The Hating Game

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.

7 Replies to “The Hating Game”

  1. Salaams,
    Personally, I have never found anything that Noam Chomsky said or wrote to be grounds for parting ways but that is not the point of your post. The point is that too many times Islam and Muslims are the scapegoats of oppression of women and inhumane practices. Unfortunately those who are airing the ‘dirty laundry’ are many times Muslims as you’ve said.What better way to make what they say seem credible then have it fall from the mouths of Muslims! To the general populus who are waiting for more proof and evidence that Islam is a barbaric bad guy this combination is perfectly, structurally coupled. Trouble is that not enough of the other side/balance of the good and beautiful of Islam gets aired as you said. I deal with the fall out of this often being that I am a hijabi and someone who is involved in community service projects which take me into circles of liberal intellectuals all of the time. They asked me, quietly, if I can explain why I cover and have chosen a religion that is so oppressive to women. My newest way to create thought is to ask them if they have heard of this place where women are beaten by their husbands,women get paid significantly less for doing the exact same job as their male counter parts, where 1 out of 5 girls report that they have been sexually abused, and that 95% of the school children in a large city brimming with wealth live in poverty and that their police kill innocent people for no reason? Their eyes get big, horror rushes over their faces as you can almost see them about to store the information under the file that they label ‘Outrageous Muslim behavior’ until I say that this place is called Philadelphia.

    I don’t pretend that all is well in the world of Islam. I fight to correct and transform globally and locally what I feel needs to be changed on a daily basis. But as I also say , women of all faiths are oppressed everywhere. Atrocities occur everywhere. You have to realize that scapegoating Islam and pretending that these things only happen in Islam is what keeps the climate the perfect temperature to breed complacency and lack of attention to the problems in our very own back yard… Virginia Tech, a perfect example.

  2. Tony – Salaams!

    “I’ll always remember, right about the time I had accepted Islam, when Marc sat me down @ his house and introduced me to a taped speech that Hamza Yusef had given some time ago.”

    Boy do I look back on that as a nostalgic time now! How funny. You hit the nail on the head on my ways when talking about, “simply living a good life”. I live in Philadelphia and am sad to say that I see little impact, little of the moral impact that Islam has to offer, on the population here. Where once Islam stood for someone was trying to uplift themselves it has been reduced to an excuse to either womanize or simply check-out of society, amongst other things…

  3. Salaams Safiyah,

    “They asked me, quietly, if I can explain why I cover and have chosen a religion that is so oppressive to women.”

    Boy, now there’s an issue that really needs some tackling. So many Muslim women are left with a deficiency of response when dealing with being questioned on covering and so forth. So much dialog is needed…

  4. Salaams

    I’ll always remember, right about the time I had accepted Islam, when Marc sat me down @ his house and introduced me to a taped speech that Hamza Yusef had given some time ago. One of the things that had stood out for me was when he started talking about what he called Western Cultures Cognitive Dissonance, or something to that effect; the disjointed ways in which individuals and society are want to interpret their environment. Internal and External. Disjointed due to in no small part to plain ol’ sensory overload. Couple this to a deficit in critical thinking skills and Conflation is all but the natural product. This seems to be an innately HUMAN condition; non exempt due exclusively to creed, Race or any other external affiliation.The resultant emotional disconnect leaves one open to placards and sound bites to be ingested as program over time. And virtually self sustaining too; empathy being one of the many casualties.

    It is this American Muslims opinion that Time is a key factor to all of this. Patience and Vigilance and a certain stick to it ness with regard to simply living a good life. To appreciate the good people that further the cause of right living, whatever their circumstance, is a small but no less significant victory for us and the countless that have lived hard and died at the hand of ignorance and its brood. And though I am Muslim and am admittedly predisposed to its strengths, Al Hamdu Lillah, my right deeds and thoughts also do honor, for example, to the many souls I was blessed with knowing in Chiapas Mexico who have since died violent deaths. Deaths that began with an idea.
    Bifurcations will come about with all things we tread in mind and spirit. To the degree that we are able to be aware from whence they come would, in my opinion, enable us to subsequently control our lives in ways we can’t even imagine yet.


  5. Safiya, you mentioned:

    It was very clear that no amount of good answers or points well made loosened the grip of her ideas and stereotypes about the rights of women in Islam […] She […] still asked if I felt oppressed! “Do I seem oppressed to you?”, I asked her.

    This point hits the mark in that most people who are critical of Islam look “down” on it from the standpoint that they think their viewpoint represents Civilization itself, that when they speak, they speak not from a point in History but rather beyond it, transcendent and beyond reproach. This is going to be a tough nut crack.

  6. Salaams Marc,
    How true. Today a woman that I met while our daughters were playing in the park asked me if I wouldn’t mind answering some questions about Islam. She was really candid which I so appreciated. It was very clear that no amount of good answers or points well made loosened the grip of her ideas and stereotypes about the rights of women in Islam , though.
    She obviously didn’t want to change her mind. The calm way that we exchanged views at least allowed her to consider the insights that I offered since she wasn’t feeling defensive nor threatened by my responses she reported.
    Interesting. She was impressed that I’ve adopted as a single mom, was thrilled to hear that I am a child advocate but still asked if I felt oppressed! Do I seem oppressed to you I asked her. Not at all. You seem more freed up than most women that I know that aren’t even Muslim. If that is the case then what makes you think I’d feel oppressed?
    Maybe what’s missing is that before logic can prevail there first must be a commitment and willingness to let go of being right…

  7. I’m tellin’you! What you added is a very interesting point.We will have to play some serious chess in regards to strategies
    on ways to hold folks to account.

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