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Not all Muslim Americans cash in on self-victimization: On unopened Diet Coke, Boston bombing, Charleston

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OPINION: Muslim Americans must resist the minority reflex

In my first semester at the University of Michigan, I lived in the Honors Housing with a splendid group of young men. One afternoon we were together in a friend’s dorm watching an old episode of Family Guy. Peter had gone back to the third grade – he needed to graduate from elementary school to get a promotion at work. The smartest kid in his class happened to be a brown kid named Omar. When Peter spelled a word right that Omar had gotten wrong, Peter punched the kid in the face and knocked him out.

At that moment, someone behind me in the room yelled, “Omar was a terrorist too, though.” They laughed, but then someone nudged the young man who said it and pointed out that a Muslim guy named Omar was sitting not too far in front of him. The ripples of laughter turned to disquiet, a sudden self-consciousness. I didn’t think much of the remark – it was certainly offensive, especially because it was said more with malice than humor – but I merely laughed and shrugged it off.

When I got up to leave, the young man in question followed me out of the room and down the hall, apologizing incessantly, stumbling over himself, scared that I might report him. I told him that honestly it was no big deal.

Years later, I am amused by the scandal I now know I could have made of that remark. Raging social justice leaders on college campuses have ushered in an age in which self-victimization pays off overnight. So it is no surprise that there is an ever-present urge for Leftists to look for the next inspiring story of persecution around every other corner.

A perfect example is Tahera Ahmad, the Muslim chaplain from Northwestern University who created a firestorm because she didn’t get an unopened can of Diet Coke on her plane ride. Of course, every worthy Muslim had to post about the incident and decry the persecution that American Muslims have to endure. Jon Stewart, in a hurry to prove how noble he was, invited Muslim comedian Hassan Minhaj to do a skit on the Daily Show about how wearing a scarf around your neck was fashionable, but the same scarf worn around the head meant you were a terrorist.

United Airlines issued an apology immediately. The employee in question was put on leave, Tahera’s story went largely unquestioned, and the multitudes poured in their sympathy. Tahera, now the patron saint of all oppressed Muslims in America, will probably fly free for the rest of her persecuted days.

Incidents like these, though intolerable, should be put in context. The backlash that the perpetrator will suffer is a thousand-fold what the victim will experience. Consider the racist chant by the SAE brothers from the University of Oklahoma. The ten-second video of their chant rocked the Internet in a matter of hours. The president of the university issued a near-immediate statement expelling the students, calling for diversity and inclusion, and condemning the fraternity. The nationwide response was almost unilateral. I have no sympathy for racists and bigots – and yet I must point out that no sympathy was dealt them.

Shouldn’t the attitude of Americans, no less white Americans, be judged by the reaction to such incidents, not the isolated incidents themselves?

There are more than 300 million people living in America. Among them are 6 million who identify as Muslims, who have countless micro-interactions with non-Muslims every day. Once upon several months of such interactions, someone like Tahera will be on the blunt end of a racist in a bad mood. All racism is unjustifiable, but must each microcosm be blown up to rectify a persecution that, in all practicality, is exaggerated? Indeed, the Muslim student living in Ann Arbor must hitchhike hundreds of miles to the backwoods and muggy swamps of South Carolina to come across a worthy racist.

And so social justice warriors sit comfortably in the webs they weave, waiting to cash in on tragedies like the massacre of nine Black worshippers at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The hypocrisy is illustrated perfectly in Salon, which – apart from its feminist articles on sexual liberation – blames White people for everything. After the Boston Bombers were caught, Salon featured a piece by post-9/11 apologist Wajahat Ali called “Muslims don’t need to apologize for the Tsaranaevs.” There is nothing disagreeable with Ali’s sentiment. It is only fair. But in the wake of the massacre in Charleston, Salon ran an article called “White America must answer for the Charleston church massacre.”

Some Muslims, and I say this as a Muslim myself who urges that there should be honest self-criticism amongst ourselves, are heartless enough to make up stories in the wake of such tragedies. Last Friday night on Yik Yak, an anonymous forum YikYakOMthat is populated mostly by high school and college students, a riveting story surfaced. A white man had pulled up to a mosque in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and set a pit bull loose during Ramadan prayers. He had a Confederate flag on his truck.

My heart sank as I panicked and texted my friends… that is the mosque I grew up praying in. However, almost immediately, I learned it was unverified and probably exaggerated. A heartless ploy to cash in on Charleston. The minority reflex, when it looks upon spilt blood, moves one to dip his brush red and continue painting a self-serving and self-righteous portrait of White America.

America is reeling, and White America is no different. No one with a heart has a shred of sympathy for Dylann Roof.  Now is the time for mourning, not the time to capitalize on sorrow. Let us look to the people of Charleston. They are healing in the body of Christ, turning the other cheek, speaking of forgiveness. Who are we to wallow in self-pity when our brothers are bathed in blood?

PHOTO CREDIT: Judd Weiss

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Editor’s note: This column has been amended.

About the Author
Omar Syed Mahmood -- University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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