If Islam failed to find a mooring to ground itself in this version of Modernity or Post-Modernity, the phenomenon of 9/11 certainly has done so for it. The offshoot from this grounding has been the creation of a new class of “intellectuals” and pundits, all claiming from various angles to be experts on Islam. The dominate culture and media engine then picks and chooses its star players like selecting sides at a salad bar. The preferred choices seem to rank with “Progressive Muslims”, liberal Muslims, and the great crowd pleaser, the Apostates. Interestingly enough, these three groups share some interesting characteristics, primarily, that many do not “practice” Islam [it is instead a social club or cultural experience] and are often detached and aloof from the very communities they either berate or in some form of pity, attempt to “reform”.
The other day, I was sent a link from a popular Muslim critic and “reformer”, Ali Eteraz, informing me he had written a piece on Noam Chomsky and the linguist’s lack of sufficient dissent. I am familiar with Ali and have been in correspondence with him, off and on, over the past couple of years. So in the spirit of his article and critique of Noam and “those who invoke him”, I too shall offer a reprisal of Ali’s post and offer some insights as well as possible alternatives.
I would like to begin, as Ali did, and state that I do not harbor any ill will towards the writer. I have observed his writings over the years and have always felt that he and others like him are free to offer up their opinions. What I am getting at in this piece is the scope with which Mr. Eteraz engages his target audience [i.e., America and the greater dominant powers]. It is indeed scope that seems to be the biggest issue today when discussing so many matters, from multiculturalism, tolerance and pluralism to moral relativism. Complex and intricate matters are dealt with slash and burn rhetoric, displaying little aptitude for critical thinking as well as placing far too much authority in individuals’ voices, casting their opinions wide and far in an attempt to bind all to their beliefs. Ironically, it is the very same people who cry out for pluralism when they themselves only present another monolithic false universal to replace it. Such would be the position that most of the “Progressive Muslims” and apostates stand on. What they say is, “what is good for themselves is good for the entire Muslim world”.
One of the most striking observations I made of Ali’s article was how it was filled with a large amount of apparent self-hate. This may seem a bit trite or overdone but it has become something of a cottage industry of self-loathing on the part of many so-called Muslim intellectuals and experts. It is quite alarming that many of us are succumbing to the notion that there is nothing admirable or beautiful about Islam in this Modern context. It should not be taken as coincidence that this charge is being led by Immigrant Islam – both those who have crossed the water physically or “mentally” as the second and third generation. To relate back to the phenomenon of 9/11, it is primarily “their face” that is on Islam [in other words “extreme Islam”] and therefore they are leading a campaign of self-annihilation, all for the chance of appeasing the dominant culture.
In my mentioning the “lack” of attractive qualities in Modern Islam, according to such thinkers, we only need to look at the main paragraph in Eteraz’s post:
“…I just read that in Kurdistan a Yezidi girl was stoned to death with bricks to her head…”
“…Egyptian hardliners hold parties where the works of jurists like Abu el Fadl… are burnt…”
“…the Taliban “Book of Rules” contains exhortations to kill school-teachers…”
Eteraz’s list goes on for quite some extent. If one were to go by what he is writing, one would be led to believe that the entire Muslim world is grotesque, backwards and morally depraved. I am not so naïve to suggest that there are not elements of the Muslim world [here in America and abroad] that do not call for rectifying [a quick search of this blog would provide sufficient proof] but my issues are more targeted, if I may say so, instead of painting the entirety of all Muslims with such a heavy brush.
In conclusion I found his condemning of Chomsky on the grounds that he has not been adamantly committed enough of his condemning of Islamic extremism, to me, seems pointless. Is it Mr. Chomsky’s job to do so? Is it a requirement?
“Given that neither he […] hasn’t added extremist Islam (specifically in its cultural and lifestyle manifestation) to the list of things to dissent against, I have to part ways with him and look around for a place to stand.”
I would contend, Ali, that you’ve already found a place to stand on – I would only suggest reexamining where that place is, how you’ve gotten there and why. Instead, I would like to see, side-by-side with many of these critiques [some of them quite valuable] something positive as well as alternatives for solutions that do not result in simply appeasing The Master, but for the authoring of a bona fide, dignified existence as Muslims, both in this part of the world and elsewhere.
And God knows best.