Idrisa Pandit watched with horror last Wednesday as the news unfolded that Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, and his shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, was later fatally shot.
The life of Zehaf-Bibeau has been under a microscope ever since. Pandit, a professor of Islamic Studies the University of Waterloo, said it didn’t take long for Zehaf-Bibeau's religion to be dragged into the media storm.
"I’m not surprised…you know somehow they have to always find the whole faith by itself as a culprit for some lone insane individual’s act," Pandit told Craig Norris in a Friday interview on The Morning Edition.
Listen to the interview here:
Muslim communities reacted quickly to the news that Zehaf-Bibeau had connections to a mosque in Burnaby, B.C., with mosque officials saying he had been asked to leave. Other cultural associations condemned the violence he perpetrated.
'[S]omehow every Muslim is supposed to take responsibility for that [individual’s action], whereas we don’t expect that of people of any other faith or culture.' - Idrisa Pandit
Pandit said Muslim communities should not have to apologize for the act of a single individual.
"Here, we don’t even know who this individual was, why he chose to do such a horrific act, yet we’re making assumptions… from the very get-go that somehow this individual acted out because of a faith he belonged to, something we have absolutely no way to verify," said Pandit.
"Somehow we seem to conflate, [an act such as this] with a 1.7 billion people’s faith, as if there’s something inherently wrong with that faith, something inherently wrong with people who follow that faith. As much as Muslims are at a very difficult crossroads…somehow they’re expected to issue a statement…an apology…somehow every Muslim is supposed to take responsibility for that [individual’s action], whereas we don’t expect that of people of any other faith or culture."
As a Muslim herself, Pandit said she’s experienced both support and "deep-rooted hate" in Waterloo Region, where she regularly volunteers and attends community events.
"There is a lot of fear-mongering. I think when people are afraid…and there have been enough feeding of that fear…it is a natural reaction. People that attribute anyone as the Other, as a possible threat, as a danger to the country, as something needs to be done to stop people from coming here."