Umm Zaid writes a courageous essay exhorting the muslim community to Do Something. I respond to her at City of Brass.
guyfrombondi, Bang Gully, Willow, and 5 others are discussing. Toggle Comments
I think Umm Zaid already has access – if not then I need to resend the invite.
Loved Umm Zaid’s post,and your response makes a good point that the internet amplifies shrill voices [hi JM! ].
But I wonder about your claim that we will discover vigilant people if we go out in the Muslim community. A good number of them (us) STILL don’t believe Muslims were involved in 9/11. Just get a bunch of uncles together after dinner and get them started on this topic, you’ll see I’m right. And because of the blunders of the US govt in the name of this “war on terror,” many think this “extremism” rhetoric is a pretext for the govt to do as it pleases, and not a real problem. I’ve encountered too many people like this to be as optimistic as you.
We should not self-flagellate ourselves and buy into the Islamophobic line that all Muslims are complicit in terrorism because the moderates among them dont speak up. We do speak up, as you pointed out, in many ways. But we should also not rest on our laurels. Our mainstream organizations could do more – we could have courses on Sunnipath (and other such sites) dedicated to countering extremism from an Islamic law and spiritual perspective. We could have lectures at ISNA about this, we could organize masjid halaqas about this. And we should do this without fear of being called sell-outs. I fear that being called a “moderate” Muslim is becoming an anathema in some circles, just as being called a “progressive” Muslim is one in nearly all circles.
Muse, I agree that there is a lot of denial about 9/11, and I’ll even raise you by pointing out that there is knee jerk anitisemitism too. But, thats not the same thing as being tolerant of the militant jihadism in our mosques. Every ethnic community has its prejudices, but at the end if the day, the uncles we both are talking about arent going to refuse to do business with a Jew or sanction graffitti on a synagogue, and they certainly werent pleased about 9/11 either. In fact the denial about the perpetrators of the atrocities suggests that they are so revulsed by the immorality of the attacks that they have simple cognitive dissonance between the (moderate!) islam they practice and these fanatics who murdered in all our names. Its a psychological reaction and a human one, but its not the extremism that we need to root out.
I agree with everything Umm Zaid is trying to say, but I also think that the way in which she says it does perpetuate the silence libel, and thats counter-productive.
(but I am really really glad Umm Zaid said it, because this is a discussion we need to have).
I should shut up now and I hope that others will chime in because this is one debate that affects us all. I am also going to append my post at COB to point to the discussion here.
just to be clear, i am not muslim and i do not identify as such. i am interested in islam though.
would u say u are a cultural muslim (at least partly) the way that an atheist jew is culturally judeo-christian
obviously people can define me however they want. but what i think of a cultural muslim, i am not. i have more of an affinity for the culture and mores of the classical world or china than i do for that of the early islamic world.
or, to be more explicit, if i am a cultural muslim, then it is fair to say all converts to islam from background X, are still cultural X. e.g., a christian convert to islam is still a cultural christian. by this, it is not to say that i have converted to any religion, but my exemplars are self-consciously men such as marcus aurelius and xunzi, not muhammad.
btw, pet peeve of mine, but “judeo-christian” is basically a term popularized around 1950, and probably doesn’t describe anything substantive. ok, check that, if you constraint judaism to reform judaism, i think it does describe something substantive. but since reform judaism is a relatively new variant of that religion, judeo-christian doesn’t describe anything of note in the historical record. rabbnical jews have traditionally been skeptical of christians as monotheists, while they accept muslims are monotheists without much debate.
‘Judeo-Christian’, although first used in a theological context, really gained traction in post-WWII America as a cultural category, and re-emerged strongly in the 1980s. I don’t think it can withstand even limited scrutiny as a theological term.
By contrast, attempts by some right-wingers in the UK to introduce the term seem to have failed, possibly due to a general acceptance of multiculturalism (at least its softer varients).
Going back to the point of this thread, it is probably also important who said it, not just what was said.
do you find yourself feeling affinity with people who are from the muslim majority world i.e. ‘islamic civilization’ at a level greater than you would feel for, say, a chinese person, or a reform jew
no. i would feel a *much* closer affinity to a reform jew than i would someone from a muslim majority country or someone who is chinese. i don’t think comparing chinese to muslim majority works well cuz muslims come from many countries. i might feel somewhat more affinity to someone who of south asian muslim origin than to someone who is chinese, but probably less with someone who is arab or turk or indonesian than chinese.
if you divide civilizations into these coarse categories:
with most of the other as compounds or boundaries (e.g., java as a compound of islam, hinduism overlain on top of local traditions and customs). my own affinities are like so:
west >> china >>> hinduism > islam
the number of carats shows the strength of the rank order (is it a well ordered field). i have weak enough affinity for either hinduism or islamic civilization that you could transpose them depending on mood. i am pretty confident though that i tend to find the western cultural tradition more congenial than the chinese, who take pragmatic utilitarianism a little too far for my taste.
I wonder if any are familiar with the Muslim community in the city of Philadelphia? Some call it the City of Brotherly Love, and others call it Killadelphia. It is home to such parties as Kenny Gamble, Marc Manley, Javed “HijabMan” Iqbal (if I am not mistaken), the Bawa Muhiyudeen followers, and our dear Daniel Abdal Hayy Moore.
It is also home to people calling themselves Muslims who have held up banks, stores, supermarkets, dealt drugs. Some of them do this because they are screwed up and some of them do it because they are screwed up and have been told that it is their duty to do these things to subvert the kafir state.
Of course, recently the community there made headlines when three men wore niqabs to rob a bank, were pursued by the police, and one of them shot a cop before being dealt the swift hand of 9 mm justice himself. When the imam of the biggest Salafi oriented masjid there refused to perform the janaza and burial himself, the situation made international headlines.
Unfortunately, there are many smaller incidents, carried out not only on the good non Muslim citizens of Philadelphia but against other Muslims there, that do not make headlines. I have been told that it is not politic to speak of the crimes that Muslims have committed there. I’m not sure I really care anymore if it is or isn’t.
The imam said that he came to his decision as a way of signaling to the Germantown and Muslim community in Philadelphia that these antics will not be tolerated. There was anger towards him. I was initially disappointed in his decision until I heard, privately, from the voices of Philadelphians and others. And last week, yet another “crazy Muslim” who of course is not influenced by both extremist ideology and the silence of other Muslims who wave it off, attacked a man on the train.
It is not simply the rhetoric of joining the jihad in Afghanistan or the Muslim lands that is troublesome. I have no doubt that this sort of rhetoric has been dampened down in all but our most “conservative” masajid. The truth is, I don’t know what is said in the masajid other than what I am told second hand, because in every state and town I have lived in in the last 8 years, I have been driven out by extremists who cannot tolerate my race, nationality, my religious views, and (especially) my gender. I fought for almost 10 years to be included — as who I am — before recently giving up the fight. I do not ever anticipate attempting to become part of any masjid community.
What views of mine were objectionable? Let us start with my belief that Jews were not responsible for 9.11, that they did not deserve what Hitler did to them, that they are by and large good people and that we are required to differentiate between the policies of the state of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole.
That, of course, is just one example of the rampant unchecked and unconfronted sentiment that I have not only heard in the masjid, but online (which is full of crazies, yours truly included) and — most importantly, que no? — in the homes of Muslims. I have heard hateful, extremist political rhetoric from Salafis, from Sufis, from ideological followers of the Ikhwan, and on down the line.
A few hours before I wrote the post, a Western Muslim sent me the following greeting, “Happy September 11th.”
I could not stay silent anymore.
Sheikh Hamza Yusuf was called out by the American media after 9.11 for things he had said at earlier times (sometimes years earlier) regarding war, the American state, Jews, and so on. He apologized for those things he said that were, he admitted, wrong.
I want us to call each other out for this. I want to look at the people in Philadelphia and elsewhere who are saying these things – maybe in the privacy of a home, maybe through the books they are selling, or perhaps online – and tell them enough is enough. It is time to stop turning away from them. Wherever the chips will fall — let them. They have made their bed, let them lie in it. And let us be the ones to tuck them in.
I agree with you, but on a practical level what do you propose we do? Aziz is right about the silence libel in the western press, which often refuses to publicize Muslim denouncement of terrorism and extremism. But it almost doesn’t matter, since simply denouncing the extremists is not working. They don’t care what we *say*. We’re barely Muslims in their eyes.
Let’s look at what they’re good at and we’re not: 1. Endowing mosques. 2. Dawah. 3. Publication and distribution of literature.
3. Is already underway but not reaching the right people–all the anti-extremist lit out there comes from the top; what Thabet calls the ‘wine-and-cheese’ academic set. It’s meaningless to inner-city Muslims. So that needs to change.
2. We are too afraid to attempt lest we are seen as insensitive evangelicals. Should that change?
1. Is probably the most important and also the most difficult. To endow non-extremist mosques you need non-extremist imams. There are good Muslim chaplaincy programs now and many sensible imams at universities and government institutions. But again, this limits change to the elite. To make a real difference, all that intellectual and financial capital has to be moved into the cities.
So how do we make it happen?
As salaam wa laikum
There really is no way to fight “extremism” by confronting and holding debates. Most people who hold these sorts of views are not stupid enough to proclaim them loudly in the American public.
I think the problem with Umm Zaid’s argument is that Muslims are again having to justify their position vis-a-vis “terrorism” : either you support or you’re against it.
Why can’t Muslims be known for doing social work, for starting businesses in the hood, for encouraging education, Islamic and secular, for providing solutions to all the relationship/sex problems that are currently stressing everybody in America, not just Muslims?
The reason why Muslims are silent about terrorism is because terrorism is not a day to day problem for Muslims and for other Americans. We had 9/11…and thats it. Nothing has happened. As far as extremism, we don’t know who is extremist or not. The only way we would know is if Muslims start working for the FBI and spying on people and given the nature of that work (accusing somebody on the most thinnest of premises to justify your work in the FBI) I would not encourage it. If we think its horrendous for the Iranian Morality police to spy on women to see if theyre showing hair under the veil, then we should also think its unIslamic to be some sort of thought police against other Muslims.
Nothing beats a good example. If Muslims address the problems facing this society everyday, the example of that work and the success of that work will by itself be enough to stem the tide against “Extremist” elements.
Umm Zaid, living in Sydney, I assure you it was not just Muslims saying “Happy September 11″ either. Heaps of my mates were joking about the attacks as if it were something to be made fun of, and guess what? They were all Anglo-Saxon (except for one of my mates who is Greek-Australian), none of them Muslim.
The point is that it’s not just “western Muslims” who would dare poke fun at such an atrocity.
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