Invariably, a crazy Muslim or Arab does something crazy every now and then. We have our share of crazies like everyone else. And just as invariably, Arab-American and Muslim-American organizations rush to “denounce” those crazy acts. This is nothing new for these groups. It has become common practice for these groups to “apologize” every time an Arab or Muslim does something crazy or stupid. Whether it’s Faisal Shahzad (the Times Square guy), the guys from Ghana last year in New York, or any dues-paying member of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, Arab and Muslim organizations find themselves constantly denouncing and apologizing.
As an Arab-American, I have found that I am sometimes asked some pretty weird questions. Right after 9/11 (and sometimes still today), I got a flurry of interesting ones. I never knew how to answer, so sometimes I got a little sarcastic.
“What did you think of 9/11?” It was bad.
“Did you know those guys?” Only 2.
“Why do they hate us?” You know who Paris Hilton is, right?
“Tell me about Muhammad.” Which one? I know about 100 of them.
An Arab-American finds himself in the sometimes undesirable position of being the representative ambassador of everything Arab/Muslim. For a glory-seeking people like us, this can sometimes be dangerous as every Arab-American thinks he is an expert on us and our history. Most, of course, are not. “I don’t know,” however, is usually not part of our vocabulary. As my friend Jimmy Goson (a long-time Arab-American comedian) would say, “When was the last time you heard an Arab say, ‘I have no opinion on that.’” But our desire to always want to give an answer to a question is another problem for another day.
What we are talking about here is the constant apologizing we are doing for people like Faisal. We have allowed a certain environment to develop, one where we are expected to condemn every idiotic act of every idiot who happens to be Arab or Muslim.
It is not required of us to subjugate ourselves like that. By constantly denouncing, condemning, and apologizing, we are in part buying into the idea that these crazies somehow do speak for us. We always cry out that they do not represent us, yet every time we voluntarily denounce them, we somehow are saying that they do. If someone asks me, I’ll condemn him, I guess. Anyone would, right?
Maybe our organizations should each just create a new position, Director of Denouncing. It would make things a lot easier. They could just fill in the blanks, and boom… a perfect condemnation. This would get every apology out in 5 minutes instead of the usual 30 (Maybe “boom” was not the best choice of words.) Or better yet, in the interests of efficiency, every September 11, they could just issue a blanket apology. “We condemn all the inevitably crazy things our people will do for the next 12 months. See you next year.”
We need to stop condemning and denouncing. Arab-Americans live in a paradox. We are saddled with the bad acts of our people, but never the good. Arabs are constantly forced to apologize for the acts of every idiot, and never praised for acts of our intellectuals. We find ourselves constantly proving and re-proving our patriotism. When the default assumption is not that you are not loyal, you trick yourself into thinking that you need to verify, confirm, and demonstrate it over and over.
It needs to stop. We’re the only ones doing this. It’s a club that I don’t want to be a part of. I don’t see anyone else apologizing. When are white people going to apologize for mayonnaise, the Jerry Springer show, Paris Hilton, and Sarah Palin?
Until that happens, Faisal can denounce himself.