It would seem that every time I turn around, someone’s got an apostate story. Muslims everywhere are renouncing their Islam. Some become Christians, having found the true nature of Jesus (peace be upon him). Others simply go the atheist route. Upon dropping Islam like it’s hot, they in turn become armchair pundits, Middle East experts and overnight scholars of Islam. They write articles. They appear on talk shows. The best of them write books, making it to the best sellers’ lists. And even much to my surprise, they popped up on my blog as a Google advertisement! But what’s really behind all of this?
For years now we’ve been hearing how Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. In many urban areas in America, Islam has gained a steady and growing congregation in black communities. There has even been surprising growth in various Latino populations as well. So is this sudden wave of apostasy fueled by Islamophobia? This reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to hear stories of those “killer bees” that were always making their way up the coast of Central America (where are they? they should have been here by now…). Is it because people are scared that “Islam is coming”? If so, I hate to disappoint at a time when horror films are so popular but Islam done already came. Perhaps instead of Lady in the Water, Shyamalan should have made Islam in the Water or Signs (of Islam).
Not to question anyone’s faith, but their faith does beg the question. I don’t mean this as a piety war but my observation tells me that many of these revolutionaries had bones to pick with cultural interpretations and implementations of Islam rather than Islam per se. I question their perceptions of what is and isn’t Islam – is Islam the same thing for all people at all times and in all places? Most certainly, they are free to make up their religious or spiritual minds but if you really believe that God is One, alone without partners, how do you justify embracing the Trinity? This is not a question of polemics. I do not want to debate theology here. Rather, I’m looking at the foundation of what they thought Islam was or wasn’t. That is the crux of the situation.
With their new-found authority, many of these former brothers and sisters seek to not just leave in peace. More like a disgruntled postal employee. Instead, they attempt to project their issues and misgivings with what they encountered as problems with Islam in their specific context and have attempted to paint the system of Islam with that broad, tarred brush. A brush whose paint is mixed with culture, post-colonialism and self-loathing. Therefore Islam, per se, becomes a method of oppression for women. Islam, per se, becomes a system of violence and terror against the infidel. I would love to put them on the couch for a moment and really analyze their thoughts. Perhaps in parts of Pakistan things are harsh. Perhaps in the Arab world life has become stifled. Static. But would their allegations hold true against indigenous, American Muslims? Should Muslims in another place and context be held accountable to others? Again, my retort would be, “do you believe in laa ilaha illa Allah?” Do you believe that Muhammad was the Messenger of God? Well, perhaps if you really didn’t, if you really did not internalize that, comprehend that, then I think this apostasy calls for some further reexamination. And more importantly, the authority that their apostasy has imbued them with, waving it around like a blunt object, deserves further scrutiny.
I would never bar someone’s path from what they truly believe in. If it is not for you, it is not for you. Islam was not for Abu Talib. He was a kind man. He loved his nephew dearly (the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him). And yet, ultimately, Islam was not for him (conversely, the Prophet loved his uncle a great deal and prayed for him as well – his not being Muslim did not remove the Prophet’s love for his uncle). But unlike Abu Talib, many of these apostates are reckless in their opinions like a child with a pointed object. In an age where opportunity and money talk and all else walks, the chance to make some quick cash by bashing Islam seems to be hard to turn down. And who better than a former Muslim to criticize Islam? When the the ambitions of those who seek to do damage to Muslims become too transparent they reach for a stool pigeon. Got a problem with Islam? Fine. But as my mother would say, point that brush in the proper direction before you put someone’s eye out.