Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry


Published: September 18, 2010

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.

That’s reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I’m going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.

I’m inspired by another journalistic apology. The Portland Press Herald in Maine published an innocuous front-page article and photo a week ago about 3,000 local Muslims praying together to mark the end of Ramadan. Readers were upset, because publication coincided with the ninth anniversary of 9/11, and they deluged the paper with protests.

So the newspaper published a groveling front-page apology for being too respectful of Muslims. “We sincerely apologize,” wrote the editor and publisher, Richard Connor, and he added: “we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.” As a blog by James Poniewozik of Time paraphrased it: “Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human.”

I called Mr. Connor, and he seems like a nice guy. Surely his front page isn’t reserved for stories about Bad Muslims, with articles about Good Muslims going inside. Must coverage of law-abiding Muslims be “balanced” by a discussion of Muslim terrorists?

Ah, balance — who can be against that? But should reporting of Pope Benedict’s trip to Britain be “balanced” by a discussion of Catholic terrorists in Ireland? And what about journalism itself?

I interrupt this discussion of peaceful journalism in Maine to provide some “balance.” Journalists can also be terrorists, murderers and rapists. For example, radio journalists in Rwanda promoted genocide.

I apologize to Muslims for another reason. This isn’t about them, but about us. I want to defend Muslims from intolerance, but I also want to defend America against extremists engineering a spasm of religious hatred.

Granted, the reason for the nastiness isn’t hard to understand. Extremist Muslims have led to fear and repugnance toward Islam as a whole. Threats by Muslim crazies just in the last few days forced a Seattle cartoonist, Molly Norris, to go into hiding after she drew a cartoon about Muhammad that went viral.

And then there’s 9/11. When I recently compared today’s prejudice toward Muslims to the historical bigotry toward Catholics, Mormons, Jews and Asian-Americans, many readers protested that it was a false parallel. As one, Carla, put it on my blog: “Catholics and Jews did not come here and kill thousands of people.”

That’s true, but Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor and in the end killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda ever did. Consumed by our fears, we lumped together anyone of Japanese ancestry and rounded them up in internment camps. The threat was real, but so were the hysteria and the overreaction.

Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.

Many Americans honestly believe that Muslims are prone to violence, but humans are too complicated and diverse to lump into groups that we form invidious conclusions about. We’ve mostly learned that about blacks, Jews and other groups that suffered historic discrimination, but it’s still O.K. to make sweeping statements about “Muslims” as an undifferentiated mass.

In my travels, I’ve seen some of the worst of Islam: theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God’s bidding.

But I’ve also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.

I’m sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.

Source–New York Times, 9/19/2010

  1. #1 by B.Benhamid on 09/19/2010 - 9:34

    Thank you Nicholas for sharing this heartfelt message with all of us.

  2. #2 by Len on 09/19/2010 - 9:34

    Muslims aren’t the only group to be stereotyped.
    Italian-Americans are constantly depicted as goons
    or as Mafia members. We all know the group responsible for this
    They control all of the media and Hollywood.

  3. #3 by B.A.Frémaux-Soormally on 09/19/2010 - 9:34

    Published: September 18, 2010
    Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
    Nicholas D. Kristof

    “In my travels, I’ve seen some of the worst of Islam: theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God’s bidding.”

    This is not balanced journalism, but ignorance and utter nonsense.

    “the worst of Islam”
    “theocratic mullahs”
    “girls kept out of school in Afghanistan”
    “genital mutilation … in the name of Islam”
    “warlords in Yemen and Sudan”

    These are stereotypes we have seen emerging only when Muslims started fighting back the imperialists and mass murderers. When the West colonised these lands where were all those BARBARIC MONSTERS?


  4. #4 by Sam on 09/19/2010 - 9:34

    Good for you.

  5. #5 by Patty on 09/19/2010 - 9:34

    Amazingly absent from the Jewish Mr. Kristof’s editorial is any mention of Jewish hatred of the entire Gentile world in general and hatred of Christians and Moslems in particular. In contrast to the recent Islam-bashing which used words, the Jews use bombs and guns to kill Gentiles on a massive scale. A convenient omission on Kristof’s part.

  6. #6 by Lydia D. on 09/19/2010 - 9:34

    Muslims are fighting (Jewish) secularism that has been inflicted and rammed down their (and our) collective throats by the “democratic” Western mentality, and they are (rightly) tired of it. The enemy is secularism, it is what has been at the crux of this mess.

  7. #8 by onion on 09/20/2010 - 9:34

    It is mute what the Israeli’s or Muslims or the USA or anybody says or does at this point the point is when is it going to be dealt with properly. The answers about cohesion or rule. It is someone else’s turn to phk up or wioll the leaders who can truly lead with integrity and compassion to make sure everyone eats very basic within civilized society. No excuses everyone must eat and be able to sustain a life style to support their capacity.

  8. #9 by Sean on 09/20/2010 - 9:34

    I think people should be reminded that the Jews hate everybody. All those that are not Jews, the Goyim, are fair game for Jews who really believe they are superior to everybody else. Hitler thought that Germans were superior too. I wonder where he got that idea and the money to rebuild a flat broke Germany into a fighting, warmongering machine? I wonder. Bavaria seems to be at the root of all evil, even today with the likes of Angela Merkle, a Jew, calling the shots and exercising the intolerant attitude personified by Israel in their Nazi style treatment of the Palestinians. It’s interesting to note that the rulers of Israel are all European Jews without an drop of Semitic blood in their bodies and are all of the AshkeNAZI/khazar persuasion of converted Jews. If you can convert to being a Jew, which they claim is a race as opposed to a Religion, does that mean I can convert to being Chinese or Eskimo. It beggars belief that the world does not cotton on to such a simple and glaring chasm in their twisted logic. Israel for Jews. That’s not racist, is it??? Not according to the Jews. If one questions the Holocaust, of which the definition is “Burnt Offering” a religious connotation one is branded a racist. The huge holes in the data relating to the claims made by Israel as to the number of Jews that died at the hands of the Nazi in WW2, does not seem to have filtered through to the general public who still join hands with Israel to mourn the deaths of the six million despite the fact, and even the Israeli’s concede, they were grossly exaggerated. More Catholics died than Jews, so where is their retribution? The Zionists could not get their own people to leave their comfortable European lives to live like “Strangers in a Strange land” so they made it impossible for them to stay and only gave them one avenue for escape. Palestine.
    That is a matter of record and still modern history chooses to ignore that salient fact in favour of the victim nation of Israel whose hatred of the rest of the world is hardly disguised. It’s an open book but unfortunately we live in an illiterate world where the lie of the Holocaust is still taught in schools. Is it not time we learnt to read?

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