Friday, February 24, 2006

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, 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. ( and 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


  1. Blogger Samyah posted at 2/24/2006 11:21:00 PM  
    I'm not as sure that the moderates are the majority. I'd be more likely to say that they/we are the minority because in my experience with political/religious debates (whether at school/online/college) I've been singled out with a middle sat point of view, rarely joined by anyone else.

    I think though that the problem lie most in the vocal aspect of this. Perhaps there are even more moderates than I think, but rarely do they speak out! You find that only people with a very strong sense of opinion on the matter are vocal; and rarely does the strong opinion come in favor of a moderate stance.

    Its improving though, I'm encountering more and more moderates as time goes by. You wouldn't believe what it was like five years ago though. Someone with a peaceful attitude was rarely found. Ironically, things like 9/11, the London bombings and as such have brought out more moderate speakers than we knew existed.

    Since my last blogpost, and reading yours I've been thinking that perhaps it is not the fear of extremists that keeps people from speaking out. It is the fear that they are RIGHT. Unfortunately education in most Arabian states hardly comes with any teaching of tolerance and understanding. The books that are printed for our education actually do seem to be in favor of a rigid, extreme Islam. And it doesnt help that for generations people have had teachers and family members drilling into them the ideas of an evil West and the need for revenge. And this is how extremits are bred, a lot of people you hear supporting terrorism have not suffered one bit at the hands of a non-muslim. So where are they getting this hatred from? Their upbringing and education.

    The problem is then that people are too lazy to dig further and educate THEMSELVES about Islam rather than relying on somebody else. If more people bothered to do so, there would be less fear from extremists and more public speaking against radical Islam.
  2. Blogger PizzaQueen posted at 2/25/2006 02:33:00 AM  
    Coupla people said that they have the impression i hate Arabs.
    Might be my English maybe or might be the fact that i try to criticise the Arab race in a constructive way and when i say Arab i mean Muslim also.
    The problem is that Arab Muslims do not accept criticism nor they do in a constructive way cause they were not brought up to do it.

    Don't remember where, read that today is useless to talk about radical and moderate Muslims but of Secular Muslims and Muslims.
    I start to believe is true : our system and ways are old for this century.
    Is about time we modernise it.
  3. Blogger Arabian Princess posted at 2/25/2006 09:50:00 AM  
    I dont think the issue here is that moderates are not vocal but tell me what could be louder than killing an inoccent life?
    People would hear the killing wether we like it or not, and no matter how loud we try to shout unfourtountly those killing will stand out!
    look at 9/11 as an example, people are spending a life time pointing fingers about it, when in American itself, Muslims are loud and present!!

    I dont think the true voice of Islam would raise if extremist continued killing!

    what we can do about it? I really dont know .. but one thing like you said it unite and forget our differences (thought its slowly happening except in Iraq for obvious reason ;) )
  4. Blogger Soul Rebel posted at 2/25/2006 06:36:00 PM  
    What an amazing analysis!

    You really got to the root of the problem. I to believe that we have bought into this idea of the "myth of the oppressed" where we feel that we are so oppressed that everything that we do is justified. Interestingly enough sounds a lot like Zionist Israeli's doesn't it.

    There is a lot that we need to clean up in our own backyards. In Pakistan and Mauritania slavery is alive and well. All this implemented through Saudia Arabias forcing them to accept Sharia in return for aid. Western Sahara, Souther Sudan, and Kurdistan continue to fight against oppression caused by Arabs and Muslims. People of different ethnicities/nationalities are discriminated against within our own countries!

    Many of our problems lie in our own backyards. We are the victims of ourselves. Yes, European nations colonized and oppressed our know what so did the Islamic Ottoman Empire as well! We become so consumed by the myth of the "man" that we need to remember that no one else is going to pull us out of this except for ourselves. We can't allow ourselves to be victimized by anyone, not an outside force, and especially not from our own people...

    The extremist elements in society won't listen to you. I am not trying to be a defeatist, but a realist. It's hard to get a person to listen to you when they feel that their knowledge comes from God.

    What you are doing now is being vocal, is being active, is being visible. Social change is a slow process, and it begins with education. Something that has been denied in so many of our countries...

    Chef Raw
  5. Anonymous Leen posted at 2/25/2006 07:12:00 PM  
    If moderates are indeed the majority, they're certainly taking advantage of the fact.. reclining back and hoping someone else will do all the work. Like Samya said up there, those with extreme inclinations tend to be the in-your-face vocal type.

    .. Tolerance would be a great place to start. I remember drawing the Star of David on my desk in 4th grade.. because I thought the shape was cool.. and standing in the corner for an hour as punishment.
  6. Blogger Lym posted at 2/25/2006 09:06:00 PM  
    I feel I've read this post before. De Ja Vu?

    I believe you are right. I do believe that moderates are the majority. We just need a common voice that reassures everyone that we condemn the extremists and we should work forward in creating peace with EVERYONE- regardless of the past yet being cautious and aware of it.

    Though I agree with AP the most. It is always that 'extremism' leaves an enormous impression and expression. The less subtle approach is instantly forgotten (moderates Muslims) when something ill happens due to the minor extremists. We need to find something as dramatic and something that will leave a major impression-but in a good way obviously. What is that thing? I've no clue.
  7. Blogger Per Your Request posted at 2/26/2006 06:12:00 PM  
    I also think that moderates are the majority; however they never speak up in fear of being classified as not being Muslim enough. We are brought up in a society and education system that has one classification, Muslim or not. Therefore if someone doesn’t believe that your Muslim enough, then they are questioning your loyalty and belief as a whole.
  8. Anonymous Sheik Al -Tort posted at 2/27/2006 09:57:00 AM  
    It's the same the World over. The majority in the middle are silent whilst those at extremes grind their battle axes. This makes those outside your community believe the extremes are the norm. This is why in UK where I live, people who hitherto you would regard as reasonable, now have a very negative view of Islam.

    I think the problem is this. As someone once said - can't remember who, all that it takes for evil to thrive is for the good to turn a blind eye. (not quite accurate but you know what I mean)

    I think it is high time those of you in the middle - the silent majority, started kicking up a stink. After all these extremists who kill in the name of Islam, do infinitely more damage to Islam than a few irresponsible cartoonists.

    So get off the fence and do that un-middle-ground thing - complain! And make sure you are heard!

    O and on the historical side - yes of course the powerful and rich were able to plunder the Earth. But, democarcy which has been so badly defamed by Bush and his ilk, cost the lives of many millions in 2 World Wars as well as centuries of internal conflict, before it became secure. We have all got a history of being victims in one way or another. For those of you in Arab or Iranian states, I hope that you will one day be able to hold your heads up high, say what you want and learn to live with differences without it leading to bloodshed or imprisonment.

    Silence and ignorance would appear to be the two horses of the apocalypse!
  9. Blogger PizzaQueen posted at 2/27/2006 11:48:00 AM  
    oh quit your crap pls
    you for one never listen
  10. Blogger Samyah posted at 2/27/2006 12:03:00 PM  
    Just read a Time Magazine interview with Amr Khaled who said: "Bin Laden's bombs kill many, but he is speaking in the name of a few. I am speaking in the name of millions of young Muslim men and women who want to live peacefully in coexistence with the West."

    We need more people like him :)
  11. Blogger illogicist posted at 2/27/2006 04:02:00 PM  
    Thank you everyone for your comments - it does feel pretty good that I can post something like this and get some good replies, because most people tend to kind of read the first few lines and skim through the rest, if they read it at all, with this kind of "serious" post.

    I have some things I'd like to say after reading the comments, but I've been so busy recently. I'll try to get around to it in the next day or two!
  12. Blogger illogicist posted at 2/28/2006 04:36:00 PM  
    Theres a lot of points I would have liked to reply to here, but I dont think I'll be able to in turn, I'll just give a more or less general reply.

    Sam I really liked that reply, things I didn't think of in my post you brought up like the whole education thing. I think education is a massive, massive problem, probably one of the hardest to solve. I have no solutions right now unfortunately.

    PQ, I'm not sure I like the secular/non-secular classification. I don't see myself as secular: I believe a religion has a role to play in any so-called Islamic state. However, I dont believe that we have the right to impose islamic sharia or anything else on non-islamic states. On modernising, perhaps. But I dont know how. I think so much of today's world is incompatible with the time of the prophet. Do we try to live as the prophet lived, or adapt to fit this world? I'd say both, if you know what I mean, but its still extremely difficult.

    AP, thats something which I guess is a basic point, but I never really thought of. You're right: no matter how loud we speak, what is louder than the act of murder? Actions speak louder than words - but what actions should we take? Congratulations, you've managed to kill my optimism about the future in one elegant sentence :p

    SR, it does sound like Zionist Israelis - the difference being the use it to their advantage so much better than we do. Not that I think we ought to of course - its clearly not getting us anywhere. All your points are true, and I dont think theres much more I can add. Like you said, its important to be vocal. I'll try to do that more these days (the fact that I'm doing some interesting courses about colonialism, anti-capitalism and world 'development' that really gets my blood boiling should help some).

    Leen, you reminded me of a song lyric ... "the less you understand, the more you're driven". It kinda goes with your statement about extremists being in-your-face vocal...then again, I find myself fairly driven, where does that leave me? :s

    Just want to say, Samyahs statement about not being sure if we ARE the majority, it struck me as being, well, odd at first, but after that...hmm. I still do think we are, but then again its not so easy to class everyone as 'moderate' and 'extreme'. Theres infinite shades in between.

    PYR, being muslim enough is a good point, and kinda relates to the whole extremist thing I think, but on a, well, how do I say this...even within moderates, theres that question. I get that a lot, people doubt my islam because I do things differently, or I ask questions when they wont. It really does make you just wanna keep your mouth shut.

    SaT: I have to say that sometimes, here in the UK, I get a negative view of Islam. But thats because of personal issues, I've had my own problems with my university's islamic society, and I dont trust a few select people in charge. But I do know what you mean, and in the UK the extremist crowd seem rather loud.
  13. Blogger x~nezitiC posted at 3/01/2006 08:27:00 AM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  14. Blogger x~nezitiC posted at 3/01/2006 08:28:00 AM  
    I disagree,
    Changes are always occured by the minority, throughout History a Change was always occured by a minority. The Majority's been always led not leading.

    Palestine should not exist,

    Having peace with the west is not possible as long as they are on power and on top of us...etc


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