Why can't liberal Muslims get together to discuss issues that plague the Islamic world?
These are trying times we live in, gruesomely exhausting if one thinks deep enough to comprehend that things are changing in a dastardly manner. Humanity is beset with a challenging situation like no other time in modern world history whereby the colossal monster of Islamic extremism is impacting each one of us regardless of our beliefs or otherwise.
Europe, beyond the recent Paris attacks, will never be the same. While the French carried on with their lives after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the most recent carnage, many argue, may turn out to be Europe’s 9/11 type of wakeup call. The repercussions of this episode will be far reaching with politicians already howling left, right and centre on both sides of the Atlantic to stop immigrants or refugees from entering their lands.
Amidst all the chaos, French President Francois Hollande surprised the hawkish elements within Europe by reiterating his country’s ‘humanitarian duty’ to honour refugees pouring into the region from Syria and elsewhere, running for their lives from the scourge of ISIS and Bashar al-Assad’s brutalities.
France is a hotbed of Islamic extremism with roots of strife embedded in the constant and blatant alienation of its Arab/African Muslim population that has ended up living in ghetto-like neighbourhoods where civilisation and ‘French etiquette’ are impossible to locate. Such ghettos are the dark side of the French society otherwise known for its culture, glamour, entertainment, and all that represents the class of Europe’s exaltedness and the most quintessentially French customs. Clearly the French have done a horrendous job of integrating Muslims into their cultural milieu.
Charity begins at home and before anything else, the French must take care of their marginalised population – the 10 per cent of their own directionless Muslims who have been conveniently pushed back for ages with cavalier disregard for the humanitarian duty that Mr Hollande talks about. His commitment to welcome 30,000 refugees may make great sound bites but how about paying attention to the young men and women who have ended up as reactionaries, influenced by the likes of ISIS? The French would undoubtedly do service to their national interests if they use the €50 million investment fund originally allocated to rehabilitate the refugees to assimilate their disgruntled Muslim population.
France, like the US, is also getting ready for its presidential election. Given the evolving situation, anti-Islam rhetoric is on the rise. Although Hollande has tried to distinguish Islam and Muslims from those who kill in the name of Islam, the daggers are out for the general Muslim population. Obviously stereotyping can’t be avoided. Such a development does not augur well for the French society. Listening to Yasser Loauti recently only reinforced one’s fears that the anti-Muslim campaign will drown the French into a bigger morass.
Tied to the happenings in Europe, Republican presidential candidates on this side of the divide are carrying on taking cheap shots at each other and fighting over the refugee issue. As the debate heats up, there have been calls to create a ‘Muslim registry’. Refugees have been likened to ‘rabid dogs’ and some goons have even proposed establishing internment camps for them – all too disdainful, shameful and a blot on American values. The House of Representatives took this craziness one step further and passed a bill to bar refugees completely. This noise will only gain momentum as we get closer to the November 2016 elections and abstract, unconstitutional, and baseless yammering will continue to rule the roost.
Luckily, this outburst of ridiculous exaggeration does not mean anything earth-shaking will happen or life-altering laws will be enacted in the US. It only implies more marginalisation of the right-wing Republican hawks, further disconnection of the party from ground realities and next to none chances of winning back the White House.
It won’t be out of place to say that this is a moment to reflect for Islam; a powerful time for Muslims in different parts of the world to understand that if they do not come up with a strategy of thwarting terror and fighting ISIS, things from hereon will continue to go downhill. Let it be recognised that extremism has eaten up the very roots of the religion. Islam may end up turning into a soulless, free floating belief system with no particular ‘architectural ending’.
Muslim leaders in the West are often heard saying that Islam in actuality is a religion of peace. Well, guess what? As awful as it may sound, no one is looking into Islam’s ‘inner beauty’. What you see is what you get – extremists attacking public places and asking people to either say Muslim prayers and save their lives or be killed if they can’t. This is the image of Islam that almost a generation of Westerners has literally grown up with.
The present crop of conscientious population cannot accept the cotton candy, sugar-coated image of Islam that’ll fail to establish the ‘peace worthy credentials’ of religion. Seeing is believing and to that end a clear, no nonsense process of reformation must set in. Of course, many would shrug this recommendation off by saying that God perfected the religion through Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) but let’s not forget that the institutions of ijma (building consensus) and ijtehad (to exert) were provisioned for the simple reason of keeping Islam in step with changing times.
Why can’t liberal, peaceful Muslims get together, join forces to discuss and openly debate issues that plague the Islamic world? One senses denial and absence of acceptance that something is truly wrong with modern-day Islam and, therefore, the religion is now mortgaged to sinister, war-mongering imbeciles who, more than anything else, want a clash of civilisations. The Muslim world can use a bit of soulful, pragmatic and patient stocktaking. ISIS is nothing more than a hideous skirt convention which certainly defies Islam’s basic teaching infrastructure.
In the meantime, the French and the rest of Europe should ease the Muslims into the mix; perhaps learn a lesson or two from the Americans and Canadians in terms of integrating people into mainstream societies; follow the Canadian belief that refugees are not terrorists but victims of terror. If I were to rewrite Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, I’d say,
“Give me your marginalised, your refugees, your scared masses yearning to breathe free.”
We, as humans, must get over this civilisation hump; this itch of terror that is rapidly turning into an incurable cancer. Harmony and hope must prevail over despair and discord. The way I see it, I’d just tell the Muslims to solemnly embrace liberal values and live and let live. To the West, I’d ask to show compassion and live up to the ideals that Voltaire, Rousseau and Hobbes propagated. Let the fundamentals of liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) reign supreme! Let’s come together and spread the word of love without fear or mistrust in spirit of mankind. We must stop ISIS from chasing us to the graveyard of history.