Op-Ed: "The Person Behind the Muslim"

June 10, 2006

Source: The New York Times


On June 10, 2006 The New York Times ran an opinion piece by Canadian Muslim author Anar Ali on the scrutiny Muslims have experience since 9/11 and more recently, the arrests in Canada. Ali writes, "After years of hard work (and 30 years in Canada), I finally arrived in a new geography. It wasn't a physical space... it was a cultural and psychological place, one that coalesced my identities into one and gave me a sense of home. I called this place Canadian. Sept. 11 changed all that. So have subsequent acts of terrorism — or attempted acts of terrorism, like the ones authorities said were planned by the members of Islamic terrorist cells arrested here last week. These events have all, in one way or another, expelled me from my new home. It was dismantled; my Muslim identity was teased out like code from a DNA strand. One piece of code does not tell you the whole story, but it is the only one placed under the microscope for investigation. This is all you are. Muslim Magnified... Whether you want it or not, as a Muslim (secular and otherwise) you are automatically pulled into the debate on terrorism. Not that I don't want to discuss it, I do. But I want to discuss it as a citizen, not just a Muslim. As a Muslim, people expect you to be an expert, to have special inside knowledge on the topic. They want your opinion on the issue, your help in explaining and analyzing complex political issues, the history of Islam, the psychology of suicide bombers. I have no sense of what motivates a terrorist (except maybe as a fiction writer, since it's my job to enter the hearts and minds of characters). Terrorists and radical Islamists live in a different place from me, psychologically and culturally, even if they were raised in Canada just as I was. To better understand these young men and why they turn to violence as a means to an end, it might make more sense to ask someone who was a skinhead, a member of the Irish Republican Army, a Tamil Tiger, or a Weatherman. If you asked me, I would have to speculate, as most people do, from the sidelines."