Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nicholas Kristof's Big-Hearted Apology

In today's New York Times, the columnist Nicholas Kristof offers an apology to Muslims "for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has already 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."

It takes guts to write a column like this. Muslims today are going through what Japanese Americans did during the Second World War. A vast number of Americans seem to think that Muslims are driven by sinister motives to overturn all those values they hold dear - freedom, equality, rule of law.

It is, of course, not true. What is true is that in challenging times it is often convenient for people to find scapegoats on whom to vent their fury.

At the same time, I will request my co-religionists - the Muslims - not to play victim and to have the self-assurance to acknowledge that we also need to put our own house in order. There are fanatics among us - it simply will not do to say that they are not Muslims - who are driven only by blood lust and by their obscene certitude. We moderates must do everything we can to convince them to mend their ways, or report them to authorities if we cannot.

Extremists of all faiths are uncannily similar but while Christians and Jews are often quick to condemn theirs, some of us are sometimes reluctant to, thinking that as a minority we must band together, no matter what. We must banish this mentality.

The majority of Muslims are dedicated to doing good for others, and are kind and generous, as are the majority of people of everywhere. Let's have the wisdom to use our innate altruism for the good of all, instead of looking down on those different from ourselves. I really hope Americans will travel to Muslim countries more frequently and see for themselves how much we are alike in our aspirations and in our humanity. Misgivings vanish when we share meals and laugh together.

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