When white supremacist Brenton Tarrant took the lives of 51 innocent people at Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, it sent shockwaves around the globe. Similarly, the killing spree by far-right terrorist Anders Breivik, which wiped out 77 people including children, still remains fresh in many people’s minds even though it took place almost a decade ago. However, despite the atrocities these terrorists carried out, there was no demand for members of their religion to speak out and condemn such violent behaviour simply because they shared it. While some might ask why they even would be expected to, for many in the Muslim community it highlights a clear disparity when acts of terrorism are carried out at the hands of so-called Islamic states and those who prescribe to their ideas.
In sharp contrast, Muslim figures are quickly asked to voice their condemnation in no uncertain terms on TV chat shows, in vox-pops, or in national debates, despite having nothing in common with the terrorist other than a claimed share of religion. Additionally, terror attacks involving Muslims receive 357% more coverage than when the religion of the attacker is unknown. It’s an issue Asim Qureshi, writer and research director of human rights organisation CAGE, has decided to explore in his book: I Refuse To Condemn, as he believes that by not outrightly denounce these acts – while not championing them either – is a political act in itself and a way to resist anti-Islamic prejudice. In his book, 18 essayists write about the different ways Muslims can resist what’s expected of them and exist beyond the monolith they’re portrayed to be. Asim explains that the idea came after being constantly asked to comment on terror attacks, which included an interview with Channel 4’s Jon Snow, where he was questioned on whether he condemned the actions of Jihadi John, the infamous ISIS killer. He told Metro.co.uk: ‘I had a number of experiences being interviewed or being at events where people would ask me if I condemned terrorism. ‘I wanted to capture the lived experiences and feelings of scholars and activists from different communities, who have this demand made of them. ‘My hope for this book is that it helps those who feel the pressure to condemn, find voices and experiences that they recognise, and find a pathway to resist that demand.