Blaming all men for the sins of one

By NAOMI LAKRITZ | 9 Aug 2011 | Calgary Herald

Before it was revealed that a right-wing, Christian, native Norwegian had carried out the bombing and shootings July 22 in Norway that left 77 people dead, the rush to blame the attacks on Muslims was on.It was pretty much a knee-jerk assumption, according to Hasan, who says that in the news stories he read in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, “I counted there were 12 references to Islam and Muslim organizations in one way or the other. People were judgmental, saying ‘this is al-Qaeda’ or whatever, when it wasn’t the case.”Once it turned out that Anders Breivik was the terrorist, that he said he was fighting for “our Christian cultural heritage,” that he wrote, “I consider myself to be 100 per cent Christian,” and a supporter of a “monocultural Christian Europe,” ordinary Christians hastened to distance themselves and their faith from him. Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly said, “Breivik is not a Christian . . . No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder.”

O’Reilly was wrong, as history witnessed with the Crusades. The truth is much closer to what Boston University religion Prof. Stephen Prothero said on “(Breivik) twisted the Christian tradition in directions most Christians would not countenance.”

Maybe it’s time for the pigeonholing and broadstroke finger-pointing to stop. Because the only person at whom fingers should be pointed is the perpetrator of the crime, and if that individual has twisted the tenets of a given religion to serve his evil purpose, his acts are about him, not about the religion he has perverted for his own ends.

“Occasionally, I have seen or heard that this person was called a terrorist, he’s insane, he’s mentally unstable. If (someone with) a Muslim name performs that (evil act), then he becomes a Muslim terrorist. Not every terrorist is a Muslim, but every Muslim is a terrorist,” Hasan said in an interview last week.

“Kudos to the Norwegian people, the prime minister, police, security. They did not point fingers even once. They said, ‘we don’t know, we have to see who it is’,” Hasan said. “That level of normalcy has gone since 9/11.”

Indeed, it has. Actually, it was gone before then, but 9/11 underscored the squaring-off of religions in these cases.

In Canada, the idea that an entire group of people with a set of beliefs, rather than an individual, is to blame for evil deeds began Dec. 6, 1989, when Marc Lepine opened fire at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, killing 14 women. In the years since, Lepine has been held up as some sort of poster boy for the misogyny that supposedly lurks in the hearts of all men, instead of for the misogyny that lurked only in his own heart. As Gendercide Watch states: “Lepine’s rampage had strong echoes in the numerous acts of domestic murder and abuse committed by men fearful that ‘their’ women will assert greater independence and move beyond traditional female roles.”

With such sweeping generalizations, arising from the actions of one lone individual, whole groups of people are condemned as guilty by association.

“We as Muslims have to take responsibility. We shouldn’t be quiet if socalled Muslim organizations attack peaceful populations. We should stand up and say this is wrong,” Hasan said.

That’s exactly what needs to happen. But we also need other Canadians to stand up and say it is wrong to look askance at every Muslim, to think that all ordinary Muslim-Canadians are jihadists at heart who seethe with hatred toward the West. Just as it is wrong to believe that Breivik represents Christians or Lepine represents all men.

“We are Canadians. This is my country. Wherever I’m born doesn’t really matter; Canada is my home. My first loyalty is to Canada. We are Canadians who have made this a great country. I wouldn’t live anywhere else,” Hasan said.

“You just have to have a nutcase take a gun and start shooting,” he added. “Wait until the facts are known. Then describe who the person is and not demonize the whole denomination, or religion. Hitler was Christian, right? Nobody ever says he was a Christian; they say he was a Nazi.”

Last month, Hasan was named the recipient of the Alton Ochsner Award, to be presented to him at a gathering of the American College of Chest Physicians.

His specialty is the study of cardiorespiratory control in the fetus and newborn infants; he won the award for his research on prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke and its link to molecular and underlying factors in sudden infant death syndrome.

Of the attacks in Norway, Hasan said, “I couldn’t sleep. I look at the pictures of these kids. It was so heartbreaking. They didn’t know what was happening; they were just killed in cold blood. I’m a pediatrician; there were children.”

In an earlier e-mail, Hasan wrote: “We Muslims contribute as much as we can to this great country.” So do thousands of Christians. They are no more to blame for the actions of one Anders Breivik, than Hasan and his fellow Muslims in Calgary are to blame for 9/11. The blaming, the generalizing and the guilt by association have to stop.


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