It was a tumultuous year for the Muslim community in Sydney, to say the least. Whether it be comprehending disasters taking place overseas or grappling with unprecedented events unfolding closer to home, this is a community under pressure. Externally, we are expected to constantly condemn and distance ourselves from demonic acts carried out by people who do so in the name of our faith. Internally, community leaders are under attack from keyboard warriors and hecklers who view engagement with the power structures as “selling out” both the community and indeed, one’s own faith. What underpins both challenges is ignorance. What is lacking in our discourse is nuance.
Large numbers of the Australian public find it difficult to dissociate the crimes of individuals from the actual, normative beliefs and practices of the Muslim majority.
That is understandable to a degree: the public aren’t theologians, but, then again, nor are the criminals who soil the name of Islam.
They are largely young, religiously illiterate, disenfranchised and often, mentally unstable. They do not represent Islam, nomore than a Lutheran teenager who randomly shoots innocents in a movie theatre in America, or a Norwegian fundamentalist describing himself as a “modern-day crusader”, who butchers teenagers at a summer camp, or the saffron-clad monks carrying out atrocities in Burma.
To eradicate this scourge, we need to understand what drives these individuals and go beyond the “Islam is evil” mantra. The Muslim community can no more be held responsible for the actions of these individuals as can governments be held accountable for the actions of criminals.
Samier Dandan is President of the Lebanese Muslim Association.