Sometimes the worst thing is saying, “I’m sorry”.

So, last Saturday (Sep 11), a paper in Maine ran a story about the local celebrations at the end of Ramadan the day before.  It was a pretty innocuous piece, a typical fluff article about local culture.

Then the Internet happened.

The paper got deluged with calls and comments and Facebook screeds and angry words.  Some people, it seems, were offended that the paper would devote front-page real estate to a Muslim celebration on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  Blindsided and, one imagines, just a bit scared, the paper issued a remarkably abject — one might even say servile — apology.

I find the whole affair disheartening.  And even though I neither subscribe to the Press-Herald nor, indeed, had ever heard of it, I wrote to the Publisher to express my own reaction.  Here it is:

Dear Mr. Conor–
I have read with interest your story on the ending of Ramadan and your subsequent apology (  I will admit to finding out about the incident only through Internet reporting and I can’t lay any particular claim on your attention or respect.  But the apology was disheartening.  Your paper’s response to frankly overheated criticism helps support a very mistaken view that 9/11 was about Islam versus the West.  Only one group benefits from that view, which is al Qaeda.  On 2001 September 11, the US was not attacked by Islam.  We were attacked by a band of street thugs, of small men with small minds who exploited a weakness in our vigilance.  It was not an epic clash of civilizations; it was a drive-by shooting.  We should not dignify those thugs by allowing them to shock us and certainly we should not buy into their ridiculous claims.  Islam did not triumph over the West on 9/11.  Rather, 19 unworthy men got unbelievably lucky.

I am sure others have pointed out that many Americans who are Muslims died in those attacks, and others as first responders trying to save lives in the aftermath.  I am sure that others have pointed out that papers routinely runs stories on Christmas pageants and Easter parades without “balancing” them with stories about forced conversions and pogroms.  As a nation, I would like to believe, we are wise enough to distinguish between a faith and the twisted shadow of a faith misappropriated by evil men.

Your first article did a service by reminding your readers that Islam is practiced — peacefully! — in the United States just as Christianity and Judaism and all faiths are.  Your abject apology undermined that and gave comfort only to the foes of the US.  No matter how much a bunch of yahoos hiding in caves want it to be different, there need be no clash of civilizations, and we don’t need to abandon our time-honored jurisprudence, our noble tolerance, or our basic civility.

We are smarter than that.  We are stronger than that.  We are better than that.

And I just wish your paper had been, too.

-=-Bernard HP Gilroy


Leave a Reply