Is It Time For Moderate Muslims To Stand Up

I read an interesting opinion piece today that is bound to get people hot under collar.

It asked the question, why aren’t Muslims all over the world protesting at the atrocities being committed by ISIS?

It is a tantalising debate for me because I can see both sides of the argument.

It all started when a well known Professor of Journalism at the American University in Dubai wanted to know why Muslims protesting against Israel’s war in Gaza were not also protesting the Islamic State atrocities against Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims in Syria and Iraq.

Writing in the Washington Post, the academic made the point that Muslims know ISIS does not represent Islam but the rest of the world doesn’t know that or can’t make the distinction. So if organisations like ISIS and Boko Haram are not representative of mainstream Muslims, and they clearly aren’t, then the community should be shouting this from the rooftops. In other words mainstream Muslims must disown the Islamic State because the rest of the world thinks their brutality is what Islam has become. She says if people hear the word Islam the first thing that pops into their heads isn’t its glorious cultural history or the peaceful words of the prophet Mohammed. Rather they think of men in masks carrying knives and beheading innocent journalists who happen to stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time.

I can understand where she is coming from. The other side of the argument goes something like this. Why should moderate Muslims have to speak publicly every time some extremist sends a message of hate? A certain amount of common sense needs to be applied here. The reality is the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving people who would never contemplate harming anyone. They point to the Koran as a book that preaches peace, goodwill, tolerance, understanding and love. Why should they have to stand up and justify themselves every time some nut job nuts off? It becomes the denial that never ends.

Of course there is another factor at play here, especially among Muslim leaders in the Middle East. And that is a dislike and mistrust of the United States. Academics at Princeton and Harvard University analyzed the Twitter feeds of 3.7 million Arabic users in 2012 and 2013 and discovered that whatever position the United States adopted, right or wrong, it made no change to their intense dislike of America. It might explain why President Obama is struggling to get support in the Arab world as well as a meaningful strategy to combat ISIS. The present strategy appears to be limited air strikes while at the same time arming and backing a rag tag of political factions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in the hope that they can cobble together some kind of consensus that speaks for the majority of their citizens. Good luck with that one.

ISIS is a perplexing problem for the United States and the world. The Islamic State won’t be defeated by air strikes alone. Its defeat has to be engineered by local people. Local Muslims prepared to take local action. In other words it will take a coalition of Arab forces prepared to fight against everything that ISIS stands for. Doing it for themselves and their future. One thing’s for sure. We can’t all spend the next 20 years wondering how this is going to be achieved. We may not have the luxury.

Confronting Racism in the Hearts of Some Muslims

All too often Muslim African Americans have been taught to de-emphasize race. This is done primarily to avoid being seen as nationalistic or racist thus going against the very teachings of Al Islam itself. However, to de-emphasize race is to also de-emphasize the conditions directed onto a community borne from the most powerful racism (in America this is called white supremacy) such as police brutality, employment discrimination, and an unjust and very biased legal system that often mistreats the poor and downtrodden just to name a few.

Yet there is a tendency to forget the many verses of Qur’an that admonish mankind for harboring racism in the first place. We must remember that as Satan became the first racist in history by refusing to bow to man merely because man was created from the mud of the earth and he was created from smokeless fire, that Allah punished him for that and condemned him to the Hellfire.

As Allah condemns racism, He also gives those victims of racism the permission to fight it. Yet one cannot fight it, if they are either unwilling or are taught to fear confronting it. When Satan expressed his racist hatred of man and swore to be man’s eternal enemy, Allah gave man tools to fight him.

The first tool He provided was the ability to recognize Satans’ tactics through our intellect, and other senses. Once this is used, we are then to formulate strategies designed to prevent the racist agents of Satan from enacting their way of racism. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that anyone who has a mustard seed of pride in his heart would never enter the Paradise, and that pride was to have a disdain for the truth and a contempt for a people. Satan exhibited this toward Adam (peace be upon him) and all of mankind. The philosophy of racism itself is to exhibit this. In America this is called white supremacy only because those who have the most power to enact their racism on others who are powerless members of a minority happen to be classified as white. In Saudi Arabia it might be called Saudi supremacy, in China Chinese supremacy and so on. Yet Allah did not ignore Satans’ racism, but punished him for it. For this reason, and others that will be discussed in part two we should be able to remove the tendency to de-emphasize race among the Muslim African American if he or she is to overcome and rise above internalizing the harsh effects of racism.

Many Muslims who come from overseas have shown their disinterest in directly dealing this issue. This can be experienced by their lack of involvement in areas of helping the homeless, the drug addicted or routine ex convict that found Al Islam in prison and now needs a support group to maintain his faith upon release. This can also be seen by the large annual conventions that can attract thousands of Muslims adopting themes such as having a beautiful Ramadan or loving one’s neighbor, but refuse to seriously deal with oppression and social injustices throughout the world that are often borne from racism. When I say “seriously deal with” I mean to identify the problems, adopt a plan of isolating them, formulating a strategy to correct them, monitor its progress, and hold individuals accountable for its strategic implementation.

In this series “Facts on Sunni Muslims – Confronting Racism in the Hearts of Some Muslims” God willing we can attempt to do that.