Why condemning ISIS is offensive

By Eli Talbert / Columnist

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Trigger Warning: This is satirical

A disturbing trend has emerged out of radical Islam. No, I am not talking about ISIS itself — though that might also be a concern — I am referring to the assumption that moderate Muslims condemn groups like ISIS.

Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 24 and said, “It is time for the world — especially Muslim communities —to explicitly, forcefully and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIS,” 

This is highly problematic for a number of reasons, not to mention that it probably stems from Islamophobia. Expecting and even asking moderate Muslims to condemn groups like ISIS is an affront to all that is good and American.

Of course, with all such important cultural issues, there are those who would write this problem off as trivial, even denouncing it as whining. Some would claim that the harm caused by ISIS, which includes beheadings, forced marriages and honor killings, makes the discomfort of moderate Muslims irrelevant. 

These people need to remember a cardinal truth: Just because there are worse things happening in the world, doesn’t mean we can’t complain about things that are wrong here. Sure, it would be kind of obnoxious if you told a man who was bleeding to death that you couldn’t help him because you had a paper cut, but this is an entirely different situation. The discomfort that moderate Muslims might feel in being asked to condemn radical Islam is almost comparable to the discomfort of living under draconian sharia law where any infraction may be punishable by death.

Besides, it is not simply about being uncomfortable — the recent call from world leaders like Obama, for moderate Muslims to condemn radical organizations, such as ISIS, is thinly disguised Islamophobia. Why else would people ask Muslims to condemn other Muslims? 

Groups like ISIS probably weigh criticism from other Muslims exactly the same as way as they do from “disbelievers” that they have authorized to kill, “in any manner or way however it may be,” according to a statement from ISIS spokesperson, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.  

If ISIS were to treat condemnation from fellow Muslims as special, then that would be an act of cultural insensitivity and maybe even religious bigotry.

The public and Obama’s blatant hostility toward Islam is especially evident when one examines the treatment of other groups. After all, we don’t call on Christians, Democrats or Republicans to disavow radical members of their group. That is, unless one of them makes a statement that is seriously nonsensical and in bad taste, such as Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment that drew condemnation from all across the Republican party — including from the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. 

It is sad when a religious decree, like ISIS’s fatwah declaring it is okay to kill or steal from any citizen of the west, is expected to be strongly condemned as a horrible misogynistic comment like Akin’s. Where is our religious tolerance?

Why can’t Muslims feel free to refuse to condemn ISIS? I’m sure that, even given the horrible nature of Todd Akin’s comments, a Republican could have refused to condemn him based on the fact that Akin doesn’t represent all Republicans. Similarly, I bet the Pope could refuse to condemn pedophiliac priests because that would imply that pedophilia is the norm for the priesthood. Why are people singling out Islam?

As an American, I am sickened by the hypocrisy that would make it OK for me to refuse to condemn a male serial rapist because I am a man and not all men are rapists, and yet Muslims cannot do the equivalent.

Such hypocrisy is indicative of the intolerant society we live in. How will Muslims ever feel welcome in this country when the President himself calls on them to, “explicitly, forcefully and consistently reject the ideology” of radical groups like ISIS? 

Such statements are a dog whistle for Islamophobia, and it’s a further testament to how deeply rooted the problem is that it is not recognized as such. 

The solution is clear. We have to stop asking moderate Muslims to criticize radical Islam. If we don’t, we risk the feelings and emotional well-being of thousands of our citizens and a total collapse of religious freedom. 

Only together can we reverse the plague of intolerance and hate that is threatening to engulf America. Remember, though ISIS might have “Islamic State” in its name, it’s not really Islamic. Stand strong and fight the darkness.

Email Eli at ejt26@pitt.edu

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