All men called Richard must apologise! Now!

I have seen many ridiculous demands that ‘the Muslim community’ should apologise for the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

This short audio snippet from a radio call-in programme highlights exactly why this is such nonsense, and it does it beautifully.  Do take a few minutes to listen:


5 thoughts on “All men called Richard must apologise! Now!

  1. Richard was being a bit of a dick there. Trouble is that there are so many Richards out there. He really could not see the errors in his views, despite James’s best efforts.

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  3. The comparison IS ridiculous and I will tell you exactly why, without childish comments like “Why haven’t YOU apologised, no YOU are” interrupting me. A person cannot respond when they are interrupted by ridiculous comments before they can finish.

    When a Muslim commits a regular crime, for example, shoplifting, nobody blames the crime on their faith as it is not connected. Likewise, nobody would call on the Muslim community to respond to the crime because of this.

    The same would also apply if a Muslim were part of a terrorist group acting on something unrelated to their faith. For example, if a Muslim person were part of a GreenPeace sabotage, nobody would expect the Muslime community to respond, because the goal was not related to Islam.

    The shoe bomber was NOT acting for ‘all Richards’ and so this comparison started as ridiculous. But I will explain why this childish suggestion is completely moronic.
    He couldn’t POSSIBLY act for ‘all Richards’ because there is no guiding principle which all Richards claim to follow. There is no Book of Richard. There is no God of Richard. There is no Richard Law.
    If there were, then yes, the Richard community would have to respond to an act in the name of Richard.

    There is a Muslim community where there isn’t a Richard community because of these shared beliefs they have. All Muslims work from the same guidebook, the same set of rules, the same basic belief in the same entity and ways of pleasing it.
    To say the attackers weren’t working from ‘their Islam’ is basically what we call the ‘No True Scotsman fallacy’. If they work from the same book that other Muslims work from and because of this they believe that they are true Muslims just as others consider themselves true Muslims, then they are true Muslims. If they work from the same Islam, it is the same Islam. There aren’t completely different versions of the Qu’ran, where one says the other isn’t real Islam.

    If a book can create an atrocity, then the other followrs of that book must explain and apologise for the harm it has caused.
    When you are part of a group and other members from that group do something wrong, you must either take responsibility for your group or you must distance yourself from it.

    Political leaders apologise when a member of their poitical group does wrong, but not for the wrong of opposing parties for the same reason.
    The Royal family apologise when members do wrong, but not for the wrong of other Windsor families for the same reason.
    A magazine will apologise when one of its writers does wrong, but not for the wrong of all journalists for the same reason.

    A group must either be a group, or demonstrably separate itself and rename parts of it, to show the differences they have.


    • Thank you for your comment.

      I think the problem with your position is simply stated: who operates in that way? If I make the assumption that you are from a (broadly defined) Western country, can you please point me to your apology for slavery? And colonialism? And the ethnic cleansing of the Native American peoples? And the Shoah/Holocaust? And the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001? And the invasion of Iraq in 2003? And ongoing drone attacks by Western countries in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere? And…? This point is eloquently made by Alex Shams, referred to in one of the comments on my first CH posting.

      As it happens, I wrote about the No True Scotsman fallacy towards the end of last year on a blog I’m involved in at work – you might be interested to read it. As you’ll see: I understand it differently to you in this kinds of context: yes, of course, we need to take seriously that the attackers said they were avenging insults to Islam, but this does not mean they are speaking on behalf of all Muslims, all 1 billion+ of them, and that therefore any and all of them need to apologise for what has happened. Far from it! (Incidentally, there is clear evidence the attackers were ‘radicalised’ by Western atrocities in the Middle East before the cartoons appeared, suggesting the cartoons offered a pretext for attacks, but perhaps not the main motivation – we may never know for certain.)

      You say: ‘If a book can create an atrocity…’ – but this is a nonsense, since a book is an inert object! It is people who interpret books in certain ways who may go on to create atrocities. This is one of the reasons there are so many different interpretations of what Islam is, what Christianity is, what Judaism is etc. (in fact, I think there is a plausible argument to be made for saying we would be better off not using these terms at all as they suggest reification and uniformity where they don’t exist, instead we should talk about people who define themselves as Muslims/Christians/Jews etc.). People construct their understanding of how to live as Muslims/Christians/Jews etc. contingent upon the social, political and historical contexts they find themselves in, and sometimes they are in conflict with one another over such issues. Therefore, whilst the Richard example is slightly silly, it is an entirely plausible construction, in the same way that other communities are plausible constructions.


      Regarding the other comment you posted on this blog, you wrote:

      Also, since comments were disabled for the piece on not being Charlie Hebdo, I’ve resorted to emailing my response to that, to you directly, and also I shall post it here for others to see if they happen to come across it. As it is highly important for the world to read a balanced, rational response to any other work. It was entirely unfair to disable comments on such a subject, especially when the article was so badly made.

      There is nothing unfair about closing the comments. This is my personal blog, and I chose to leave comments open for two days and tried to respond to as many correspondents as possible. If you think you have comments to make that are not covered by the views that are already connected to that posting, then do please put them on your own blog and link back to my article. However, since comments really are closed on the other article, I have deleted your other comment. (Incidentally: I am honoured that you think ‘the world’ is turning to my blog for views on this issue – my readership is pretty high, but even at tens of thousands is not quite at ‘world’ levels…)


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