I've been thinking all week on the ever-worsening reputations of Muslims in society at large. It occurred to me that non-Muslims associate all Muslims as one big group, with no different interpretations of the Qur'an, and that we are not viewed as normal people of faith with a random extremist thrown in -- we're viewed as extremists with a random rational person thrown in. Why?
I think this is because the ummah, generally speaking, accepts and defends people who claim the label of "Muslim", regardless of what their actions proclaim their true beliefs to be.
This also ties in with the question I've gotten from Muslims regarding my military service: "How can you fight against and kill your fellow Muslims?"
Answer: Extremists and terrorists are not my fellow Muslims. By committing (or attempting to commit) violent acts that will injure and/or kill innocent people, they show themselves to not be Muslims at all, just blood-thirsty, sick individuals who try to claim theological justification for their horrifying actions.
As Muslims, we should vocally and persistently deny these people who have the audacity to say they are also Muslims. I know that it's hard to do when the media doesn't want to show ANYTHING positive about Muslims, including us denouncing such violence. But if we don't do it, people are still going to accuse us of standing silent, and thereby condoning what has been done. Should we apologize for what they do? No, because when we apologize, we are saying that we are somehow also responsible. Don't take responsibility for one person or handful of people's personal choices! Christians don't feel the need to apologize for the existence of the KKK, the actions of Jim Jones, Anders Behring Breivik, the Army of God, the hatred and bigotry of the Westboro Baptist Church, or any of the other groups or individuals who act in ways completely contradictory to the teachings of Jesus. So why do we feel obligated to apologize for our own handful of crazy people?
I say: If you commit or intend to commit violent acts of terror against innocent people, YOU ARE NOT A MUSLIM. You are not my brother or sister in Islam, because your behavior shows that you do not believe in peace, acceptance, forgiveness, and working with those of different faiths to find our common ground. You are just a psychopath, and your beliefs are NOTHING like mine.
To paraphrase the words of Prophet Jesus, "Get away from me; I never knew you."