A Religious World Divided? – Call & Response

I have had an interesting reaction to my previous post, A Religious World Divided?. I enjoy having this blog so that I can have a dialog with my fellow Muslims (non-Muslims are welcome to jump in, too!). It allows me, as a student of the social sciences, to examine the nature of some of our tendencies and reply with some of my examinations as well as your thoughts.

In response to the post, Tariq Nelson posted a piece on his blog concerning my post and in doing so, comments ensued. And while I greatly enjoyed the response, I feel compelled to single out one in particular and give it some additional thought and examination. The following thoughts and comments should be taken as constructive criticism.

Abu Noor al-Irlandee posted the following comment:

I love this cultural apostasy point but I know I have a different take on it than some.

My family accepted that me as a Muslim and we remain very close and I think that is beautiful and I would want that to be the case for everyone. At the same time, I hope there always remains as long as this country’s ruling structures are as oppressive as they are a sense that accepting Islam is an apostasy in the sense that one is rejecting the oppression and injustice of this society. I would want sometime to spell this out more at some point but just think about the converts to Islam in the Makkan period…there were some senses in which they were committing cultural apostasy and some senses in which they weren’t. I don’t long for a time when Islam is completely accepted in America because that would mean America has no fear that Muslims are going to threaten the structures of injustice that exist in America. Maybe that’s different for Blackamericans, because even if they are accepted as Americans, they are still usually seen as at least a possible threat, Condoleeza Rice and Clarence Thomas notwithstanding. Speaking as someone who would fit the definition of a white American I hope there never comes the time when I would be acceptable to the white establishment…yes to cultural apostasy! Umar and Abu Sinan are you with me?

I would like to make a clarification as well as respond to the brother’s comments. While I am happy for this brother’s experience with his family accepting him as a Muslim, that was off of the point that I was making in my post. Families in general have a way of reconciling issues that the greater society cannot. Whether that be a homosexual family member or someone who has converted to Islam, one’s family will have a way of dealing and normalizing that issue where society may not.

As for the early community in Makkah, they did indeed commit cultural apostasy and the Prophet was keenly aware of this. He knew the sacrifice he was asking of his fellow Muslims, hence many kept their Islam a secret until much later. And yet despite the hardships that the Prophet faced from the Quraysh, he never lost his love of his people. It is clear, if one studies the Prophet’s biography, that he dearly cared for his people. Pagan, Jew, Christian, and all.

It is commonplace for Muslims today to draw parallels between the early Muslims and what we may face in today’s world, wherever we may reside. But we must also not loose site that we are not living in Revelatory times. In this I mean that while the early Muslims faced persecution from the Quraysh, we are not those Muslims, in those times, and our oppressor cannot simply be replaced as a representative of Abu Lahab or the Quraysh (i.e., the American government or greater society). Instead, to draw from the brother’s quote on Hudaybiyyah and the opening of Makkah (Fath-ul-Makkah), these should be seen as exercises in restraint, compromise and the ability to coexist with those who may have different religious tenements that you do.

al-Irlandee further added:

I don’t long for a time when Islam is completely accepted in America because that would mean America has no fear that Muslims are going to threaten the structures of injustice that exist in America.

I find this statement particularly troubling and if I may say so, ignorant as well as arrogant. The idea that Islam is something that America should fear is absolutely stupid and reckless on his behalf. And above all, where is Islam, and more to the point, Muslims, under any obligation to challenge the status quo? If you see Islam as some sort of “magic pill” for America to swallow and all its problems and issues will magically disappear then you’re even more ignorant that you have made your statements out to be. This may seem harsh but I find this brand of designer revolutionary rhetoric damaging and ridiculous, as well as highly convenient as it easily allows for the justification of a whole array of notions, such as not participating in society, not taking care of one’s responsibilities and so forth. I find this propaganda reminiscent of the the talk I often here at a coffee house near my residence. It is usually filled with white hipsters, replete with their tattoos and piercing, who talk vaingloriously about, “sticking it to the man”, while their father most likely is the man. If I may be so bold, this is commonplace for many white Americans, who in surrendering their Ellis Island ethnicity for a brand-x whiteness, feel they must compensate by acting out as chic revolutionaries.

While I agree with al-Irlandee that in some respects, Blackamericans are still viewed as a threat (especially when affluent, suburban whites come in contact with inner-city blacks) but I find it curious that al-Irlandee chose to single out Condoleeza Rice and Thomas Thomas as his two examples of blacks who are non-threatening. Is it perhaps that these two people also happen to embrace an ideology that conflicts with Mr. al-Irlandee (I’m not objecting to his objection with them – just that he chose them), therefore “selling out”? I would counter that Bill Cosby or Sidney Poitier would be perceived as no less harmless than Ms. Rice or Mr. Thomas but perhaps that they don’t represent “The Man”, they would not make the cut.

From examining al-Irlandee’s statements, it would seem that Islam is more about Revolution than it is about morality. And while al-Irlandee does mention “justice” it seems that it is a specific brand of justice, one which can only be brought about by Islam and “true Muslims” who reject America and all of her wanton moral depravity. As I stated in my post, revolutions do not have long shelf lives. They are often used as tools to achieve other means, perhaps means that in the end, will no longer coincide with the objectives of the revolution itself (the Cuban Revolution comes to mind). Again, I would ask for some type of justification on this stance from the Sunnah of the Prophet.

Another part of al-Irlandee’s response was his justification for not identifying as American and yet claiming some notion of “Irishness”. I would ask al-Irlandee if he was born in Ireland and even if he was, does he reside there? My intuition tells me that al-Irlandee is an Irish-American, who at best, can claim his heritage as hailing from that fair, green land. In what way are you able to claim being Irish when in all likeliness, you’ve been raised here in America. The food you eat is American. The language you speak is American English (not Gaelic or the Queen’s English). This stance to me seems to be an illegitimate excuse to not embrace what you clearly are (an American!) and simply get on with it. And as for the reference to, “hyper-assimilated Irish Americans” (I don’t know what “hyper” here means), rebel or protest people, to me, is “same thing, different smell”.

al-Irlandee continues in his response by stating that,

“…you will never catch me waving an American flag.”

I would ask al-Irlandee how and what do you consider adherence to being American? Does it necessitate waving a flag? Does it take some formal, outward action in order to be included within the fold of America? I would certainly say no. I have not waved an flags and yet I have spoken at the National Constitution Center, having participated in an interfaith reading of the Constitution. Would that in your eyes compromise my Islam? Or even my Blackness? I would say that you have some serious contemplation to do regarding your stance on being American as well as being Muslim. My point about immigrant Muslims being accepted into America and how it revolved around the two main modes of Americaness, mainly white or black, had nothing to do with white Americans embracing Islam (which, of course, they are welcome to do so). Rather, it had precisely nothing to do with that. Such a move would again only validate the stance of majority-white America in that Islam is something “foreign” or something that isn’t “white”. So my point is not that Islam is waiting for white America to convert en masse, which I think we all know ain’t gon’ happen this decade. Instead, White America needs to be able to accept Islam as its own entity, not in how it lacks some Euro-centric/Western component.

From looking at what al-Irlandee wrote, it seems as if there is not room to consciously object while still maintaining allegiance to the greater society, in which ever form that might take. al-Irlandee is correct that many Muslims, black, immigrant or otherwise, may have conscientious objections to many aspects of governmental policies, foreign or domestic (odd how domestic policy gets so little scrutiny for the Muslims here even though there a a system of mass oppression going on – perhaps this fits into the other end of the “us and them” ideology). There is more than one way to be an American – many ways that do not involve flag waving, Constitution readings or otherwise. I find al-Irlandee’s definition to be close minded. Instead, it seems to be a justification to have a pouting party. Incidentally, this same form of rhetoric is used by the Salafi movement here on the East Coast (which is preached to predominantly black populations) which justifies lack of education, joblessness and overall lack of societal responsibility.

My advice to those who adhere to al-Irlandee’s viewpoint is to do some soul searching and reexamine the points on which you are trying to stand on. That reexamination may even require you to rethink why you’re Muslim (not to leave Islam, but “why” you’re Muslim) and the inertia behind it that keeps it moving (or is it stagnant instead?). Being American and Muslim are not two things that need to be reconciled. Instead, perhaps your political and worldly ideologies need reconciling. So I reject the notion that I am “Americanizing” myself. To examine that word, it would mean to make something American that was not so in its inception. Being that I was born in Detroit, and raised by Nancy and Pierre Manley, two proud American parents, I cannot be AmericanizedI already am! Instead, as is the case with many peoples in America, we suffer from an identity crisis. Whether that be Blackamericans who struggle with stereotypical definitions of “blackness” to white kids who grew up in the suburbs, who feeling that they have no culture, attempt to latch on to other perceived cultures (hip-hop is one that I can easily conjure up).

And as I said earlier, it is not my intention to personally attack Mr. al-Irlandee. While I found some of his comments confusing or even offensive, I only intend to engage the ideology and in doing so, I used al-Irlandee as an example. You can see al-Irlandee’s comments here. The post on Tariq’s blog is here. And God knows best.

9 Comments A Religious World Divided? – Call & Response

  1. theblog@manrilla.net'Marqas

    Wa ‘alaykum Salaam.

    Thanks – though in truth, we’ve only scratched the surface on a meaningful dialog on this subject. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. yursil@gmail.com'Yursil

    BismillahirRahmanirRaheem
    as-salamu’alaikum Marqas,

    Excellent.

    Not much more to say 😉

  3. leia905@yahoo.com'Irisblue

    Salaam Alaikum,
    A lovely post on a subject that is not explored enough!
    I was particularly interested in the response to your post by Al-Irlandee. What struck me was the sense of separation the writer felt from being “ a true American”…as if being a true American means waving the flag and embracing the oppressive systems of her/his country without question. Sometimes we spend so much time looking at our differences, creating groups, within groups, within groups that we lose ourselves.
    I realy believe, (perhaps I’m wrong), that we play a large role in not being viewed legitimately by many people or “the system”. The system will only begin to recognize Islam as being a legitimate choice, a way of life, a spiritual, a moral experience when we see it that way ourselves. There are too many of us who use it as a moral or political weapon agianst those we live amongst. There are too many of us who choose Islam (whether born into or not) as a way of expressing our otherness and our disdain for that system.
    Over the years I have become more and more interested in being able to deconstruct our beliefs or our ways of being so that we can ge to the bare bones of it all. You put it so succinctly when you asked “why” are you Muslim….?
    Why am I Muslim? Or, why do I call myself a feminist? Is it because I hold all other religions in contempt, or because I dislike men? I hope to God it’s not.
    Sometimes we are more a danger to ourselves than anyone else can possibly be to us.
    Again, great post which I have not done justice to in my response…I always feel like I should ponder on these questions for a few days before responding 🙂

  4. zayn@bingregory.com'bin gregory

    I would ask al-Irlandee how and what do you consider adherence to being American?

    I think this is a great question and not an easy one to answer. I too strongly resist the sentiment that America should fear Islam. I certainly felt an intense degree of alienation from American society as a young person prior to embracing Islam. I think my journey as a muslim has tempered that tremendously, but it really took an extended period living outside the US to really understand just how inalienably American I am, and what that really means. My advice to white American muslims, though I am not in a position to give advice, is the hadith “Love of one’s homeland is part of the faith”.

    I also recently read and appreciated very much this explication of ‘wala and baraa’ by Shaykh Salman al-Oadah:

    [natural loyalties]
    All people share a certain inborn instinct with respect to
    their relationships and dealings with others, in that they
    relate to others naturally or instinctively. Islam came to
    refine this matrix of human relationships, not to forbid
    people from it or to sever it. In fact, the Qur’an declares
    that cutting ties with others is actually a hallmark of the
    misguided: it does not deem it a mistake or a crime to
    keep ties with people. Allah, Majestic and Exalted is He,
    states: Those who break the Pact of Allah after ratifying
    it, who sever what Allah Has ordered to be joined, and
    who commit corruption in the earth, such are indeed the
    losers.3
    The love one feel’s for a relative, spouse, friend, or even
    for one’s country or people, forms part of the innate, or
    natural walå’ – loyalty, love and closeness – a person has
    in general; and this in no way goes against the religious
    walå’. Muslims from the earliest of times would interact
    with others in ways that were natural or inbred and with
    complete liberality. This is a far cry from the behavior of
    some later people who act on a mixture of m i s c o n c e ptions
    and harsh understandings, and so are led either to
    negligence or into extremism.

    Found here

  5. manrilla@gmail.com'Marc

    Iris, as-Salaamu ‘alaykum.

    Indeed this has not been explored enough. As Mr. al-Irlandee’s comments are far from uncommon, we have a lot of talking and working things out to do.

    What struck me was the sense of separation the writer felt from being “ a true American”…as if being a true American means waving the flag and embracing the oppressive systems of her/his country without question. Sometimes we spend so much time looking at our differences, creating groups, within groups, within groups that we lose ourselves.

    Very true. It’s not that I don’t have some partial agreement with al-Irlandee – there are many things that this country does, actions it performs that I am vehemently opposed to. None the less though, I cannot legitimately claim any other cultural affiliation than “American”. Perhaps what al-Irlandee and those who think link him need to contemplate is how expansive that definition of American is.

    I realy believe, (perhaps I’m wrong), that we play a large role in not being viewed legitimately by many people or “the system”. The system will only begin to recognize Islam as being a legitimate choice, a way of life, a spiritual, a moral experience when we see it that way ourselves.

    There is certainly some validity to what you say, though not to completely condone a conspiracy theorist’s idea, the mechanisms in this country and vis-a-vie, their ideologies, have a very specific purpose in demonizing groups of people or whole religious or philosophical systems to suit their purposes. That should not be overlooked and thought that as soon as we, “come correct”, America will embrace Islam part and parcel. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to more of your insights!

  6. manrilla@gmail.com'Marc

    I had to follow up with al-Irlandee’s response to my comments. Here’s what he had to say:

    al-Irlandee, I am still puzzled as to how you think that the Message of the Prophet was somehow “anti-establishment”. Sure, the Message of the Prophet did upset the social balance somewhat but it didn’t destroy it nor was it seeking to just “buck the system”. Actually, if you read both the Qur’an and the Prophet’s biography you will see at more than one point he was more than willing to make great compromises.

    “…And had We not made you firm, you would almost have inclined towards them a little…” – [Qur’an 17:73-75]

    Also, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was not an exercise in anti-establishment nor in anyway did the Prophet seek to tear down governmental systems but rather reform the morals of those who were in places of power [well, people period]. You will have to forgive me if I find your statement to be a little trite:

    “…I don’t think a believing Jew or Christian or any follower of the Prophets who really tried to convey the message that the Prophets did, would be accepted by America, or perhaps any society or any government…”

    I encourage you to reexamine the Prophet, his character and his Sunnah, especially from a historical sense, not from an imagined revolutionary point of view. The Prophet was not a Che Guevara nor any other kind of freedom fighter.

  7. theblog@manrilla.net'Marc

    The dialog continues. al-Irlandee has posted some additional comments on Tariq’s post and I’ve offered up some more rebuttal.

    “…In addition, he (saw) also left a government that ruled by the Qur’an and Sunnah of the One God Allaah, which of course accepted what was good from the previous culture but instantly rejected anything which contradicted the revelation…”

    What government are you speaking of? I would say the Prophet left behind a system and a lifestyle, which yes, had rules which could be interpolated and used by governmental bodies, but he didn’t leave behind a parliament or a cabinet of ministers. And as far as “instantly rejecting anything which contradicted revelation” I would ask you to provide some historical evidence of this and to clarify what you envision the aftermath of the Prophet’s death to be? Indeed, I think the issue here is precisely that: “A vision”. You have envisioned a version of Islam that is not historically factual. It is from here that I have most of my issues. Because of your predisposed issues with America, the greater society, globalism, or what ever it may be, you’ve grabbed a hold of Islam and have used it conveniently as a mode of protest.

    You continued with:

    “…That society was one which was on a mission to bring the truth of the Prophet (saw) to all of humanity and was willing to face the armies of the most powerful empires of the time in order to do so…”

    Indeed, the men and women of that area where very brave but in truth, much of the fighting that took place after the Prophet’s death also had to do with infighting amongst Muslims over power. Some how though, that doesn’t seem to fit in with your Spielberg’esque rendition of Islamic history.

    Contuing, you added:

    “…The prophets taught that we should not sleep comfortably if we have one neighbor who is hungry, what then to make of living in the home base of an oppressive global empire which wastes hundreds of billions of dollars on unneeded weapons of mass destruction while most people in the world live on a dollar or two a day?…”

    I will not argue with you over the morality that was brought by the various Prophets. But what in the hell does that have to do with cultural apostasy? The Quraysh were card carrying idol worshipers but never once did the Prophet say to his followers, “If you’re with me, if you’re a Muslim, you’re no longer with your tribe”. It was precisely the various treaties and compromises that opened up Islam for many of his followers because they wouldn’t have to become apostates. My God, man! That’s the whole point!

    Furthermore:

    “…You can throw around whatever names you think are insults but rest assured I will only take them as compliments inshAllaah…”

    While it is not my intention to insult you I will not sit idly by and observe someone co-opting the Sunnah for someone to march around with a picket on their shoulder.

    And finally:

    “…may Allaah (swt) make us all cultural apostates and make us among the Ghurabaa. Ameen, ya Rabbil Alameen…”

    I can say, without a doubt, you are sorely lacking in any kind of fundamental understanding of Islam, Revelation, the Sunnah and just plain old historical facts. You are more than welcome to run a one-man army against Wal-Mart, Starbucks or any other symptom of globalization and “injustice”. I have personally witnessed the crippling effects of this kind of ridiculous mentality in the Blackamerican community, Muslim or not. So perhaps you will understand why my stance against you and more precisely, your ideology, is vehement.

    And God knows best...

  8. grtlakz@yahoo.com'Michael

    Hmmm, the land of opportunity, streets paved with gold, unmatched resources, E Pluribus Unum, Manifest Destiny, give me your poor: What it means is take off your shirts, pick up a sledge and start pounding rocks to smithereens.

    Get down into those mines and into the forests. Tame the wilderness. Introduce ownership to the aboriginals, apply the principle to the land and to their labour.

    Import innocent people from around the globe and put them to work in the Christian effort of Capitalization. How could we not be ignorant of the rest of the world when our naked bodies have little chance to pause from work, stand erect and look around and make use the mind.

    In the building of modern America people competed for work rather than starve. They had moved from self supported hamlets, safety of tribal living, fishing villages, farm communities into a vast land and immediately found themselves under a monetary feudalism. They did not want to integrate with each other, they wanted to clasp to their identities. Identities have no place here, life is improving, but happiness is still scarce. Just wondering what role capitalism plays in our ignorance lack of education and mutual misunderstandings.

    I could go on and on, but I won’t.

  9. theblog@manrilla.net'Marc

    Michael,

    “…E Pluribus Unum, Manifest Destiny, give me your poor…”

    Those are good points. That one however made me ponder… Thanks.

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