THE BOGEYMAN IN THE MIRROR

It all started way back in February of 2016. On the Muslim forum site deenport a user made the following comment under a discussion the user entitled ‘Bogeyman’:

I’ve wanted to say something for a while now. I’m tired of these articles pointing the finger at the West, Islamophobia, conspiracy theories or some other bogeyman. Why are Muslims so full of this rubbish? When are we going to stop and look at ourselves? I have had to unsubscribe myself from so many mailing lists and WhatsApp groups because of the rubbish Muslims like to keep circulating, so that we can keep our heads buried in the sand and ignore the rot in our backyard. We seem to be in deep denial about some of the atrocities that Muslims are committing around the world (and on home soil). It’s always someone else’s fault, or media bias. If we were true to our deen, no amount of mud the media throws at us would stick. Have we taken our responsibilities seriously in this country, or do we keep bleating on about our freedoms & rights? Why can’t we see and celebrate what is good in western society? We need to recognise the good will of these countries towards Muslims and immigrants, but I don’t see any articles on this. Another problem that I find, no offence to anyone, but Muslims in general seem to be of below average intelligence. Our thinking has sunk into extremisms in the fiqh, deen, and theological shallowness that feeds violent fundamentalists. Where have we gone wrong, or can someone enlighten me? Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? – comment made on deenport

In answer to the last question, I do indeed have some thoughts on this. Her heartfelt comments really got me thinking. Many questions were buzzing around my mind: Why are many Muslims in a bad way? How much blame do we shoulder ourselves? How much is it genuinely our own fault? How do I make sense of the situation we Muslims currently find ourselves in?

Worryingly, for me at least, was that the more I looked into this subject, the more I was realising a great deal of the problems that Muslims face today are self-induced. Below I have listed various reasons as to why Muslims are, on most occasions, their own worst enemy. This list of reasons unfortunately is by no means exhaustive. Also, whilst many of these reasons will have some overlap and thus seem repetitive, they are all still nonetheless valid points in their own right as well as collectively:

We face calamities because our faith is not sound…

Everything that happens to us that is calamitous, and this is hard to swallow, this is a bitter pill to swallow, but everything that happens to us that is calamitous is from disobeying Allah and His messenger. That’s simply reality, and until we come to terms with that our faith is not sound…We were given guidance, we were given a covenant. When the covenant is abandoned, calamities happen. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The above comment can also be related to the following quote from the third rightly guided caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattaab:

We were lowly and weak then Allah made us mighty with Islam. So when we seek mightiness in other than Islam, Allah humiliates us and brings us low. – Umar ibn Al-Khattaab

We are also self–righteous and self–conceited because our unsound faith…

We are regarded by the rest of humanity as the most self–righteous, self–conceited, winging group of people on the face of this earth, because we always blame other people for our decadence that we find ourselves in. – Shaykh Zahir Mahmood

Another relevant point is made by Omar Shahid:

It’s a depressing reality today that far too many Muslims are driving people out of their faith, rather than welcoming them in. A sense of self-righteousness, arrogance and intolerance has pervaded Muslim communities across the world and, if anything, it seems to be getting worse. While these may seem like generalisations, they are, in fact, uncomfortable truths and Muslims, not to mention an increasing amount of non-Muslim, know this to be the case. This sense of self-righteousness is the opposite of true religion. In fact, it’s satanic. Self-righteous behaviour in a religious person is a sign of weakness of faith. It’s also a sign that your religion has become your personal identity, so any attack on the religion becomes an attack on you. – Omar Shahid, from an article entitled Are Muslims The Most Intolerable People In The World?

We are far too quick to blame others…

Shaykh Zahir Mahmood, a Birmingham based Muslim scholar, shortly after 11th Sep 2001, said in a talk that I attended that we Muslims blame MI5, MI6, Mossad, CIA, FBI, Dajjal, the media, Freemasons, New World Order, jinn, jaddoo, nazar, the evil eye, and the rest. The truth is we Muslims are the ones to blame, for we are not following the faith as we should be following it. Sheikh Khalid Yasin also makes a similar point in the following talk:

We are also far too quick to blame ‘fate’…

This isn’t just a Saudi problem; it is a global Muslim problem. Fatalism is constantly used as an excuse for human neglect and errors…Accidents, of course, happen everywhere. Yet in the Muslim world, fatalism often serves as a cover for inadequate safety measures or greedy bosses unwilling to pay for them. That is why Turkey’s top cleric, Mehmet Gormez, an erudite theologian, felt the need to warn fellow Turks that “Producing excuses about ‘divine power’ for human guilt and responsibility is wrong,” after a Dickensian mine fire killed 301 workers in 2014. “The laws of nature are the laws of God. God has given us the ability to understand these laws and asked from us to act accordingly,” Mr. Gormez declared. “What is suitable for God’s will is to take the necessary precautions against the physical causes for disasters.” Consequently, “God’s will” becomes an easy cover for intellectual laziness, lack of planning, and irresponsibility. Muslims in positions of power often refer to “fate” to explain away their failures, while never hesitating to take pride in their successes. Colossal accidents in Mecca and elsewhere must be taken as alarm signals for Muslims to purge our societies of this problematic mentality and seek the great intellectual revival we need. Using oil money to import Western (or Far Eastern) technology is not a solution. What matters is gaining the skills to use that technology proficiently, with all the necessary precautions — and maybe one day inventing such technology ourselves. – Mustafa Akyol, author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, Sep 2015, from a New York Times article entitled Islam’s Tragic Fatalism

We think we are religious, which we may or may not be, but we are definitely unjust…

As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, if you look at a Muslim nation such as Pakistan, for me the current condition of Pakistan is summed up succinctly in the following quote from Imam Ibn Taymiyyah:

God upholds a just state even if it is non-believing, but does not uphold an unjust state even if it is believing. – Imam Ibn Taymiyyah

With this in mind, think about the UK and Pakistan. Here in the UK if you were to kick your neighbour’s dog you would probably be arrested in a matter of hours. Over in Pakistan, you could murder people in broad daylight and get away with it. A work colleague of mine went to Pakistan a few years ago for a family wedding. His brother was mugged and shot in the street, left for dead. As far as I am aware, to this day there has been no justice. Here in the UK they may not have any faith but they have justice, whereas in Pakistan they claim (dubiously) to have faith but clearly justice cannot be found.

We have become so immoral that we are now obsessed with porn…

We just love to argue unnecessarily…

Maybe it’s me, but many Islamic discussions I have been involved with tend to be intellectually bleak, vacillating between shouting matches to occasional discussions of more meaningful affairs. The tone of such evenings moves effortlessly from that of schoolyard taunts to the odd substantive discussion, and then quickly back to schoolboy taunts. These discussions always remind of the following quote:

We Muslims are busy bickering over whether to fold or unfold our arms during prayer, while the enemy is devising ways of cutting them off. – Ruhollah Khomeini

In other words, we need to focus our energies on improving ourselves, rather than all this infighting which makes it easier for those who consider us their enemies.

Also, when Muslims from different groups discuss an issue, one thing I don’t understand is why does every opinion have to be competitive? Why the aggression? It seems that some Muslims just love to argue, they just love to go on the theological offensive. This point is better explained by the stand-up comedian Aron Kader when he talks about peace with Israel:

We have let politics take precedence over religion…

We Muslims like to believe that ours is “a religion of peace,” but today Islam looks more like a religion of conflict and bloodshed. From the civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen to internal tensions in Lebanon and Bahrain, to the dangerous rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Middle East is plagued by intra-Muslim strife that seems to go back to the ancient Sunni-Shiite rivalry. Religion is not actually at the heart of these conflicts — invariably, politics is to blame. But the misuse of Islam and its history makes these political conflicts much worse as parties, governments and militias claim that they are fighting not over power or territory but on behalf of God. And when enemies are viewed as heretics rather than just opponents, peace becomes much harder to achieve…None of this means that Islam, with core values of justice, should be totally blind to politics. Religion can play a constructive role in political life, as when it inspires people to speak truth to power. But when Islam merges with power, or becomes a rallying cry in power struggles, its values begin to fade. – Mustafa Akyol, author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, Feb 2016, from a New York Times article entitled How Politics Has Poisoned Islam

We are too self-absorbed to realise that what we do impacts on everyone else…

…we must call a spade a spade. An Islamist may be a lost Muslim or a Muslim gone astray, but he or she is a Muslim all the same. We must stop repeating ad nauseam that these aberrant Muslims have “nothing to do with Islam.” In other words, we must acknowledge that two Islams are locked in a fight to the death, and that because the battlefield is the planet and the war threatens values that the West embraces, the fight is not solely the Muslims’ affair. – Bernard-Henri Lévy

We turn from oppressed to oppressor quicker than anyone else…

If you’re not ready for victory, if you don’t have the tazkiyah (the desire to purify your soul), then it’s a blessing that Allah will not give you victory, because it’s better to be oppressed then it is to be an oppressor. And if you don’t think people right now in the Arab world, if they were given victory…what do you think they’re going to do? What did they do to Gaddafi? Seriously? And he was a bad guy, undeniably, but what did they do to him? Did they take him to a mahkama (court)? Did they follow the rules of engagement? They could have taken him to a mahkama and tried him for crimes against the people of Libya. No. Instead they ripped him to pieces and filmed it. Is that how our Prophet came into Mecca? Seriously? Is that how Salah-Ud-Din-Al-Ayoobi came into Al-Quds (Jerusalem)?…Look at Nelson Mandela, he’s not even a Muslim. When he came into power, and these are people that imprisoned him for the best years of his life…put him in the worst prison, tortured him, he was tortured, did horrible things to him. He’s not even a Muslim, and when he gets into power, he has the Prophetic Sunnah, and what does that do? Everybody, everywhere, except the worst type of people, love Nelson Mandela. Seriously, they love him. Because he practiced the Prophetic Sunnah, which proves that even a non-Muslim, if he practices the Prophetic Sunnah, it will have the same effect on the hearts of the people. But if we’re not practicing the Sunnah then Allah is not going to give people victory. Why should He give people victory?…If we’re the same in our disobedience Allah gives them victory over us. He gives those with their kufr, He will give them victory over disobedient Muslims. Why? Because if they (the disobedient Muslims) get victory then they’re going to disgrace the religion. It’s better to be oppressed than to be an oppressor. If you’re not ready for power….then when you get power you’re going to do what everybody does when they get power: you’re going to become the tyrant. – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

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We are divided, especially along the lines of Sunni and Shia…

The historical division between Sunni and Shia still continues strong after some 1,400 years. Today we see a great civil war that has begun between the two historic forms of Islam championed by Saudi Arabia and her allies on the one side, and Iran and its clients on the other, with the consequence that as many as 250,000 people have died in Syria and 4.5 million persons have become refugees.

In fact, all over the Muslim world there are conflicts deeply rooted in this Sunni-Shia schism: Yemen fighting with Saudi Arabia, civil war in Syria, persecution of Shia Muslims in Pakistan, Iranians not being allowed to perform Hajj this year, and the ongoing actions of ISIS to kill all Shia Muslims and to blow up all things Shia related.

This schism is rightly focused upon by the western media. Just yesterday morning I was listening to Sebastian Usher on BBC Radio 4. He was chronicling the war of words between Saudi Arabia and Iran during this year’s Hajj (From Our Own Correspondent: It’s Not What It Was – the discussion starts at 06:58). Add to this that on Monday, again on BBC Radio 4, Tarek Osman begins a 2 part series, Sunni-Shia: Islam Divided, which explains the Sunni-Shia divide past and present.

Here are a few quotes related to this topic:

I’m not fond of any religions, but if this were the 14th century when the Catholic Inquisition was going on and they were burning witches, I would be criticizing Christianity as the religion that was way too violent and took itself way too seriously. But this is not the 14th century, and it’s not the 16th century when Catholics and Protestants were slaughtering each other the same way Sunnis and Shiites are now. It’s the 21st century, and in the 21st century, the problem is more about Islam than it is about any other religion. – Bill Maher

Internecine conflict in the Islamic world is endemic. The unrelenting Shia and Sunni schism dominates it, but it also includes tribal and ethnic divides. In 2013, there were 12 Western victims of terror attacks compared to 22,000 non-Western fatalities. These do not include those killed by the barrel bombs that Syrian President Assad dropped on his own people, or civilians killed by warfare in Afghanistan or Iraq. From the jungles of Sulawesi to the deserts of Libya, Muslims are killing Muslims at a rate that dwarfs the more highly publicized conflict with the West. In that light, it is hard to subscribe to the theory this is a clash of civilizations. Rather, it is one culture turning on itself. – Scott Gilmore

So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous and cruel. – from the movie Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

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We blame other like Iblees does, rather than take responsibility like the Prophet Adam did…

A lot of Muslims now tend to want to blame things outside of themselves and always look that it’s somewhere else. If you read the Quran what you’ll find is that the person that blames in the Quran is Iblees, and the person that takes responsibility is Adam. And this is why Adam was given the Khilafah, the Caliphate, over Iblees because Iblees blames. He even blames Allah. What Iblees says to God is “Because You lead me astray I’m going to lead all of them astray.” This is a sickness, it is a disease of blaming the other for what happens. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from a talk entitled Tribulation And Ease

We are very hypocritical, especially when we try to imitate the West…

The Arab Spring went all round the world. It started in Tunisia, then it went to Egypt and Syria. Every country in the Middle East was galvanised. Everywhere except Dubai. Because Dubai is a very interesting country. They’re a bit too, umm…There’s too much money there. There were people on the streets, going, “What do we want? Democracy! When do we want it? After happy hour!” And when you go there, they always give you some kind of…There’s always a guide who goes, “Omid, you come here. You come to Dubai. We are the Las Vegas of the Middle East. You want girl? We get you girl. You want drink? You can drink. You want to gamble? You can gamble. All day long. Girl, drink, gamble. Gamble, drink, girl. Drink, girl…You want to drink girl? We blend girl, you drink it! You want all three? We blend girl, you drink it, we bet how quickly you down it in one!” I said, “Actually, no. I’m not into all of that. I’m actually quite hungry.” “Ah, what you want, my friend? Anything you want.” I said, “I quite fancy a bacon sandwich.” He went, “Pork?! What do you think we are, infidels? This is a Muslim country! Now kindly drink your woman and leave!” – Omid Djalili, comedian, from Live At The Apollo (Series 8 Episode 5)

We perhaps do not realise just how bleak our picture is…

My husband is a professor of Middle East politics and an expert on Islamic democracy, so he travels to the Middle East frequently. He comes back with a lot of stories and our families are respectively from Pakistan and Iran, so we’ve seen one disaster after another. In the entire Muslim world, the picture is bleak, particularly with Iraq and Syria, but all over. A tremendous darkness on what was once such civilizational beauty, and elegance, and grace. – Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Islamic world is in relative decline. Or, more precisely, a large number of countries with a Muslim majority are not developing as rapidly as the rest of the world, and in some cases, like Syria, they are even regressing. This is a golden age for most. In the last 100 years life expectancy has more than doubled. In the last 50 years the poverty rate has fallen by 80 per cent. During that same time, the number of wars fell by a similar figure and the number of nations governed democratically tripled. But, while the global community leapt forward, Islamic nations (as defined as members of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation) have progressed at a much slower pace. – Scott Gilmore

We are openly killing our fellow Muslims for things we think they have done wrong…

Whilst there are unfortunately plenty of examples of Muslims killing their fellow Muslim brethren, one particular example impacted me more deeply than others. Asad Shah, a shop keeper in Glasgow, was murdered by Tanveer Ahmed for apparently insulting the Prophet (S). Shah was murdered outside his shop, a news agents that is a 2 minute drive from my parents’ home in Glasgow. Several members of my family went to the candle lit vigil held in the victims honour.

The deenport user referred to at the start of this post has also commented on this murder, responding to someone saying the murderer was ‘stark raving mad’:

‘Stark raving mad’, or was his nafs his Shaykh? I’m seeing this more and more often now. Muslims taking the Quran and Hadith into their own hands, and deriving their own rulings in order to do what pleases their nafs. He might feel that someone had disrespected the Prophet of Islam (SAW), but where did Prophet (SAW) instruct that you should kill someone for this? Something is completely missing here. This is where you arrive at when you refuse to defer to the scholars on matters of the Deen. And it’s a disease affecting the whole Ummah now. Just how do we reign it in? – comment made on deenport

Even more recently Mohammed Syeedy was found guilty in Manchester Crown Court of murdering 71-year-old Imam Jalal Uddin in a children’s park with a hammer in Rochdale. Syeedy said Uddin was not Muslim enough because he practised a form of spiritual healing called ruqiya, which involves special spiritual amulets. Syeedy thought this was akin to black magic, so he killed him. So extreme and shocking has this murder been that Haras Rafiq of the Quilliam Foundation counter-extremism think tank said:

The murder in Rochdale is a reflection of what I believe has been happening in the UK and around the world – there is a civil war within Islam right now. – Haras Rafiq

In a similar vein Arfan Shah made the following point:

It really annoys me that people cheat Islam and they are the first to be believed and others are seen as liars. Islam is not a vigilante religion, where people can say what they want and kill whoever they want. The ONLY people that can decree the punishment of death is a legitimate court. Not some hillbilly who can’t even read Arabic but can pull out a knife or a gun. This is a major sin and it cannot be justified. Murder cannot be justified ever. This is just one of the ways that Wahhabism has destroyed Sunnism. Great, we all look like fools now. If your love makes you kill someone else then it’s not pure love. Pure love has no hate for anyone. I find it offensive to the extreme that people commit sins and use the Prophet (SAAS) as an excuse. It does not matter if you saw him in real life or in a dream. He would NOT contradict the very law he was sent with!! I know that someone is lying. You might be able to fool others but not me. Blasphemy laws do not apply to non-Muslims, it’s that simple. If an insane politician makes a statement then it has to be reported to a judge who will deal with it. Taking the law into your own hands is wrong. Why? Because people could kill others and lie. It’s not just a sign of decadence but a sign of regression. It will also drive people out of Islam by making us all look like extremists, fools who cannot rationally apply an argument. The lunatics are in charge and the day of judgement is not far… – Arfan Shah, from an article entitle Vigilantism

We make excuses, pathetic excuses, for when we commit mass murder…

In homicide trials I’ve always been slightly suspicious of the “I was abused as a child so I had to murder my girlfriend” courtroom defense. Or “I was high on meth at the time and…” Or, “I couldn’t find a job and shot the cop…” Or, “I have too low an IQ to understand the consequences when the AK47 in my hand got a life of its own …” The latest version of “Yes I killed my parents so please don’t punish me because I’m an orphan” is the current excuse for young Sunni Muslims on jihadi rampage in Brussels, Ankara and Istanbul (where most victims are Muslims), London and San Bernardino. The key words are “disaffected”, “alienated”, “excluded” or “embittered European youth”. You live in a slum suburb like Molenbeek or an inhumanly colossal concrete Corbusier-designed Paris banlieue where exclusion, discrimination and poverty drive you to petty crime and prison where you convert to mass murder of innocent Muslims and us. Please. – Clancy Sigal, from an article entitled The Devil Made Me Do It

We are so backward that we are not on the International Space Station, yet we should be, yet we’re not, and this is why…

This final point for me sums it all up regarding the situation we Muslims currently find ourselves in. Scott Gilmore makes the following deeply cutting comments about how Muslim nations are in some aspects way behind non-Muslim nations:

There are no Islamic nations on the International Space Station. Why? No one in the Muslim world has an advanced economy capable of supporting a competitive space program. Some argue it is due to a combination of “guns, germs and steel”—economic and geographic circumstances that have historically favoured some regions over others. This has left the Islamic world handicapped, unable to join the ranks of leading powers in the 21st century. Or, it could be due to historical injustices like those committed by diplomats such as François Georges-Picot and Sir Mark Sykes, who, infamously and arbitrarily, carved up the Middle East in 1917, condemning it to a cyclical hell of internecine war. Further east, colonial legacies can be faulted for the ragged states of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. And, of course, the endless parade of self-interested dictators from Rabat to Jakarta must not be forgotten.

But those answers ignore the men, their faces covered with black masks, walking through the streets of Paris, killing in the name of their God. They might not be the reason the Islamic world has been left behind, but they are the reason it is staying there.

All faiths have their fanatics, and I won’t debate whether one desert creed is intrinsically more violent than another. But Islamist terror exists. It is endemic. It has reshaped the world over the last 20 years. And the world it created has, ironically, left Muslims further behind.

The twin towers. Subways in London. A nightclub in Bali. A memorial in Ottawa. A café in Sydney. A magazine in Paris. None of these attacks avenged the Prophet. They diminished him. None of these attacks defended Islam. They marginalized it. Incrementally, one after another, they have forced us to treat Islamic nations as problems, not partners. Governments around the world—Australia, China, Russia, France, the United States—now see Muslim nations as places that must be contained, sidelined and neutralized. Partners in a space program? No. Impossible.

We, and our governments, don’t say this. In fact, we do all we can to make it appear otherwise. U.S. President Barack Obama himself proposed using the NASA space program as a tool to reach out to the Islamic world, for example. Nonetheless, with every act of terror, we push the Muslim world further way. We accept fewer refugees. We send more drones. We watch more mosques. We close more embassies. We issue fewer visas. We leave them further behind.

This may be unfair and ultimately counterproductive, but it is true. Islamist terror has achieved nothing but to weaken and isolate Islam. Will these attacks eventually end, as the zealots realize what they have wrought? Or have we now passed the tipping point, where Islamic culture can only continue to self-destructively spiral inward? I can’t offer a prediction. But mankind is now in space, and we didn’t bring the Muslim world with us.

 – Scott Gilmore

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