I Refuse to Condemn edited by Asim Qureshi

Author: edited by Asim Qureshi
Title: I Refuse to Condemn: Resisting Racism in Times of National Security
Published: December 2020 by Manchester University Press
Genre: Non-Fiction (anthology of essays)

This is a collection of essays about resisting racism. It tackles the social pressure that marginalised communities face to condemn ‘their own’ whenever someone from the same group commits a crime or does something socially (not necessarily ethically/morally) unacceptable. The main focus was on Muslims being expected to condemn acts of terrorism. 

This book is written for the people who are expected to condemn, not those we are expected to condemn to which was why it was so powerful. It was affirming, validating and above all: empowering. Reading this has confirmed for me why it felt so pointless and counterproductive when giving in to the pressure to condemn and how it in fact feeds into the narrative. Reading this has given me the confidence to refuse to condemn and know that my reasons for doing so are valid and important. 

This book was the literary hug I needed after a year in which I’ve encountered particularly draining and at times traumatic conversations (about the police in relation to the BLM protests). It was not an easy read and at time it elevated my heart rate and made my breathing shallow as I relived certain experiences or saw the reality of suspicion and risk some of these contributors exposed themselves to (by refusing to condemn) or simply by existing as a Muslim/person of colour. 

I was forced to bring to the forefront of my mind subjects that I sometimes choose not to think about out of self preservation. But here the subject was coming from the perspective that is rarely given space to breathe. Although it was emotionally taxing at times, I felt safe with the authors of these essays and there was comfort, hope and understanding in their words – meant for me and my fellow Muslims, and People of Colour.

Refusing to condemn means actively turning away from the easy option that sometimes feels like the only one available to maintain safety and well-being. Justice is never easy, resisting in its very nature means battling against the tide of the river and in this case the river is gushing. 

In conclusion, please read this book.

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