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I refuse to condemn
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
January 9th, 2015 (33 Comments)
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I refuse to condemn.

I refuse to condemn ISIS. I refuse to condemn Paris. I refuse to condemn 9/11.

I refuse to condemn, not because I don’t condemn, but because you so badly want me to.

I refuse to condemn something that you don’t condemn because it’s so damn obvious that you condemn it. I refuse to condemn acts that are so clearly condemnable.

I refuse to condemn, not because I don’t condemn, but because you so badly want me to.

What is so special about me? Why are you so obsessed with my condemnation?

And who needs to condemn a mass murder anyway? Go interview the people that praise it. They should fascinate you much more than my condemnation.

Maybe you want me to condemn so you can discover where I stand. Maybe you want me to condemn so you can identify which team I’m on. Well, I’ll tell you. I’m not on their team, and I’m not on yours either. And see, I did all that without a condemnation.

I refuse to condemn, not because I don’t condemn, but because you so badly want me to.

And I should tell you something. I condemn them more than you could ever imagine. I condemn them in a way that goes way beyond a press release, or an interview, or a sound bite. My condemnation is not the same as your condemnation. Yours comes from “terror.” Mine comes from repulsion, nausea, and detestation. It is tied up in disgust, distress, and dismay. It is littered with fear, dread, and anxiety. My condemnation involves sadness, sorrow, and grief. You might just need a few minutes and camera to express your condemnation. I need a few years and a therapist to explain mine.

I refuse to condemn, not because I don’t condemn, but because you so badly want me to.

Asking me to condemn means you might think that I wouldn’t. It means that there is something about me, something that makes you wonder whether or not I condemn. You might get to wonder such things if I had made some crazy video, or I had given some crazy speech. But I have done no such thing.

I have no obligation to condemn. There is nothing about me that would even remotely suggest anything different. There is no evidence, except for the fact that I happen to celebrate certain holidays, however casually. And it sounds like that is enough for you.

I refuse to condemn, not because I don’t condemn, but because you so badly want me to.

I refuse to condemn, because you wouldn’t understand it in any case.

I refuse to condemn, because I’ve tried that before, and it doesn’t work. How do I know? Because you’re still asking me to do it.

I refuse to condemn, because doing so would mean that I agree that I deserve to be asked. It would mean that I agree that I should be suspected of non-condemnation. Condemning doesn’t make me “moderate.” It makes me less than the person asking me the question, who, as it turns out, is not starting out a very high level to begin with.

I refuse to condemn for your pleasure. I refuse to do it. I refuse.

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (33)
  1. Exactly….

  2. Like a child throwing a tantrum.

  3. mostafa ziyad ... January 9th, 2015 - 19:00

    Brilliant,, “condemnation” have never made any progress (talking from experience as a Palestinian from Gaza

  4. Doris Habayeb Courgi ... January 9th, 2015 - 21:57

    What you said below is so true for many of us:
    “And I should tell you something. I condemn them more than you could ever imagine. I condemn them in a way that goes way beyond a press release, or an interview, or a sound bite. My condemnation is not the same as your condemnation. Yours comes from “terror.” Mine comes from repulsion, nausea, and detestation. It is tied up in disgust, distress, and dismay. It is littered with fear, dread, and anxiety. My condemnation involves sadness, sorrow, and grief. You might just need a few minutes and camera to express your condemnation. I need a few years and a therapist to explain mine.”

  5. you are 100% right,

  6. David Lisbona ... January 10th, 2015 - 08:43

    I (as an Israeli and a European) ask you, Amer, to condemn because I am afraid of you, the Arab. I want to be comforted to know that you, Amer,are a not a threat to me although the rational part of my brain knows that the vast majority of Moslems and Arabs are not terrorists or fanatics. I cannot show my fear – it is easier for me , the cultured, liberal, white person to ask that you condemn.

  7. Good point. Just one more way to define the Other.

  8. Well said. These things can’t be split so simply.

  9. Jay Cooperman ... January 10th, 2015 - 11:35

    As a supporter of Jewish Voice for Peace I understand your frustration as best a non Palestinian can; however, I have to wonder how the refusal to condemn a shockingly barbaric act, no different from the killing of children in Gaza, could possibly advance the cause of peace.

  10. Einar Steinn Valgarðsson ... January 10th, 2015 - 12:45

    I agree with Jay.

  11. In one of the middle paragraphs, ummm… you did condemn…

  12. Short-sighted, reactionary, and totally self-interested. We demonstrate against the world when we’re attacked, but are now even against condemnation when others are attacked? Condemnation shouldnt be seen as a form of weakness. We Muslims must not only condemn but hit the streets in our millions to protest ISIS and all forms of Islamic fundamentalism. I get what the author is trying to say, but the way he’s going about it is just so childishly wrong imho.

  13. Halina Minadeo ... January 10th, 2015 - 14:56

    I have been reading requests from academic colleagues asking the Muslim community to stage huge demonstrations to condemn the massacre in France. My immediate reaction is: “Why?” To all those demanding some huge pageant of repentance, please stop bullying those who had nothing to do with the atrocity.

  14. To condemn, by definition, means to disapprove.

    Therefore, when you say you “refuse to condemn” this is may be interpreted that you refuse to disapprove, which may be interpreted to mean you potentailly approve.

    Of course we all know that you disapprove. Perhaps a more accurate approach would have been to say “I refuse to apologize” or “I refuse to take responsibility.”

    I sense that some people commenting are misunderstood based on this distinction.

  15. Brilliant. Anyone who doesn’t understand what you’re saying here is…sorry…just not that intelligent.

  16. If the author wishes to remain silent while people murder in the name of their religion, it is certainly their prerogative. I would not remain silent.

  17. I was hoping to find that this is a satirical piece and I’m just not getting the second-degree humour in it, but nothing indicates that it is, so I’m going to take it at face value.

    I understand where you are coming from, I sympathise with it. But this is about the worst response I can think of. It is exactly what the idiots that ask you to condemn want you to do.
    If someone does something terrible in the name of a group that I belong to -be it my nation, religion, political affiliation, football club, you name it-, then I will condemn it (or at least I will expect the leaders of my group to condemn it), regardless of whether I’m being asked to or not. Refusing to do so out of spite would be as mature as a five-year-old who spits out his spinach.

  18. April – I think we do understand what he is saying. He’s not hiding his sentiment. The approach just seems a bit too childish and confrontational under the circumstances. But, free speech is his right as it is mine to respond.

  19. Unfortunately it seems to be only Muslims who are asked to condemn. When Anders Breivik massacred all those young people in the name of Christianity I didn’t hear CHristians being asked to sondemn him. Everyone took it for granted he was a nutter. So why is it assumed that all Muslims have to prove their non-identification with nutters of their faith? Here’s an article that discusses just that point: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/charlie-hebdo-how-exactly-would-we-like-muslims-to-condemn-these-attacks-9966176.html

  20. Who asked you to condemn? What is shocking is to refuse to pay tribute to innocent victims whoever they are, whatever their origin.
    Of course we should pay tribute to all the victims of barbaric, terrorist acts.
    Not accepting to think about them for just one minute in your life is ‘just like a child throwing tantrum’, and to me, not that intelligent.

    • What is significant is that the author of this diatribe lives in Michigan. Fail to see anything “intelligent” or wonderful in this. Like one comment said above it sounds like a childish tantrum

  21. Terrorism for religious reasons, in our time, is more widespread in Islam than in any other religion. They have even founded a country (Isis)

  22. interesting, however he is actually condemning those who do choose to voice their condemnation, implying that those who speak out do not harbor the same feelings of disgust and revulsion, or that those feelings do not run as deep as his, or that their feelings can be soothed by talking rather than years of therapy.
    Unfortunately his is as intolerant a view as those that demand he does condemn.

  23. I think that some of comments here fail to see the irony, pain and beauty of it. We are so focused on our pain… which just proves Amer´s point.

  24. The problem, Amer, is that it’s not necessarily obvious where everyone stands. I recall some of your cohorts at the Michigan Daily getting in trouble for writing bizzarely pro terrorist articles. The element of radicalism doesn’t solely exist overseas, sadly. Take a stand against condemning if you feel the need, but don’t be shocked when people take it the wrong way. Especially when one need look no further than Ann Arbor to see otherwise smart college students spewing hatred and support for groups who have no qualms about killing civilians for religion, glee, headlines.

    And lastly, does Obama need to condemn the attacks? Does anyone? With your logic, no condemnations are needed anywhere by anyone. Not sure what type of world you’re living in, but there’s a cold harsh reality out there you should wake up to.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  25. It is not that no condemnations are necessary, it is that the standard for condemnation is plainly racist. I do not ask my Catholic friends and acquaintances if they are pro pedophilia. I do not ask them to condemn pedophilia, or to distance themselves from their places of worship simply because their church has engaged in the the worst case of systemic pedophilia in the history of modern religion (literally thousands of victims). I do not because I assume that of course they think it’s disgusting and of course they are suffering having to watch the faith that sustains them hijacked by perversion that is completely out of their control.

    It is however acceptable for the same Catholics to ask me to condemn. To ask me to distance. To ask me to explain. As if a rational person can explain evil!

    This is not about refusal (Amer was trying to be poetic and I think he overreached).

    I will condemn all day long, if the standard for condemnation is equal and fair.

    I will condemn if when Israelis kill hundreds of innocent children, every citizen stands up and says “this is horrifying, not in my name”. I will condemn if every American knows who Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi is and what your American Armed services did to her and her family. I will condemn when the French stop screaming about how free their press is, while locking up Dieudonne (or letting Netanyahu walk front and center with them, a man who kills journalists for sport if they happen to be telling the truth and or Palestinian).

    The standard for condemnation is racist and it implies that as Muslims or Arabs we are less than and thus we must always be apologizing for not only our own individual mistakes, but also those of the collective. Meanwhile the rest of the world gets a pass.

    Muslim shooter=All Muslims are evil
    Christian shooter (Anders Behring Breivik)=Lone wolf.

    No thanks.

  26. I truly appreciate your subtle sense of indignation. I read in your statement an open condemnation of both the perpetrators of the crime and their criminal oppressors who lump you automatically with the ‘terrorists’ because of your roots, name, skin color or religion and hence demand that you apologize for your fellow terrorists by rushing to condemn them. Unfortunately several commentators above miss your point. More power to you, Amer.

  27. And you are a “civil” arab? I shudder to think what the “non civil” ones are like!

  28. This is definitely one of your best posts. You should not have to condemn. The fact that someone asks you to means that they have an opinion of you before you even open your mouth. You are you, you should not be defined by the actions of a few nor should you have to condemn those actions to make people feel better. It is not about THEIR comfort. Is it not about THEIR wishes. You will not condemn and they will deal with it.

  29. You reuse to condemn yet you have no problem enjoying the freedom you have in a Western-free-speech nation you live in. And at the same time you have no problems what so ever supporting forces who wish to break and inailate this free-speech nations.
    In my eyes you are nothing but a traitor who MUST be exiled to any SHITTY ISLAMIC state out there.

    You are a parasite Mr. Amer Zahr and a threat to Democracy.

  30. I do not think this is the right time for you to be felt insulted. No one accused you to have anything to do with such barbaric acts, however you should have more understanding towards our fear. Afterall we are targeted here. You should have more understanding towards our NATURAL defensive reactions.
    Me personaly don’t care whether you express condemnation or not, but please do understand that your condemnation has a purpose of comforting my people in these shitty times. I hope this new age of terror will end soon, both for my people and certainly for your folks as well. I know they suffer a lot too because of the consequences.

  31. So, I’m thinking…

    “I refuse to condemn people who draw Mohamed fucking a pig. It’s not because I don’t condemn, but because you badly want me to.”

    Is this the way to go?

    This was a powerful article. I feel the author’s frustration, but I disagree. You don’t condemn in order to virtue-signal. You condemn in order to show those subhumans that although you share holidays, you don’t share values.
    You don’t address the West, you address the people that call themselves Muslim, like you, but they are not in the least like you.


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