During a segment Tuesday morning on public response to the Sydney hostage situation carried out by a Muslim gunmen, CNN asked, “Should Muslims always denounce terror?”
Host Carol Costello brought on Arsalan Iftikhar, Senior Editor of Islamic Monthly and founder of MuslimGuide.com, to talk about whether or not it’s fair to expect what she described as the “almost automatic” condemnation of acts of terrorism by Muslim leaders.
After discussing the outpouring of support for Muslims by Australians in the midst of the hostage situation, Costello asked Iftikhar to comment on the need for Muslim clerics to continue to condemn terrorism. Suggesting that racism is involved, Iftikhar argued that the call for condemnations is an unfair double standard levied against the community whenever a “brown Muslim man commits a criminal act”:
Iftikhar: The problem is that whenever a brown Muslim man commits a criminal act, the world public expects Muslim leaders and public intellectuals to come out and condemn these acts of terrorism, which we do. This same sort of double standard, of course, is not applied to other minority demographic groups. The Sydney hostage crisis was a criminal act, not an Islamic one, and it’s something that Muslim public intellectuals, leaders, and religious scholars around the world will continue to speak out against.
Costello pressed him further, saying since the gunman was trying to “hijack” the religion, “wouldn’t it be better to come out and distance yourself from him?” Iftikhar responded by comparing the “lunatic” hostage-taker to members of the Westboro Baptist Church and saying the criminal acts conducted by him were “against any normative teaching” of Islam:
Iftikhar: Well, keep in mind, Carol, this man was a crazy lunatic. He was recently charged with 50 counts of indecent exposure and sexual assault. He was charged as an accessory in the murder of his ex-wife. This guy was one of those street corner clerics that you would find on the corner of Times Square. This guy was a straight up lunatic. He had nothing to do with the religion of Islam. His acts were about as Muslim as the Westboro Baptist Church’s acts are Christian. I think any person with any common sense would understand that this is against any normative teaching of any religious or civilized society today.
Iftikhar’s recent articles for Islamic Monthly include “Let’s Call ISIS the ‘Un-Islamic State’” and “A Muslim’s Prayer for the Boston Marathon,” in which he admits that his first thought upon learning about the bombing was “Oh God… please don’t let it be a Muslim…”