Why are we apologetic about Islamic terror?

Hundreds of children shot dead as they were reading their books. A woman beheaded in Mecca in full public view. Thousands of people slaughtered by Boko Haram.

All these have happened in the last ten days, and the only common thread among them was that the perpetrators screamed ‘Allah O Akbar’ when they killed innocents.

The response of the Indian intelligentsia circuit was predictable as always. On how we are falling into the trap laid out by the terrorists. That they want us to feel angry and lost, and moments like this require us to delve into our deep, humane side. While the terrorist delves into his pocket and pulls out a Kalashnikov.

Why is the whole gamut of rational-atheist-intelligentsia silent about Islam? Why is there always a gigantic blanket of apology over the issue? Why are we embarrassed to talk about Islam and its problems?

The other surprising fact is that the same bunch of people raise a hue and cry when a book is banned. Remember Wendy Doniger’s book? How many people actually read it? How many people did it affect? Were lives lost? Did blood flow?

I understand the common argument – that oppression is not necessarily physical. That suppressing free speech could be as heinous as any other crime. I get all of that. But what about when people are getting slaughtered in reality? What about when gunmen (who are supposedly fighting the cause of Islam, but do not possess the balls to show their face to the world) enter a building and shoot journalists? What about the freedom of speech then?

Most apologist arguments about Islam tread four main lines, each argument a hollow, half-baked dump of an idea. Let’s see what they are:

  1. Not every Muslim is a terrorist: I get pissed off when I read this. Who said that every Muslim is a terrorist? Did anybody say that? Could you show me one book, newspaper, film, or paper that calls every Muslim a terrorist? Nobody does that, not even the Hindutva bigots that you so hate. Relax!
  2. One cannot expect to offend a religion while calling oneself ‘liberal’: Really? How many children died due to the cartoon of Prophet Muhammad? While we constantly call on our brethren to reform themselves to new ideas and times, why should Islam be allowed to continue abiding by laws that were written thousands of years ago?
  3. It is a young religion, and has gone through trials and tribulations inflicted on it by the Western world: Another classic liberal-bullshit liner. Yes, what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan was wrong. But the world doesn’t exist in black and white. There are gigantic shades of grey. What about Boko Haram, then? Did the US bomb people there too? How long are we going to keep blaming the US for all of Islam’s problems?
  4. Violence is always political, Islam is being used by bigots to secure their own motives: Yes, but isn’t it worth discussing what makes Islam so vulnerable to such hijackings? Why don’t other religions (some of which are younger, and are practiced in regions that have witnessed worse horrors) come in the news for killing innocents?
  5. (And this is my favourite) Islam is actually a religion of peace: Yeah? Then how come most Muslims in the world have died in the hands of fundamentalist Muslims themselves? How can you be a religion of peace? The concept of religion in itself doesn’t allow for peace, more so one that considers non-believers as infidels. If it really is a religion of peace, why don’t the followers of this very peaceful religion raise up and condemn it?

Since the last two weeks, opening up the news has become a chore. I am a student of Journalism and understand that news images are not biased and fair. And yet, how long are we going to fall back upon these claims? How long are we going to blame everybody else, because we do not have the courage to look the problem in the eye?

And every time there is some incident, the upholders of wisdom in the country (Scroll, Kaafila, Caravan) begin their bullshit-doling. Every statement begins with ‘Tuesday’s attack was horrific, however (random bullshit argument follows).

Or, ‘While one’s heart is pained by the loss on Sunday, one must remember that (some other chutiya explanation).

It is almost to say that Yes, we understand that people are dying, but listen up to our lofty idea now.

Since I live on a university campus, my wall is inundated by such sort. Those who see red when a book is banned, and yet talk you down if you say anything against Islam. Anything at all. Which is surprising because everytime I crack a joke on any other religion (as I firmly believe that there is only one true God – Jackie Shroff), everything is fine.

This has often baffled me. How can our intelligentsia, our best-learned, our most competent, be so myopic? Why don’t the same people who flood your news feed with articles not raise a single murmur of protest as children are shot in the head, as masked men scream ‘Allah o Akbar’, and pump bullets into innocent heads?

And that is when it struck me.

Because they’re all rich. They are artists, and poets, and journalists, and influential people whose opinions are sought after. They are rich – their children will never attend schools that do not have machine gun toting security guards. They will never use public transport, to buy vegetables from the local market.

An act of terrorism is another incident to them, to sit on their high pedestal and tell us lesser mortals about how we need to base our understanding of the world. About how we must not crib and complain about Islamic terror because it is not the right thing to do.

Well, dear intellectuals. You can go fuck yourselves.

Islam is a very problematic religion.

I have known Muslim friends all my life, and it would have been incomplete without them. And yet, I am not blind to the fact that they read the same Quran that the dudes at ISIS do. They worship the same God.

Whether their ideologies are the same or not, it is Allah’s name that is uttered when a head is slit.

I don’t know if Allah exists. But if he does, I imagine he’s sitting up there, looking down at us. His eyes permanently welled up with tears, his heart broken.

34 thoughts on “Why are we apologetic about Islamic terror?

  1. Lakshmi

    To understand islamic terror you need to understand the history of the middle east in the last 70 years or so to get perspective. If you don’t have this perspective you need to read and develop it for without it you are not qualified to comment on ‘islamic terror’. I recommend reading Robert Fisk’s history of the middle east.

    If you were around during the 70s and 80s there was no ‘islamic terror’, isn’t that odd? It’s a relative new development and there is a reason for it and the reason is not the religion. You need to understand the reason. But before that understand that we need to understand more.

  2. Mahathi G

    This is late, but I hope you see this anyway. I am taking an ‘Islam and Literature’ class this semester. I definitely feel as if I know more now than I did before, although there is so much to learn and really I’ve only scraped the tip of the iceberg. I’m reading a book by religious studies scholar, Aaron Hughes, called ‘Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam.’ It’s an interesting book which tries to be broad in its approach, and Hughes similarly rails against ‘apologists’ who claim that religion is independent of social, political and cultural context. The problem, he says, with claiming that terrorists like Osama Bin Laden and ISIS are not Muslims, is that they consider themselves (obviously) to be Muslim. They quote the Quran, they follow the tenets of the religion religiously (no pun intended). There is an aspect of the religion that is problematic because the same few verses of the Quran are repeatedly quoted by those who commit these heinous acts (although admittedly they are cherry-picked). Using verses from the Quran (out of context) or hadith to prove that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’ is not a solution – you can pick out other quotes that contradict or negate this. The question is, why is Islam plagued by this problem when other religions like Christianity also have problematic verses in their holy books (because they do – stoning adulterers, homosexuals, etc)? Now I definitely don’t know anywhere near enough to make this judgment but I feel that extreme poverty and violence are provoking this reaction. I’m not trying to justify these actions; I’m merely stating that in a lot of ways they are a reaction. I’m sure you already know that most of these people are caught young, when they are most vulnerable. You talk of blaming US for all of Islam’s problems – honestly, I think that they are to blame for a lot of, if not all of Islam’s problems. I think we need to keep up the pressure for introspection there.
    I think that pieces about how not all terrorists are Muslims, etc started as a response to Islamophobia and racial profiling after 9/11. I will confess to having shared them or having made similar arguments myself a few times. While we definitely need to think honestly and critically about Islam (just like we do for every other religion, without fearing retribution), I think that these articles (that defend Muslims/Islam) are still important. It can be difficult for Muslims, particularly those with outward shows of faith like the hijab or purdah, especially here in the US. While you say that the ‘not every Muslim is a terrorist’ argument is stupid, not everybody is blessed with your sense of logic, unfortunately. Some people actually have to be reminded of this fact. I don’t think these pieces are harmful.
    That being said, I think there is a definite fear of hurting sentiments or worse. We certainly don’t hesitate to criticize Christianity or Hinduism. I agree with you that we need to start thinking critically about Islam – urgently.

  3. zifina

    Hai…read few of ur blogs…mainly those on films… loved dem… dey r witty…
    But this one… not really…
    As u mentioned in the post… crazy n stupid people wear masks, shout Allahu akbar…and behead innocent people… so… how can u be so sure they are ACTUALLY followers of islam???.
    Just think…u can wear a mask tomorrow..scream allahu akbar and behead someone…release that video… media can play their role and make everyone believe that an islamic terrorist killed someone…

    or anyone can wear a mask…shout hari om and behead someone and claim he belongs to rss…

    But whats the truth???
    I mean to say, its easy for media to mislead ppl…. as far as we dont find out the truth of whats happening , its better not to pass judgement on religion… like british PM once said…ISIS are pure monsters…dey dont belong to any religion… Or the least, we dont know and we just dont care if dey ever followed any religion… who ever they are…they just need to be punished..

    What say??? 🙂

  4. zifina

    Hai…read few of ur blogs…mainly those on films… loved dem… dey r witty…
    But this one… not really…
    As u mentioned in the post… crazy n stupid people wear masks, shout Allahu akbar…and behead innocent people… so… how can u be so sure they are ACTUALLY followers of islam???.
    Just think…u can wear a mask tomorrow..scream allahu akbar and behead someone…release that video… media can play their role and make everyone believe that an islamic teerorist killed someone…
    But whats the truth???
    I mean to say, its easy for media to mislead ppl…. as far as we dont find out the truth of whats happening , its better not to pass judgement on religion… like british PM once said…ISIS are pure monsters…dey dont belong to any religion… Or the least, we dont know and we just dont care if dey ever followed any religion… who ever they are…they just need to be punished..

    What say??? 🙂

  5. VAIBHAV DINKAR (@almostdumb)

    My appeal to all the clerics, The Ulemas, The Pope , Shankaracharyas , Please don’t make a contest out of your beliefs. This is not a game anymore where you just have to win.
    Having the most number of followers will not make you religion the Best in the world. Please give us the freedom to follow or not follow any religion based on our own understanding and observation . We don’t want Ghar Wapasis,we don’t even remember when we left our Ghar in the first place . Please give us access to Education and Health care out of sheer Goodness of your heart and not having to take an oath on the Bible first.
    Please give us the freedom to walk out of our religion and its tenets if we disagree with them . I was just an infant when I got converted into your religion , I didn’t understand anything about it . But now that I do , allow me shed this baggage without putting a Gun to my Head.

  6. Jamaluddin Khiljee

    Let me get this out of the way first – I am a Muslim and I am not going to hide my identity behind a fake name. Bro, I have been a big admirer of your humour and writing – basically a religious follower of your blog – I don’t pray at work but I read your blogs in office.
    I admire you big time for this blog of yours – OUTSTANDING!!!. As a Muslim, it makes me feel good. Good, because unlike the so called “liberals”, Chetan Bhagat’s and RSS walas, you aren’t being patronising about Islam and its followers in public and being nasty in private. I am sick and tired of my friends and colleagues changing their discussion topics the moment I join it. God know why are they so conscious of saying things the way they should be. So thank you for the industrial grade steel in your balls for expressing it the way it should be. And though I don’t agree 100% with what you have written – that’s not what is expected anyways – I am also not going to feel offended either. I am a Muslim and I believe Islam cannot be in “danger” every time someone challenges or questions its tenets. As a follower of Prophet Muhammad SAWS, I am well aware of His polite response to artists and poets who insulted Him in His own lifetime.
    For me, this blog has is really special because it expresses the anger and frustration against Islam exactly the way it is being felt by everyone I know. And I am thankful to you for that.
    No explanations or clarifications from my side – I can only try to be a good human being as Islam teaches me to…………..while I eagerly wait for another blog of yours!!! Thank you

  7. comatosesamurai

    It is highly ignorant and sacrilegious of you to claim that the one true God is Jackie Shroff. I like your blog but please do not make such blasphemous jokes. This is no funny matter, it is a very disrespectful thing to do. One can understand your angst against organised religions, but God is a sacred and pious entity, something that should not be made into a joke. Maybe your ignorance of our culture and scriptures is the reason for this, but that doesn’t give you the right to offend the faith and beliefs of others. By claiming Jackie Shroff to be the one true God, you have shown the shallowness of your beliefs. It is pretty clear that the one true God is Mithun Chakraborty, but you seems to have been blinded by the dogmatic propaganda on internet. Please accept the truth heathen, and you shall be saved. If you dont believe me, watch the movie Veer, where my God, cut off the arm of your God. Beware infidel, beware.

    1. FunnyGyan

      What an offensive troll! I thought this was serious and then I read, “One true God is Mithun Chakraborthy.” The blogger said that Jackie Shroff is God, you say Mithun. What a shame! Dont offend someone’s faith! The only true God is, Uday Chopra. Period.

  8. Pranay

    I have read you blog now and then and usually found the posts amusing .found this slightly surprising coming from you .. I’d got a picture of a more empathetic person from your previous posts.
    Anyway , If the posts at kafila , caravan , and even the ones on lrb , intercept so on haven’t convinced you why the ‘however’ is required then i’m sure i wont.Anyway heres is my chavvani on it:

    Lets take your Boko Haram example.You ask why are they killing people.. Here’s a reason :Amartya Sen has called India islands of California in a sea of sub Saharan Africa.Nigeria is literally that!The oil rich delta has been almost completely sold off to companies like Shell and others. These American energy companies ..which have mercenary armies that kill/get rid of any secular resistance to them are eating off Nigeria’s natural resources.There are many famous activists in the 80’s 90’s these companies got rid of( google Ken Saro-Wiwa). The people in charge , put there with western collusion have a pact with these companies .On the other hand,the people in the interiors of Nigeria live in horrible conditions. These people have no way of making any change in their lives and some have over time become radicalised and some are now in Boko Haram.Another thing thats needs to be noted is that though the atrocities of Boko Haram are widely covered the violent counter attacks by the government aren’t talked about . You can read the reports by amnesty international and so on which cover this violence.I know it’s the same old story. But i think one should try to understand situations rather than making emphatic self righteous assertions like the ones you made.

    You ask what makes Islam so susceptible to radicalization .. Well the Hindus got radicalized in Sri Lanka .Catholics were radicalized in Ireland.However there is also another reason , unluckily for most Muslims their countries happen to be on the worlds biggest oil deposits and are hence continuously in battle for control of their freedom with the energy hungry west(yeah i know another boring cliche!)
    Imagine if you are a 20 year old in Iraq (you were around 9 when the war started!) and you want to do something for your county .What are the options?Under what banner will you fight?External forces control the government.Non religious ideologies like socialism , anarchism no longer have any followers. What group will you join? ..what is the only ideology that still binds people together?

    Coming to comparing Donigers book with Rushdie: To begin with if you read Donigers book , you will realise that she really respects Hinduism and has basically spend her entire life studying it.Comparing it to Rushdies book isnt fair .In rushdies book he has prostitutes with the name of the prophets wife and so on ..I know this sort of comparison has problems and the members of the free speech debate club won’t accept it , but it needs to be said.

    You say that indian intelligensia is not forthright about condemning islam.But if they are doing so , they must be doing this for some moral or intellectual reason no?.I don’t see how they can actually benefit from doing so.Do you reckon the sheikhs are paying them ? :).Why so cynical about delving in “our deep humane side” … ?

    And anyway congrats, all your readers seems to agree with you and are patting on your back for bravely taking on Islam.In doing so they ironically are weaking your thesis that people are apologetic about criticising islam … but look on the bright side …you’ll be getting more subscribers if charlie hebdo example is anything to go by!

    1. VAIBHAV DINKAR (@almostdumb)

      The worst irony of islam is that Muslims kill Muslims in the name of protecting the tenets of their holy book .The Muslims fear their own brotherhood as much as they fear foreign civilizations. Ask the parents of the slaughtered children in Peshawar . The Muslims , it seems, always tend to live in a state of Paranoia of where every one in the world is out to destroy Islam , Atleast, the clerics certainly believe that and would want you to believe it too.
      I would slightly disagree with you quoting the example of Pakistan , a country having no particular natural resources but still is paranoid about its Neighbours , and Malaysia being Rich in Oil but still manages to keep itself out of the conflict zone .
      Now its OK to retaliate against the atrocities being done against you, but how does it justify killing Innocent Children reading in schools , or killing Artistes. Islam is definitely not a religion of peace. If you want to see a religion of peace, look at Jainism or Buddhism .

  9. hungoutodry

    Way to go. Christians have killed people through the centuries in the name of religion, so have other ideologies, besides Islam. But let’s pick on the target that media has highlighted the most.

    1. Sunny SayBle

      Christians & probably all religions have REFORM button & over the times they have changed where they went wrong.

      Now we have to fight the most obdurate philosophy Islam & its beloved Quran. Which is definitely, as they believe, the LAST REVELATION that cannot be changed whatsoever! cannot be altered, as it is Plain God’s last words. Wow this solves it right?

      Media target? In 21st century, no other religion saw slaughter of hundreds of children in one day but Islam & an Islamic country. Why? And Syria? Shia, Sunni, ISIS?

      Islam is a global problem now. Reaching you reaching me, reaching Paris, Peshawar, Australia in 2 months …ALL UNDER AN UMBRELLA OF…You know it!

  10. Inquisitive shaayar (@pal_do_pal_ka)

    Wahabi/ Salafi Islam is more of a political ideology than ‘religion’ per se. In fact, with the rise of modernity, factions within every religion have fused elements of modernity with a narrow, self sustaining victimhood and bigotry, that has led to the rise of such violence in every religion. Even ‘Buddhist’ monks are blowing themselves up in places, quite astonishingly. As an atheist, I believe all religions have to go, but there must be sensitivity too in dealing with the present scenario. No sane, liberal person, Muslim or otherwise will ever act as an apologist for any terror act. It is necessary to separate the political from the religious and for it otherwise creates boxes from which moderate people cannot escape. That is why we try and separate Wahabism from Islam, Hindutva from Hinduism and so on, for they are political constructs created by fusing, as I said, elements from modernity as well as a violent, imaginary or real, past. The effort at separating the two, is just to provide enough breathing space for moderates to stand up, that’s all. It is very easy to fall into the trap of reductive arguments and slotting people into fixed identities, which will only aggravate the problem.

    1. bprad

      Couldn’t have said it better.
      I think this blog is very funny, and I moreorless always find that what is written by the author resonates with what I think/believe in.
      Except for this entry.

      1. Lakshmi

        Same here. I’ve liked all other posts except this one which is written with insufficient knowledge. Almost every country in the middle ease was an Iraq or Afghanistan at some point in the last 100 years. Plus western powers have toppled democracies, installed dictators, who in turn have controlled the people thru the mullas. Things like this in turn create shit that develops a life of its own. It’s then easy to lose track of the original facts, as the author has done.

  11. Pranav Mashankar (@pranav_m16)

    It is ironic when you say that atheists in India are generally silent about Islam because other atheists from all around the world are for the most part pretty severe in their criticism of Islam. Why do you think this anomaly exists? Absolutely love your blog, by the way!

  12. Akshay Pamnani (@akshaypamnani05)

    Well written really,when it comes to Islam liberals and secularists have really failed us,we are always eager to criticize other religions but Islam has been an area all of us avoid, mostly I think for the fear of being called a bigot and even a “racist”(when Muslims are not even a race).
    I think the term Islamophobia is really problematic one,that term should not even exist.We should really be able to criticize freely the doctrine of Islam and it’s prophet,like we can criticize Hinduism and its Gods.The concern should really be anti-Muslim sentiment,that is something we have to fight against,people should not be bigoted against Muslims,but should be free to criticize or satiarise Islam and its prophet without being called an islamophobe.

        1. Vaibhav Dinkar

          Yes there is a solution. First -off Islam should decide who is the supreme authority is among their numerous clerics. Once that is sorted out , they need to sort out the interpretations of Quran. the biggest problem is that very cleric tries to infer his own meaning from the arabic words which may have a range of meanings depending on the context. So pretty much every sect interprets the holy word to justify their acts no matter how Gory.

          So here’s a thought , how bout editing the text of quran , for that matter of all religious books in all religions, to agree with the moralaity as it exists in today’s century .

  13. Dagny

    Ayn Rand said- “In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.”

    Those who take the middle path, the apologists, need to remember that. All too soon the scourge will visit their homes. For when you apologize and try to explain away one kind of terrorism, you prepare the ground for the other kind too.

  14. Radha

    I, too, feel the same about the inherent flaws of Islam. Even before these attacks, I have really, really wanted to write something like this about Islam. While reading about the history of Islam, especially in India, I felt such rage at the hypocrisy that I was worried I might join RSS. But I didn’t, because I was scared. Scared that somebody might actually read it and that might spark some violence. Luckily, I had the option of keeping mum.

    I don’t think the intelligentia keeps mum because they aren’t affected by it. They do, because they are scared of what might happen if they didn’t. Since they cannot keep mum, since they are in the business of talking and writing, they take the middle road – the one which says it all and conveys nothing. ‘Je Suis Charlie’ is a lie. Nobody wants to be Charlie Hebdo.

    Which is why I think that attacking Charlie Hebdo was one brilliant move at the Islamic Terrorists. It was more than terrorism – it was one brutal silencing move, which might just work. And which is why I support those who make a fuss about Doniger’s book being banned. Because that’s where Islam probably started on this road. Ban Rushdie, ban Hosseini. And then before you know, everybody is too scared to speak up. I was enraged when people made a fuss about PK, because I would hate Hinduism to become another Islam.

    And in case you have read the comment to its end, you might like this article. One of the many which have come up recently asking Islam to look at its entire face.

  15. Ankit

    And this is (perhaps one of the or) the most logical and the bravest opinions I have come across lately on a public domain, Sir!

    We really need to open our eyes with a sense of introspection– not with hostility, although.

    I wish people take this opinion of your in its right spirit.

    Great piece! Keep it up.


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