Rami Ismail
6 min readFeb 20, 2021

Harm done in hurt is harm done. I made a statement that was unfair, unjust, and hurtful to many. In the moments following said statement, I lost my temper, and in my fury, lashed out at both groups and individuals undeserving of it.

I am sorry for these failures, both as a platform, and as a person. I apologize without condition or reservation.

In a desperate attempt to call attention to the existence and response to Six Days in Fallujah, an entertainment product glorifying the destruction and erasure of the Iraqi people, the Arab people, and the Muslim people, I decided to try and emphasise the hurt of my people by making a comparison with the awful treatment of other marginalized groups that the West would perhaps be more familiar with.

This was a misjudgement of incomparable proportions.

First of all, this is a dangerous, unfair, and unjust rhetorical device. The hurt, harm, and trauma of any group or individual should not ever be diminished to an argument for another cause. I drew in people that have befallen and continue to befall harm without their consent or agreement. As no one can gain communal consent or agreement from all of any minority to speak of their harms, this should be avoided.

Second, one should not make such a comparison without complete knowledge of the appropriateness of the comparison being made. In this incident and an earlier incident, I have proven that my understanding of the racism faced by Black folks is not adequate. I have also proven that my control of the English language surrounding this complex issue is simply not nuanced or precise enough to speak to these issues respectfully.

Finally, in the way I worded it, I suggested a hierarchy of harm or hurt based on the scale, timeliness, and difference in power dynamics between different forms of oppression. This is unnecessary and harmful. Oppression is oppression, and all and any oppression should be fought equally.

As such, my statements were unacceptable.

I would like to provide some additional context and make more specific apologies below.

I want to offer my apologies to the Black community.

Many individuals within the Black community have been supportive allies in the fight for Arab and Muslim freedom and agency. Many have as frequently been supportive allies for freedom for the people of Palestine. Many supported Muslim access to the US when it was taken away. And many have frequently been dear and trusted friends to me, as mentors and caring supporters of a lone minority in an industry where I saw so few like myself, where I feared to be myself or claim my heritage, and where I felt lost trying to make sense of an unjust world.

I know there are specific people to whom my failures here will seem both predictable and disappointing — people that have previously volunteered their time to educate me on how the comparison between oppressions is a dangerous and unjust rhetorical device. I had genuinely taken your lessons to heart and acted accordingly, but I had not yet internalized them to a point where my anger this last week did not eclipse your lessons.

I would like to think that over the past decade, I have generally been a grateful and supportive ally and that mutual trust has grown between myself and many members of the Black community in games as a result of struggles shared. None of this is meant to serve to justify my failures or serve as an excuse. I say this only to express to people who might not understand the scale of betrayal I expect many Black folks that trusted me will have felt. If anything, that context exacerbates the harm I caused.

I am sorry. I am so, incredibly, incredibly, sorry.

To my fellow Arabs and Muslims, who have overwhelmingly reached out over the past few days I am sorry for failing you.

I derailed a conversation that should have been about our hurts. I am sorry for distracting the conversation from a message that needed to be heard even if for only one second, one second of the very few reluctantly given to us with an ear or a page, seconds bought with the death of thousands of us every time. I wasted some of those seconds with my anger, and in that, I failed all of you.

In the messages I have received from you, I see your love, and your support, and your anger, and your disappointment, and your fears. I see how even temporarily losing one of the Arab and Muslim voices in our medium that does not fear or depend on visas, employment, or funding from the US and its censorship affected you.

I see your anger at Six Days in Fallujah. I hear your anger about our voices not being involved from day one. I read your forums full of sarcastic hurt and pained memes. I understand why you cannot speak up in public out of fear for your safety, your opportunity, and your privacy — and because of it, I understand your support for me despite my mistakes.

But for those of you who do not acknowledge that I failed here, please, please accept that I did. I did wrong to others in my quest to get justice for ourselves. We can accept that, allow me to make amends, and continue our fight. For those of you who now reject me over my failures, I understand. We live in a precarious situation of life and death, humiliation and dehumanisation always, and to have one of us fail in public at a moment like this harms all of us.

I am sorry.

I want to speak to my deactivation of my Twitter account. I received messages suggesting that I am dodging my responsibilities, or that I am avoiding accountability. I am not.

Those of you who know me or follow me know that my Twitter account has been a source of hurt and a great mental strain for me. But they would also know it has primarily been a source of joy, comradery, and curiosity for me over the many years I have had it. From it, I have learned much, I have gotten to know many, and I have tried to share curiosity and honesty. From it, I have launched initiatives that enabled me to do great good, things I am thankful for and proud of every day. On it, I have failed frequently from the first day of being thrust into the public eye almost a decade ago, and I like to believe that I have grown and learned a bit every time I’ve faltered.

I did not deactivate my Twitter account to skirt responsibilities or avoid being held accountable. I did it because I suffered a complete breakdown. The only way to save my health, avoid further damage, and take responsibility was to take a step back, recover, evaluate my failings, learn, apologize, and grow.

To do better, from this point out, I will not invoke any other minorities’ struggle in any words but to amplify their own — the same way I wish Arabs and Muslims would be treated. Nor will I ever again bring up any other minorities’ struggle in relation to that of my own. These are ultimately my failures, and at the heart of them sits the belief that I can learn to understand anything through failure. With the reach of my platform, this cannot be the way I learn.

The solution is to not speak when it comes to the harm of others — but to amplify the voices of those harmed.

When it comes to the many injustices around the world, I shall focus my own words firmly on my fight for underrepresented and marginalized nations and the language barrier, causes I have taken up and feel confident in my expertise in both through lived experience and a decade of work and research and collaboration. And I shall focus firmly on the fight for justice and equality and representation and humanity for Muslims and Arabs, a cause that I cannot avoid even if I would ever want to.

I shall speak of the above, and I shall only ever let others speak on any events or harm befalling their own.

I would like to emphasize and reiterate my sincere regret for my unacceptable words and actions last week.

I apologize to the Black, Arab, and Muslim communities for turning a fight that we should share into a fight between us.

I apologize to any community that I made a comparison to, for diminishing your death, hurt, and trauma to serve as a rhetorical device.

I apologize specifically to the Black community for lashing out at those of you expressing your hurt.

I apologize to the Iraqi, Arab, and Muslim communities for turning a conversation that should have been about our hurt into a conversation about my failures.

And I apologize to my Twitter community, the people that trust me to share with them insight into the complexities, beauty, opportunities, and unfairness of the world. I was the worst possible example of what I want my community to be.

I am sorry. This was unacceptable. I will do better.

Rami Ismail

Gamedev. ED of gamedev.world. presskit() creator. Public speaker, consultant, helps global gamedev. Traveler. Was 50% of Vlambeer. He/Him. Dutch-Egyptian.