feel like people are avoiding the issue. If I am a believer and people are misrepresenting my faith and doing horrible things in my name, it seems to me that it would be my responsibility as a human being to step up and denounce those acts as not being representative of my faith. Who else is their to do it? And certainly, if we look at most historical grievances in the world, even the ancestors of wrongdoings are asked to apologize, take responsibility, and ensure those things don;t happen again. For all the energy that was spent on being sarcastic and refusing responsibility for things that do not in any way purport to be related to Islam, one wonders why that much energy didn’t go into a #notinmyname type campaign opposing the actions of those who DO do things in the name of Islam. I know there are people doing this, but why not a more widespread campaign? why is this campaign the one spreading like wildfire? I assume it’s because many Muslims feel hurt, and rightfully so, by stereotyping, but this campaign seems to be doing more of a disservice to them than a service.

Profile Photo by Jack F. Sigman

Unfortunately, these events are not far away. Just as it was wrong for the US having an isolationist approach to Europe over both the Great War (recall Germany tried to get Mexico to attack the US) and WWII, it is wrong for the US, and its citizens, not to actively oppose radical Islam. This opposition includes the vocal support of the American Islamic community.

The so-called islamophobia is nothing compared to the antisemitism seen on American campuses, organized by mainstream Islamic organizations.

The complaint regarding “apologizing” is disingenuous. No one needs your apology. We all need the Islamic community to have an active visible and vocal fight against radical Islam. That community is certainly vocal and visible when it comes to fighting Israel.

Profile Photo by Roger M. Christian


Believe me, I do understand about the false’ness of developing internalize forms of guilt collectivism forced upon a peoples, and what brought you to make your commentary, as a result of your own feelings.  A lot of what you say is truthful.  None the less what Muslims around the world are really facing are growing contradictions between faith and actions within a ever growing world of technologies and knowledge – which is undermining the traditional foundations of Islam itself. Moreover, the world takes in actions as truth rather than knowing the concepts of Islam which in large part may reject violence. What you should be likewise advised, as well as other who feel like you, truthfully there is a critical need for a Reform Islamic Conclave conducted by International Islamic authorities, and clerics to resolve growing contradictions. Lastly, there is a growing secular movement — within the Arab nations —- which has likewise emerged in which the morality of Islam is accepted and truthfully appreciated, but that Sharia, or the Koran are now longer respected – but are completely rejected; the real victims of present terrorism, i.e. ISIS.

I wish both you and yours every happiness, a I can affirm you gentle spirit and the humanistic nature which created it,

Roger M. Christian, Ithaca, New York 

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