Kitchener-Waterloo

Ottawa shooting: Idrisa Pandit is tired of apologizing for being Muslim

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.
Idrisa Pandit is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Waterloo. (Renison College marketing staff/uwaterloo.ca)

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."