During April last year, a former Ku Klux Klan leader attacked a Jewish centre in Kansas, murdering three people. The attacks were clearly anti-Semitic, reflecting the hate group’s ideology. People were shocked, but nobody expected the Christian population to ask the world for forgiveness or explain how this was ‘not in their name.’ Three years earlier, the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, shot dead 69 people. He stated that he considered himself to be ‘100 per cent Christian’, and yet after the massacre, nobody expected Christians to condemn the attack as if to prove that mass murder did not represent their religion.
Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, just after the December Sydney hostage crisis, the Muslim population is being pressured to prove that the terrorists do not represent themselves or Islam. The fact that the world expects such ‘reassurance’ whenever there is a terrorist attack carried out by a Muslim group or individual, reflects the public perception of Islam as inherently violent. This has no doubt been encouraged by the media, with newspapers such as the Daily Mail tirelessly printing Islamophobic articles, and Fox News’ relentless anti-Muslim tirade that respects neither fact nor reason, let alone proper representation.
Expecting the world’s Muslim population to condemn the attacks is Islamophobic precisely because we don’t hold Christians – or indeed people of any other faith – to the same expectations when an attack is carried out by a person of their faith.
Expecting a condemnation from Muslims implies that the world feels there is need for Muslims to prove that not all adherents of Islam are terrorists. This is a prime example of bigotry; it is expressing the assumption that a handful of extremists represents the majority unless they deny it. At the forefront of the pressure on Muslims to condemn the attacks was, of course, Rupert Murdoch’s eloquent contribution, via Twitter: ‘Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.’
As undeniably horrific as the Charlie Hebdo massacre was, there is no doubt that the attack had more than 12 casualties, and they were not all journalists. In just the first 48 hours following the Charlie Hebdo massacre, sixteen mosques and prayer halls were attacked by firebombs, gunshots and pelted with pig heads; within the week there had been 54 reported anti-Muslim incidents in France. These attacks show how the Charlie Hebdo massacre had massive repercussions for the Muslim population, as it fuelled an already present Islamophobic sentiment in the country. To expect Muslims to condemn the attacks tells us that society sees the followers of Islam as endorsing terrorism by default, unless Muslims explicitly deny it. A society that pressures Muslims to condemn the attack is a society that sees Islam as a faith where its followers are guilty until proven innocent.