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A Widely Unlearned Lesson About Islam

If you spend enough time spouting vitriol toward violent Islamism, you're almost certain to be deemed a 'racist' or an 'Islamophobe' sooner than later. Sometimes it comes from Muslims who are justifiably sensitive because their AK-toting coreligionists get such an … Read More

By / June 6, 2007

If you spend enough time spouting vitriol toward violent Islamism, you're almost certain to be deemed a 'racist' or an 'Islamophobe' sooner than later. Sometimes it comes from Muslims who are justifiably sensitive because their AK-toting coreligionists get such an inordinate amount of airtime compared with those who fight for democracy and social justice. Other times–oftentimes–it comes from educated Western liberals. Sami Zubaida takes on this careless and inaccurate portrayal of the so-called Muslim World:

It is not just that there are ethnic and social diversities within Muslims, but that many of them are nominal Muslims, and religion enters marginally, if at all, into their lives.

The political implication is that all Muslims are to be "recognised" in terms of their faith, as a community, which is clearly not sociologically viable. But it is politically pursued by those individuals and institutions that seek communal authority and leadership, encouraged by government quarters which seek such "leaders" for shows of consultation and participation.

In the process, he also swiftly debunks the standard liberal myth that regards Islamism as a response to hegemonic cultural incursion:

These men are not culturally distinct from the mainstream. They were proficient and articulate in English, spoke with local accents, were products of British education, social life, sports and entertainments. They had separated from the cultural religion of their parents and embraced militant salafism. Their hostility to their British compatriots did not proceed from cultural difference but from ideological hostility, one that is phrased in the idioms of British culture.

I added the bold-faced emphasis to the quote above because bold-faced emphasis on this very fact–that not all Muslims are terrorists–is strangely missing from most 'liberal' conversations today, but in the most bizarre way. The Islamophobia watchdogs who play fast and loose with the charge make a strange error: if not all Muslims are terrorists (a point on which we agree), then criticism of radical Islamist terror does not extend to all Muslims. It is far more disrespectful to deny people the diversity of their culture than it is to criticize those diseased elements within it that wreak havoc on all the others.

There's hardly anything more bizarre than telling a person who says "bin-Laden is a backward, bloodthirsty freak" that they're racist against Muslims. The implication of such an accusation is that bin-Laden is representative of a singular Muslim World, a world with no capability for independent thought, or creative difference–a world where those who sacrifice their lives for freedom and justice are the same as those who sacrifice themselves for dictatorship and oppression. No matter how hard I try, I can think of no greater insult to the adherents of the Islamic faith.

 

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