Last Saturday, the Boston Herald ran an article by a syndicated opinion columnist titled “Silence is Deafening from Muslim Community after Shootings” (http://www.bostonherald.com/…/fitzgerald_silence_is_deafeni…). In it, Mr. Joe Fitzgerald claims, without any factual support, that there was little to no outcry or condemnation from the Muslim community, locally or nationally, about the deplorable incident in Tennessee last Thursday. CAIR-MA immediately responded to the article with both a letter to the editor and an op-ed factually repudiating Mr. Fitzgerald’s claims and articulating how damaging they are to the Boston Muslim community. A version of the letter appears in today’s Herald (http://www.bostonherald.com/…/letters_to_the_editor_july_21…), but the op-ed was not printed; please find our response it in its entirety below.
The Editor-in-Chief of the Herald has also agreed to meet with our executive director, John Robbins, and Mr. Fitzgerald next week to discuss the article.
Response to “Silence is Deafening from Muslim Community”
This Saturday, I was shocked to read Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald’s opinion article “Silence is Deafening from Muslim Community After Shootings.” The only thing that’s been “deafening” about the response, both nationally and locally, has been its volume. Mr. Fitzgerald asks “Where was the outrage, the revulsion, the condemnation in the Muslim community?” How about this statement of unequivocal condemnation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ National Executive Director (which my chapter’s office immediately reissued on Thursday, and which we forwarded to major Boston-area news outlets), this statement from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, or this press release from the Islamic Circle of North America. All of these were issued immediately following the senseless violence in Tennessee, and come from the largest Muslim advocacy groups in the country. Other news outlets apparently didn’t have a problem finding local Muslims who were condemning the attacks: they were covered in Connecticut, Texas, Minnesota, California, Florida, Illinois, and numerous other states. Fox news aired CAIR’s condemnation, and USA Today published a Muslim former Marine’s condemnation of this act of violence against his country and his religion, in which he wrote that “Islam leaves no room for terrorism, and only permits fighting in self-defense to protect freedom of religion for all people. What this terrorist committed represents his own personal barbarity — nothing else.”
Had Mr. Fitzgerald taken the time to make a phone call, he would have learned that Friday was one of the two largest Muslim holidays of the year, and that a slew of Boston-area mosques such as the Islamic Society of Boston, Masjid Al-Quran, and the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest mosque in New England, used the opportunity to condemn the attack and offer condolences to the victims’ families before thousands of congregants. But no Muslim groups seem to have been contacted about the article, and its author does not appear to have conducted even the most cursory investigation, which would readily have revealed such public statements. Muslim groups are loudly speaking out against such violence with one voice; however, those like Mr. Fitzgerald who are predisposed against them aren’t listening, or just don’t want to hear.
Rather than documenting facts, accusations that Muslims are not “doing enough” to condemn acts of terrorism serve two purposes: they represent an attempt to instill in the public eye the idea that Muslims in America are somehow complicit in or supportive of these acts, and they seek to hold the Muslim community as a whole responsible for the actions of an aberrant few.
Despite this correction, the damage inflicted by articles like this is done: you can’t unring a bell. Now too many will have read Mr. Fitzgerald’s piece, without any repudiation, and will feel that the Muslim community condones such senseless acts of violence. It’s hardly surprising, then, when we hear that a Muslim man was run over by an SUV driver in Kansas City because he was outside a mosque, or that a pregnant woman wearing a headscarf was assaulted on the street in New York while with her two-year-old daughter. Making claims that Muslims support terrorists, even implicitly, only adds fuel to the fire of such hatred.
When Muslims are perceived to have wronged or injured others, we are called on to issue public apologies and denunciations. Now, I ask, if Mr. Fitzgerald expects Muslims to be held accountable for others’ mistakes, will he apologize for his own?
Dr. John Robbins is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MA)