Following the recent shooting of a French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo staff, the usual demands that the Muslim community worlds wide say something on the matter have been made. This has become a somewhat popular refrain whenever Muslim fundamentalists commit some atrocities. It happened with the September 11 attacks it happened with the failed shoe bomber plot it continues to happen with the Boko Haram atrocities. The question that begs answering is why is a whole religion held responsible for the atrocities of a few members who claim to belong to that religion? Why is the media and the international community so ready to believe that these terrorists are Muslims? Even if they are Muslims, why must the billions of Muslims around the world have to apologise for the misdeeds of some of their people? The Christian community is never asked to apologise for the Catholic Priests who molested children. Only the Catholic Church has been asked to apologise for it and they took their good time to do that. The Botswana government was never asked to apologise for the horrible attack on a Zimbabwean farm worker by a Motswana. All these instances point towards a very deliberate anti Muslim agenda worldwide. The idea that Islam is an evil religion is allowed to grow in the minds of unsuspecting consumers of news. This is wrong on so many levels.
Here in Botswana Muslims coexist with Christians, Non-Christians, Buddhists, Baha’i and the rest of Batswana peacefully. When the Gaborone Mosque was defaced recently there was never any revenge on any community nor was there protest, violent or otherwise from the Muslim community in Botswana. The Muslim community understood that there are such characters in society and they did not ascribe it to any greater agenda. They could have. They could easily have claimed persecution in Botswana, they could have demanded that Churches in Botswana apologise for the defacing.
They did not. Instead they held their emotions and the issue passed. This points to a side of Islam that is hardly ever gets mentioned in the news. The Islam that is tolerant peacefully and has a deep sense of community responsibility. Muslims are not radicals but there are radical Muslims. Muslims around the world deserve better than to be blamed all the time for the atrocities committed by people who claim to share their religion. It may well be that they are followers of Islam but it is clear that they follow a different kind of Islam. The idea that has been created that Muslims are this homogenous group that is hell bent of destroying the world is patently flawed and there has to be a better way of reporting on this. The sort of negativity towards Muslims could be to blame for the increased radicalisation of young Muslims. A world that persistently tells you that your way of life is bad and jumps at every opportunity to portray it as inherently evil cannot possibly be a world you would want to exist in. Anybody would want to change such a world to suit them. Humanity has since the beginning of time attempted to change any environment to suit them. Can young Muslims be blamed for attempting to adjust a very hostile world environment to suit their way of live and thought? This is not by any means a justification of radicalism; it is an attempt to show that the negative perception about Islam that is being perpetuated by different media platforms and certain international opinion leaders could be partly to blame for increased incidences of violent backlash from radicals. It is hard to see how Muslims should be asked to apologise. Is it possible that Muslim leaders can help curb radicalisation of the religion? I say yes they have a role to play. Their role is however complicated by the unfair attacks on the religion itself. Which Muslim leader will want to come out openly and criticise radical interpretations of the religion in the midst of a very pervasive attack on the religion? The attacks and unfair expectations on Islam are isolating moderate Islam at best and catalysing Radical extremist Islam at worst. It is wrong, immoral and undemocratic to expect a whole people to accept responsibility for something not of their doing. This western imperialist thinking must be rejected with the contempt it deserves. There are evil Muslims as there are evil Christians, evil Jews, evil Baha’i and yes evil atheists. Muslims in Botswana or anywhere in the world have no reason, no reason whatsoever to apologise or take responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks or any other atrocity. These are the Muslims who are as hurt as the rest of the Human community at the loss of human life. They did not instigate the atrocity they do not condone the atrocity and as such have no reason to be apologising.