The Trouble With Muslim Pundits Part Two

Back in May of 2008, I wrote a post for this blog entitled, The TroubleWith Muslim Pundits Today, in which I, using Irshad Manji as an example, attacked and exposed the self-serving and selfish tendencies of many a Muslim pundit who would seek to “reform” Islam without actually contributing anything to it, let alone actually understanding Islam. Since then, the trend has not lessened and Muslims (so-called) of varied stripes continue to find employment as moles and trojan horses. It appears to be one of the few sectors of the economy that is still growing.

The reason for this short quip is a note that came across my GMail screen from writer and author, Ali Eteraz, in which his status update stated: “I feel bad for the Muslim scholars against Valentine’s Day. One is afraid of the reaction against him, the other one (last line), is just plain lonely”. He then proceeded to link to the following link which gives the standard display of a Muslim country and its army of clerics who seek to subjugate and psychologically terrorize its citizens into some imagined expression of Islamism: As with Manji, my biggest objection is that these attacks and critiques come from a specific mindset that is set on maintaining its own form of hegemony, not to mention its overall mean-spiritedness. Never is there any attempt to understand how and why these scholars come to their conclusions. Nor is there any admittance that the goals of these scholars have very different goals than those of the pundits, if indeed they have any goals at all aside from furthering their careers as “reformers” who pass off their own personal experiences as ontological truths.

The latter part is what I would like to bring to the table here, both for Mr. Eteraz, as well as others like him. Is it not conceivable or permissible that a scholar of Islam might stand against certain practices that s/he may deem unhealthy for Muslims? Can any one of these pundits answer with 100% assurance that the changes and reforms they call for are truly looking out for Muslims? Or are they simply ways to either mock or berate? I am increasingly revolted at this small but vocal constituency within our ranks. Not for their dissenting opinions, but the spirit in which they dissent. I have yet to see from a single so-called pundit a viable alternative or solution to the rulings scholars deliver. For one who has spent 17 years studying Islam in a thorough and systematic way, who is seeking the scholar’s path as a career, I am offended by such cynical treatments of heavy and important matters. For me, it is the lack of respect for, not the domination of, scholars and religious authority that plagues Muslims today. And comments like these only add a bit more gasoline to the fire.

I remember having a conversation this past year with a young Muslim who was quite upset about Halloween. I told him that there have been differing opinions on the permissibility of Halloween from the scholars point of view. I said myself, that I could not see a 100% irrefutable proof that it was not permissible to dress up in a costume, so long as the strictures for dress code were obeyed, and go door-to-door collecting candy. And before he could wag his tongue, I said that while I can’t find a Prophetic reason against it, it still doesn’t mean that I would recommend for Muslims to do so, especially Muslim children. The young man paused with a confused look on his face as asked how I could object to it if I didn’t think it was haram. I explained to him that even though it may not be haram (i.e., irrefutable evidence or unanimous consensus on the subject) still did not mean that I might not consider it detrimental to the health and development of Muslim youth. That I would argue against Halloween, not based on a sound hadith, for example, but because of its context and it being culturally detrimental to young Muslims. The point of this example is that a scholar of Islam has a moral obligation to protect and guide the community. S/he should and must struggle to find ways for Muslims to participate in society. I, though not quite a scholar myself yet, have comfortably signed off on the permissibility of Thanksgiving precisely because it is good for Muslims to spend time with their families.

I do not fear for that scholar or group of scholars who made a decision to protect the dignity and continuity of Muslims within their ranks. Nor do I think they will be lonely. The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophet, may God grant him peace, and will never be lonesome. My challenge to Mr. Eteraz and to other pundits would be this: if you wish for Muslims to participate in St. Valentine’s Day, what will you give them in return? What obligations do you have? And to those scholars who would say no to St. Valentine’s Day, what would will you give the Muslims in return? Ali – I know you will feel this is a personal attack on you but I feel to sit back and watch this mean-spiritedness brew is unacceptable.

The conversation is much deeper than cheap cynicism.

Ali Eteraz can be reached at

No Love. No Manners.

Over the years [16 of them for me now] I have seen a disparagingly absence of manners amongst the Muslims. We have no couth in how we talk, critique and debate one another. In a recent post I came across, I felt compelled to write a little piece. My apologies if it seems to border on the polemical but I felt it needed saying anyway.

So here we have it. Muslim vs. Muslim in a virtual cage match. I have observed many of these volleys and have tried to put it to pen and pixel. It’s not an easy task. But, here ‘goes.

I think one aspect that some of the critics of Eteraz miss or don’t even look at is why does Eteraz say that things that he does. Why do “liberal Muslims” say the things they do. To be sure, there are some who may have fallen into the trap of post-Enlightenment religious thinking and that is to make religion subservient to personal desires – in other words, jettison whatever is inconvenient or doesn’t reinforce our ill-perceived independence of God.

But Muslims today are under tremendous pressures from the dominant society to author and practice a version of Islam that caters to their fears, prejudices and proclivities and not towards what Muslims think is pleasing to God. As Muslims, we should be very much cognizant of this and take this into account when we have truck with our fellow brothers and sisters.

Before I continue, I should point out that I have not agreed with everything that Ali Eteraz has written. In truth, I have not read many of his posts in a while as I feel out of touch with what it was he was writing – but to say that he’s not entitled to write it, well, I think we have to tolerate and debate in a way that would uphold the ethics and standards of our Beloved Example. Simply trashing Ali Eteraz and making comparisons between him and Shaytan is in my opinion, ridiculous, unwarranted and uncouth.

But the critique doesn’t stop there. Above all, and I have seen this everywhere, there is absolutely NO LOVE BETWEEN THE MUSLIMS! The last two times I saw Dr. Sherman Jackson, he spoke about the woeful absence of love in the Muslim community. I couldn’t agree more. I have read here and in other places the critiques on Ali [and I believe many of them are warranted at least in the spirit of debate] but I have not seen one person offer to help him [if he is so satanically misguided], take the time out to correct his conduct or – aqueedah or what ever it is that many of his critics feel is awry. This type of mean-spirited, name bashing is NOT THE SUNNAH and is NOT OF THE CHARACTER OF THE PROPHET! I would love to have the opportunity to sit down with Ali Eteraz and discuss some of his points and maybe exchange a few words and see where he’s coming from. But I will not trash the man’s name publicly like so and NEITHER SHOULD ANY OF YOU! This goes not simply for Ali Eteraz, but for the correspondences I see all over the blogosphere.

Am I saying that none of us have the right to have a disagreement with Ali Eteraz? No. But it should be done in the best way.

We need the love. We need to get it back. And we need to get it back NOW.

And God knows best…