#MiddleGroundPodcast – Islam In-Depth: “The Identitarian”

In this class, I lead a discussion on Muslim identity, its pitfalls and challenges, through a reading of Raymond Bourne’s “The Handicapped”.

“When one, however, is in full possession of his faculties, and can move about freely, bearing simply a crooked back and an unsightly face, he is perforce drawn into all the currents of life. Particularly if he has his own way in the world to make, his road is apt to be hard and rugged, and he will penetrate to an unusual depth in his interpretation both of the world’s attitude toward such misfortunes, and of the attitude toward the world which such misfortunes tend to cultivate in men like him. For he has all the battles of a stronger man to fight, and he is at a double disadvantage in fighting them. He has constantly with him the sense of being obliged to make extra efforts to overcome the bad impression of his physical defects, and he is haunted with a constant feeling of weakness and low vitality which makes effort more difficult and renders him easily fainthearted and discouraged by failure. He is never confident of himself, because he has grown up in an atmosphere where nobody has been very confident of him; and yet his environment and circumstances call out all sorts of ambitions and energies in him which, from the nature of his case, are bound to be immediately thwarted. This attitude is likely to keep him at a generally low level of accomplishment unless he have an unusually strong will, and a strong will is perhaps the last thing to develop under such circumstances.”

Full PDF here.

Low Hanging Fruit

There are few topics more sensitive than sexual ethics in the Muslim community. This can undoubtedly be explained, admittedly in part, due to the secularization of the Muslim mind, particularly in the West. The result of this secularization process cannot be better seen in the way Muslims, especially younger Muslims, simultaneously perceive that there is a god whilst at the same time denying that same god any authority over their lives. One particular manifestation of this is what I now dub the “low hanging fruit” syndrome.

What I mean by low hanging fruit is the increasing tendency for younger Muslims to delay marriage while at the same time engaging in fornication. They have, however, not arrived at this decision without a number of pressures being exerted on themselves. Some of these include oppressive and unrealistic marital expectations such as demanding that young suitors (men in particular) must have six-figure bank accounts, advanced degrees and a number of impractical demands that make it nearly impossible for young Muslims in the West to marry at a young age. The fault for this lies entirely at the feet of the parents of such young Muslims who themselves have been reprogrammed by colonial/post-colonial constructions of what constitutes suitable marriage material. Other pressures include the societal prioritization of leisure over responsibility and especially the collapse of traditional forms of manhood which not only produced men who would be providers but also produced men who would police other young men (vs. the almost exclusive practice today of policing women), correcting them when they are wrong and applying pressure to encourage them to conform to normative Muslim moral and sexual ethics.

What we have now, in the absence of virtuous manhood are young Muslims, especially men, who seek to satisfy they normal sexual urges through immoral channels. The role of the elders (read parents) here cannot be overemphasized in their infantilization of Muslim youth. I meet young man after young man who, even into their 30’s, live at home with their parents. Conversely, I also meet and talk with distraught mothers lamenting over the lack of prospects of available suitors for their daughters. So what will give here so that we may turn the tide of this misplaced cultural practice?

When I spoke earlier of the secularization of the Muslim mind part of what I mean here is the way in which an ever-increasing number of Muslims no longer look to Islam as a means of solving their life’s problems. Additionally, many have bought into the hogwash that the entirety of problems Muslims face today (including the current predicament presently discussed) is due to their Islam instead of in spite of, or a lack of applying, Islam. Parents and youth alike often bemoan to me behind closed doors, “how backward Islam is” not realizing that the backwardness is due to the absence of Islam not only in their lives but in the minds and hearts, the very agents interpreting their realities.

So how do we solve the dilemma of low hanging fruit: the practice of young Muslims (again, particularly men) who seek sexual gratification from non-Muslim women precisely because those women will place few, if any, demands, on having sexual access to them. This, coupled with the embarrassing truth that despite these immoral acts, many Muslim parents continue to materially support their children even in the face of blatant disregard for God’s commandments. The result of this is a confusing and conflating material support for moral support.

When asked of a solution I did not pretend to have any simple one-stop-shop resolution to the conundrum but nonetheless, I do believe it will start with men, especially the elders (by elder I mean those who have children), placing demands on the youth. Our, as Lauren Knight describes, “everybody’s a winner” culture, has defanged and disabled the current (and most certainly the next, if we don’t change course) generation of young Muslims from not only living fulfilling lives but we ourselves become accessories to the crime of secularizing the Muslim mind by giving credence to popular theology: “God exists, but He doesn’t matter”. How do we understand this phenomenon? It is nothing other than the internalization of secularism that says, if God exists, He plays no role in our daily lives. God is now a choice, in the way in which one might choose Android or Apple for a phone, chicken or barbacoa for a burrito; it’s the buffet and salad bar of postmodernity, or rather, what Dr. Sherman Jackson writes, “the sanctity of individual desire”.

Until Muslim men rise to the challenge and the station set before them, there is little hope that any secular philosophy will come to our rescue and may God have mercy on us should that come to be.