Muslims should not apologise for the Charlie Hebdo killings

The scene of last Wednesday's shooting outside the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

Muslims should not feel compelled to apologise for the Charlie Hebdo killings, write Jilani Gulam.

Have you apologised yet? Or better still have you condemned? Never mind what you are condemning, just condemn away because you are Muslim and you are to blame.  This is the painful narrative and the very dangerous undertone that is now apparent and clear for all to see after recent events in France.

The backlash from the Charlie Hebdo killings has been blamed on Islam and Muslims in a much stronger way than previous incidents. The clamour for an apology seems to have grown stronger, and resonates with the entire society and social groups.

Why should Muslims apologise?

But why should Muslims apologise? Should the entire “community” of Muslims be held responsible for the actions of a few people?

Rupert Murdoch seems to think so, and he is by no means alone. Never mind the crude definition of “community”. It may come as a surprise to many bigoted Western commentators but Muslims are diverse. They don’t all share the same views and beliefs, and have major differences on a variety of issues. Yet funnily enough, this requirement to apologise rarely applies to other “communities”.

Should all Christians apologise for the several cases of child abuse by priests throughout the 70s and 80s? Should all journalists apologise for the phone hacking scandal? Perhaps all professional football players should apologise for Ched Evans’ rape conviction? In fact, since we are making broad generalisations, why shouldn’t all men apologise for Ched Evans?

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Charlie Hebdo

But “Ah”, the bigoted commentator retorts. The Charlie Hebdo shootings were done in the name of Muhammad (saw) – it’s done in “your” name, so an apology is needed to clarify “your” position and that of Islam in general.

Yes, on face value, this appears to make the case stronger. However, such generalisations are intended to disarm Muslims and make them feel defensive.

Sweeping generalisations should often be viewed with skepticism due to the fact that they can be misleading. At least they should be viewed with scrutiny so as to prove that the general principle is true.

The fact in this case is that nobody actually knows the exact motivations of the attackers – there are only unverified statements from the scene of the attack. The attackers belong to an underclass of Algerian Muslims living in shocking conditions (more on this later) so motivations are often blurred and unclear.

Even if a case could be made, does that prove anything? Does it mean the rest of us have to apologise as well? It is similar to expecting an apology from the British people for the MP’s expenses scandal. After all, MPs speak on behalf of the British public right?


The reality is the Muslims have nothing to apologise for.  We should be clear about that and raise our heads up high and repeat it; deliberately, slowly and with strength.

In fact, Muslims must not apologise or condemn. Not due to misplaced arrogance or lack of compassion but altogether for different reasons. This doesn’t mean we agree with actions committed by others nor that we hate all Westerners.

At its most fundamental level an apology glosses over major injustices that have happened against Muslims. Charlie Hebdo is hardly a neutral balanced publication. It has been provoking Muslims and other minorities for years. Those insisting on supporting the Je Suis Charlie (I am Charlie) campaign should ask themselves if this includes the cowardly edition that mocked the brave Muslims massacred by Egypt’s General Sisi after a rally (imagine the response if Muslim satirists responded by mocking the Charlie Hebdo dead) as well as the disturbing edition that mocked the victims of rape apparently committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

But at a deeper level it totally ignores France’s treatment of its Muslim minority. Banning the niqab, arresting those that pray the morning prayers at the mosque, restricting work in the public sector jobs for practicing Muslims, denial of social security, lack of employment and demonising them to such a state that parallels to Hitler’s treatment of Jews can be drawn.

It is as if these attacks are the start of the story, while the real backstory is conveniently glossed over.

Three reasons not to apologise

However, there are three very clear, practical reasons why Muslims should not apologise.

Firstly, an apology is an admission of guilt, which presupposes that we have done something wrong. This is a major problem since it implies that Islam caused atrocities to occur, and this is something that we simply cannot accept. It is our responsibility and obligation to clarify our position on this and refute the causal link.

Secondly, it then follows that either you change aspects of your beliefs to conform to the so-called “correct” values such as freedom of expression or leave them totally. Let us be clear, the attacks on Islam in light of Charlie Hebdo by the likes of Douglas Murray are designed to give credence to a set of apologists who have government-funded institutions designed to make Muslims question their beliefs. At worst Muslims feel they need to be quiet while others speak for them, and at worst Muslims start to change sacrosanct values.

Thirdly, it is used as a justification for a variety of other measures against Muslims. Both 9/11 and 7/7 precipitated a raft of legislation targeting Muslims, ironically curtailing their right to criticise Western foreign policy, as well as a host of quite targeted measures such as “stop and search” against them. There is very little evidence that these measures have prevented any attacks, and they have a low success rate. Only the naïve would think these laws would not be used exclusively against Muslims.

Not only should we explain and clarify our position, we should ensure that those that speak on our behalf don’t apologise for us either.


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