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.

#MiddleGroundPodcast – Fajr Club – “What Is Secular Humanism”

In this session of Middle Ground’s Saturday class, Fajr Club, I direct a discussion of John Wesley Robb’s The Reverent Skeptic – A Critical Inquiry into the Religion of Secular Humanism. It’s in conjunction with Linda Raeder’s article, Mill’s Religion of Humanity – Consequences and Implications.

“All … forms of humanism have at least two things in common: (1) A concern for human good, both individually and collectively, and (2) A belief that man must resolve his problems alone and that there is no reality, above or below or outside of man, that can provide a resource or energizing power that will assist him in facing the exigencies of human life and society. Man and nature are all there is.”John Wesley Robb

“Another type of secularism that is most prevalent among intellectuals is what might be called a spiritual secularism, which places its emphasis upon the life of the creative mind. Some have called it the new religion of culture. It stresses the arts, in all of their forms, and places the creative expressions of men and women throughout history as prime examples of the transcendent power of the human mind and spirit to overcome the vicissitudes of daily life. It provides moments of self-transcendence for its adherents through the theatre, the visual arts, a wide variety of literary forms and through music. It glorifies the outreach of the human spirit toward higher and more expressive forms of creativity. It is a source for the nourishment of the human spirit and is often a replacement for the self-transcending experience that traditional forms of religion attempt to provide.”John Wesley Robb

Full audio (2+ hours)

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Also episode #116 from The Mad Mamluks’ podcast, Somewhere in Time, with Joseph Kaminski.

Muslims, Modernity and America: The Problems of Meaning

During the 2018 Blackamerican Muslim Conference there were a few instances when modernity, liberalsim, and progressivism—amongst other ideals—were evoked and discussed. Often these philosophies are discussed in relation to the so-called immigrant Muslim community and how it affects them. But these philosophies and value systems impact the Blackamerican Muslim community as well. As I mentioned in my last post, my hope is to delve a little deeper into these topics so as to raise our literacy on the forces acting upon us. I found Steven Seidman’s phrase, “problems of meaning” aptly titled and insightful. In short, Seidman defines the “problems of meaning” as,

“a pervasive uncertainty regarding ultimate beliefs and values, confusing images of self, society and nature, and the ceaseless conflict over the ends, rules, and norms in terms of which personal and collective life is organized and legitimated.”

In the Sunday session on liberalism, Dr. Sherman Jackson astutely pointed out that liberalism, a child of the European Enlightenment, came about as a reaction to a particular experience that Europe had with religion. Similarly, Seidman states,

“The great transformation of European societies issued forth problems of meaning as established cultural frameworks securing identity, moral order, and purposeful existence were disrupted.”

It is clear that if one were to summarize the problems which face the Blackamerican Muslim community, those topping the list would undoubtedly include “a pervasive uncertainty regarding ultimate beliefs and values” as well as “confusing images of self” as to what a Muslim ought to be and look like from a Blackamerican Muslim point of view. In other words it is not that our challenges as Blackamerican Muslims living in America are legion, but that they are layered and obscured from vision.

One example of a layered problem, or as Seidman labels it, problems of meaning is the doubly shifting sands of Blackamerican Muslim pursuits of “identity, moral order, and purposeful existence”. I say doubly shifting because what effects white America inevitably black America or as the Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker quoted, “when downtown catches a cold, Harlem gets pneumonia”. Blackamerican Muslims must try to forge an identity, establish moral order and carve out a dignified existence amidst an ever-changing social landscape, one which we exert little overt control. For me this is why it’s even more crucial that Blackamerican Muslims come to familiarize themselves with these philosophical, intellectual and cultural forces that routinely produce regimes of “pervasive uncertainty regarding ultimate belief”. For it is certainly this which is currently decimating the ranks of those who followed revealed religion: Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike.

Seidman, Steven. “Modernity And The Problem Of Meaning: The Durkheimian Tradition”. Sociological Analysis, vol. 46, no. 2, Summer 1985, pp. 109-130.