NPR this morning posted the story of a Syrian terrorist issuing an apology for a man who was wrongfully beheaded:
“Militant Islamist rebels in Syria … have asked for ‘understanding and forgiveness’ for cutting off and putting on display the wrong man’s head.” NPR quoting the Guardian.
This is not conventional, but there is something deeply meta going on here. Apologies require a form of remorse — some sense that the order of the world has been offended and for which one must account. Thus, the very idea of an apology emanating from someone labeled a “terrorist” should give us pause to reconsider what being a terrorist means. We conventionally think of those acting outside of any political or moral order. We think about the zealots who have so twisted their own belief system that they now justify the destruction of others for the better good. Individuals (even innocent persons) are often swept up into the chaos of horrible acts that are justified for the greater good.
That someone would apologize for actions that cause injury to “an innocent” should force us to reconsider how we label political groups waging war — particularly when we presume that the groups we’ve labeled as terrorist has not conception of “an innocent.” It should force us to reconcile that the way we use the term terrorism and terrorist are more often conclusions than they are meaningful identities.