Moderation and Self-Criticism : The Problem Faced By Islamic Society
I'm not really sure where I'm going to end up with this blog post, so please bear with me.
Increasingly these days, the issue of 'Islamization' arises, of moderates and extremists in Islam, and of whether Islam is 'compatible' with Western society (journalist Robert Fisk made an interesting point that Islam is not contrasted with Christianity, but the West, but Christianity no longer has a political identity that can be compared with Islam). Muslims, so-called Moderates, cry foul, claiming that only a very small minority of Muslims are extreme, and that that minority are the most vocal.
A few things come to my mind when that claim is made. First, why are they the most vocal? Surely, if we non-extremists are the majority, we should drown out these people? Secondly, the recent protests againt Denmark by Muslims has led many people to wonder whether we really are the minority. Oh, and then we get websites like the apologist http://www.sorrynorwaydenmark.com/, the authors of which feel that muslims should apologise to Norway and Denmark for the whole issue.
Let me try to interpret all this in my own way. Well, undoubtedly we Moderates are the majority. Sure, we all have our differences even within the moderates. Some people pray with their hands folded, some pray with their hands by their sides. Some believe that smoking is haram, some believe its just makrooh, some believe its nothing. But when it comes to fundamental issues, almost all muslims will agree. Killing innocents is wrong. Killing itself is almost always wrong (except in self-defense, etc.). Freedom and the right to a quality life are undeniable. We all agree on such things. We are the majority.
But we aren't vocal. We've been scared into a state of absolute fear by that minority who are not afraid to kill, not afraid to do things we deem immoral and evil to us should we take a stand against them, and this fear has paralysed the muslim community. Muslims talk of the great Ummah, of Deen and brotherhood and that. But, and many wont like this, I feel that the Ummah is dead. The Ummah has been dead for quite a while. While we, the moderates are the majority, our internal differences do not let us come together and stand strong against common enemies.
We're afraid, as I said, of that minority, and of the internal differences that separate us. Where does that leave us? As individuals, perhaps strong and guided by our morals, but as a community, scared and delusional. We have a victim mentality: we feel that we've been wronged by the world, and that we don't get what we deserve. It may be true, in fact, its likely to be true that we were decimated in decades past: colonisation by the European Empires, subjugation and internal corruption destroyed us. Yet the victim mentality gets us nowhere. We are so consumed (as a society) by self-pity and hate, hate and anger against those that have hurt us, that instead of learning from what was done to us to try to make things right, we stay backwards, angry and bitter.
Anyone who tries to criticise the ills of our society is labelled as a self-hater, or a traitor. If we criticise things like blind hatred of jews, we are called collaborators and 'westernised', meant in the most poisonous sense. This is wrong. Yes, our Palestinian brothers and sisters suffered terribly at the hands of the nationalist Zionist movement in the mid-20th century, when over 750 000 Palestinians were forced off their land in order to create a Jewish majority in a land called Palestine. Yes, the Zionist movement was not even a religious movement, but rather a movement controlled by Agnostics, with the 'Promised Land' the excuse to mobilise the Jewish people. But, when trying to achieve our goals, we have to work towards solutions without hate, and without anger. I do not say that we should forget what happened: no, we musn't. We must remember what we've been through and use the memory to strengthen our cause. But we must differentiate between who is an enemy and who is not.
The enemy is the anti-Palestinian forces of Israeli apartheid in that case, not the Israeli people. Its the indoctrinating educational system, the subservient Israeli media, the bootlicking Israeli academics. The simple fact of life is that there are probably more Israelis criticising the practices of the Israeli government than there are Arabs criticising mispractices of the Arab governments.
The Palestinian situation is the example I'm using here because, one, its something thats close to the heart of all Arabs and two, today we had a talk in my university by prominent Israeli Histsorian Ilan Pappe. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilan_Pappe and http://www.logosjournal.com/pappe.htm are useful links). He talked about Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, and the need for Israel to admit its bloody past, before any peace can become thinkable. He told us about the numerous problems he and other critics of the state of Israel are facing within Israel. But people like him are heros: they are the ones who will ultimately bring about a Peace with the Arabs. We have to recognise that there are good people amongst the Israelis, indeed amongst all races, religions and creeds.
But the first step before we can present a united face is to settle our differences with ourselves. We must root out the extremist elements in our society. We must say NO to Hate, to Racism. We have to get over our pain and our anger, and use them to make us better as a people, and not to let them hold us back, to stop us from progressing. Islam is the 2nd largest religion in the world, and the fastest growing. Most of us live in poverty, struggling to survive day by day. The few of us that have the things we need to survive, indeed to excel, are too busy squabbling amongst ourselves. And us Arabs, shameful as I am to admit it, are not progressing at all, because we are stuck in the past, and refuse to emerge. We need to become a responsible people, able to criticise ourselves openly with the goal of improving. We need to be able to stand proud and represent Islam properly, because most Muslims actually do see Arabs as the ambassadors of Islam. We need to help our brothers and sisters in poverty to stand on their own two feet. Once we are a strong, developed, democratic and proud society, then we can think of criticising others.
I hope that was clear to anyone reading, because it looks like a mess to me :s
Posted by illogicist at 2:53 PM