Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In recent weeks/months, my blog's been something of a personal diary which is probably a decent read but at the same time says nothing at all. I've just spent over an hour sitting in the most comfortable of chairs reading a newspaper, something I haven't done in the longest time, and so this post will take me back to the kind of thing I used to blog about in the past.

When you watch the news in the UK, or read a paper, you'll always come across an article about Islam. Young muslims, being muslim and british, about whether Islam 'fits in'. Depending on what channel you watch or what paper you read, you'll come across different viewpoints, of course. Some of the viewpoints are plain ridiculous, but thats one of the drawbacks of a free press, I guess. You take the good with the bad. Anyway, as a young muslim reading these articles, sometimes its worrying how misguided the authors are, how they have such an incomplete picture of who we are and what Islam actually means. Its distressing. Alot of the time - most of the time actually, save for a few insightful journalists - they just dont seem to understand what Islam is. An ideology, a religion, a set of instructions on how to live your life...they dont seem to understand that while it may be all of those things in varying degrees, its also an identity. I cant really think of a stronger word right now, but thats what it is, isn't it? Its inextractibly linked to whatever we do. You can argue about the degree to which culture plays a role and how culture is often confused for Islam, and you'd be absolutely right, but its undeniable that Islam, at its core, dictates our way of life.

Why is this hard to fathom in the West, even by so-called intellectuals? Its hard to say, but I'm entitled to an opinion. It would be wrong to say that because Islam is our identity, people in the West therefore have none (although when you're feeling defensive, its tempting). But Western identities are very, very different. Our belief system, as well as our attitudes towards the mechanisms of life can be on complete opposite sides of the spectrum - if you could put them on the same scale at all. But one of the beauties of a multicultural society is that this doesn't even matter. All you need to do is take a walk through central London to see what I'm talking about. You see people from all walks of life, dressed so completely differently, talking a million different languages...and thats just on the surface. If you took the time to talk to them all, the differences would probably blow your mind. But they coexist, right? They find a way to live and work and breathe next to each other.

So what is a 'Western identity'? I dont know, but be sure it exists. The multiculturalism you'll see in places like central London isnt western identity, but it does have it thrown in the mix along with those thousand others. Is Islam incompatible with it? In fact, is the 'islamic identity' incompatible with all of the others? It almost makes me laugh, because theres no way its true. The only thing that matters in this situation is tolerance, and Islam has enough of it to go around (the question is - do Muslims?). If you're tolerant of the people around you, you can get along. And you can thrive.

All the debate about whether Islam 'fits in', whether integration is possible, its all nonsense. In fact I hate the term 'fit in', its almost offensive to me as a rational human being. We're told that we have to shine, to 'stand out' in every aspect of life, and here we're told to 'fit in'? Not to be different? We should celebrate our differences, its what makes us special. Its not too hard to think of examples in literature of societies where everybody 'fits in'.

It makes me cringe. You have voices on the far-right who are demanding that if muslims dont like any aspect of life in this society they can leave. At the same time you have well-intentioned voices on the left who are so afraid of offending muslims that...well, they bend over backwards to satisfy. Its irrational. What else is irrational is muslims demanding special treatment - shariah courts, or proclaiming that anyone who disagrees with them is a 'kafir'. Its just these kinds of things which bring out, not the differences we ought to celebrate, but the sources of tension and conflict, which there isnt really cause for. Sure, dialogue, great, as long as its meaningful. Jeeez, people should just start using their brains, seriously.

I was reading this Robert Fisk article (fantastic journalist), and I came across this fantastic line. The article is too long for me to go back and find it, but basically, in response to Bush and Blair's statement that 9/11 changed the world as a justification for their actions, Fisk replies that we shouldn't let 19 murderers change the world.

Posted by illogicist at 12:54 PM


  1. Blogger Per Your Request posted at 10/10/2006 01:22:00 PM  
    Islam fits in, but Arabs in general do little to blend in with a culture. They do little to combine their culture with their surrounding. Therefore the divide is never bridged and other cultures dont really get to know us.
    This is evident with Arab students in the US. In general, most dont branch out into the society they reside in. In the travel in Arab/muslim groups around campus.
    Given that, its easy for the "west" label us as "them".
  2. Blogger Lym posted at 10/11/2006 11:39:00 AM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  3. Blogger Lym posted at 10/11/2006 11:41:00 AM  
    I agree with every word you said.

    The problem is with Muslims - not Islam. It's just sad that outsiders can't detach the two. If only Muslims thought a little, they would not blindly follow everything some imams says.

    I think religion is becoming more of a personal thing by the day. If I doubt anything, I just do what I think is right. I am not listening to some fanatic who one day might justify a murderer's actions. I just don't trust them anymore and a lot of their opinions does not sit well with me and if anything causes conflicts where we can't co-exist.
  4. Blogger illogicist posted at 10/12/2006 03:58:00 PM  
    PYR: you might be right, I dont know, theres not many arab students on my campus. In the UK, when it comes to Islam arabs seem to generally have a low profile. Its mostly Pakistanis and Indians that are the ones who are most closely attached with the 'Islam' label. And they are just as you described the arabs as being.

    @Lym: I like your way, its something Ive been doing for a while. Sometimes its hard to stay objective though. Its easier to denounce all the imams as being mental sometimes, than trying to give kudos to the ones that talk sense. Thats what I find. But overall yeah, you gotta do what u think is right, right?
  5. Anonymous tryingtounderstand posted at 10/15/2006 06:51:00 AM  
    I have come to the sad conclusion that I am incapable of understanding or identifying with Muslims from Arabic cultures.

    When even well educated, intelligent Muslims like Sayyed Nasr, a Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, a graduate of MIT and Harvard, who has lived in the US since he was 12, will try and dismiss, justify and even deny the violence that happened as a result of the Popes speech, I must accept that I am just incapable of understanding where they are coming from.
    I know I am not alone because of all the blogs I read, but that is of little comfort. Even the people who say they understand it dont seem to be able to explain it well.

    What does one do?
  6. Blogger illogicist posted at 10/16/2006 04:02:00 PM  
    @tryingtounderstand: its actually pretty sad that I cant find anything to say to you about that. I dont understand it either. All I can say is that I hope you take it as...well, I dont know. It sucks that I have to be apologetic about my religion when my religion doesnt even advocate such stupid acts. The question is often raised though, would the prophet have acted that way were he alive? The answer is obvious to most muslims.

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