Afsun Qureshi, Mohamed Merah, and Jihad
“I wish people would stop calling Mohamed Merah a jihadist. He was a garden-variety serial killer in the same vein as Anders Breivik, Paul Bernardo or Clifford Olsen. Merah’s lawyer says he was autistic. And he probably was a psychopath as well. We certainly know that this supposed soldier of al-Qaeda was no Einstein: Two of his victims were Muslim…” – Afsun Qureshi, National Post, Canada
Thus begins Afsun Qureshi‘s plea, quasi-rational, intelligent, and relevant to Muslims and the world, a dialogue between secular and religious. Yet Qureshi’s words are troubling, for her wrongness is tangible and most egregious.
Qureshi writes: “Devout Muslims don’t kill children or off-duty soldiers. What real Muslims do is follow Sura 17: 33: ‘And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully…’”
What? This Sura makes interpretation a whim relying on of the beholder’s relative moral compass. The Jihadist simply thinks he is not killing “wrongfully.” She uses this example to prove her point, yet misses the fallacy of the Sura.
Then Qureshi explains: “One of the great problems of being a Muslim these days is the fallout when some nutcase, or a group of them, commit acts of murder, terror or genocide, then cower behind the shield of religion.”
Definitely. But why can’t Qureshi tie religion to the act? When a person acts in the name of Allah, Christ, Mao, or Heaven’s Gate, their beliefs must be questioned all the way to their roots and inspirations.
Qureshi claims Merah’s evil was an isolated incident that has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with a misguided pyschopath. Mohamed Merah is a Jihadist and a psychopath, in the same way Fred Phelps is Christian and demented. Denial exposes Qureshi as defensive, apologetic, and possessing a simplistic take on moral complexity.
Irshad Manji, a Canadian Muslim, attacks misogyny, violence, killing of innocent third parties, and the religious chauvinism practiced by many of those who share her faith.
As does Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawy, who writes: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend…”
These women question scholarly interpretations of the Koran and hadith that encourage violent jihad. They also qualify: Jihad often is hijacked by demagogues. These women, by not defending what cannot be defended and looking for commonality, comfort all humans, secular and religious, who desire piece.
Qureshi’s article does not offer any “olive branch” or consolation. She adds to confusion due to her inability to ascribe responsibility. Eltahawy and Manji succeed where Qureshi fails.
UPDATE - Great article from CNN that covers a problem: “Many professionals are trained to be culturally sensitive in Britain, but this means we have to help them overcome their fears of being called a racist, because that is what perpetrators will use to get them to turn a blind eye.”