Mass acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims against Western citizens are inevitably used to set new rules of acceptable religious discourse within the Muslim community itself.

After 9/11, for example, it became unacceptable for Muslims and their organizations to criticize US foreign policy and American imperialism, even when, especially when that foreign policy and imperialism amounted to brutalization, murder, and genocide of Muslims overseas. Such criticisms were suddenly considered “unpatriotic,” “incendiary” speech acts that “supported terrorism.” Muslim leaders and institutions, fearful of the consequences, fell into line and began to police themselves, making sure such “illegitimate” discourse was snuffed out or marginalized. And the US government and media establishment did its part to reward the “Good Muslims” who followed the new rules by, for example, inviting them to the White House, bestowing on them various governmental positions and grants, giving them media exposure, book deals, fame, etc., and punishing the “Bad Muslims” with increased scrutiny, putting them on the no-fly list, detaining many of them on immigration technicalities, deporting many of them outright, and employing many other intimidation tactics that have continued to this day.

The same pattern has repeated itself numerous times since 9/11. And while no one denies the tragedy of 9/11 and the disaster that is the indiscriminate loss of life, we as the Muslim community have to be aware of the opportunistic program that was put into place to control Muslim speech, dictate Muslim beliefs, and, in the end, emend Islamic values according to the dominant discourse, which is, of course, virulently antagonistic to Islam and Muslim life itself.

This recent instance of mass violence, I’m afraid, will prove to be no different.

But as long as we are aware of the script, we can resist it inshaAllah.