Muslim Guilt and San Bernardino


By Mehlaqa Samdani

When three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic were brutally gunned down by a white, American extremist last week, as an American, I did not condemn the atrocity. Nor did I condemn every instance of a mass shooting that occurred over the past year in the United States by my fellow Americans.

Nor was I expected to.

And yet, I am expected to condemn the killings in Paris and will be expected to do so in response to San Bernardino because Muslims perpetrated these unconscionable acts. We will hear the popular refrains: ‘Where is the Muslim outrage? Where are the condemnations? After all, these heinous crimes were committed in the name of Islam.’ (Although it should be noted that the motive in the San Bernardino killings has yet to be established)

I am a dual citizen (Pakistani and American) and both my governments commit heinous acts in the name of their respective citizens and their respective ideologies. American citizens are not expected to condemn every single instance in which the U.S. government has killed innocent civilians in drone strikes in their name. Similarly, Pakistani citizens are not expected to condemn every military operation in the tribal areas that kills innocents in their name.

I refuse to perpetuate a double-standard.

I refuse to publicly condemn San Bernardino because by condemning only those acts where Muslims are responsible, I will reinforce the notion that those who perpetrate these horrors represent me in some way. I will reinforce the notion that Muslims are one entity and that if one person commits a crime, we are all responsible. I refuse to internalize the guilt that is collectively imposed on Muslim communities. Instead, I will continue to engage my fellow-Americans and fellow-Muslims in conversations that explore structural, political and societal causes for violence in our communities and collaboratively develop programs that address them.