“In clinical accounts of schizophrenia,” says Gabel, “the deterioration of the dialectic of totality (with dissociation as its extreme form) and the deterioration of the dialectic of becoming (with catatonia as its extreme form) seem closely interrelated.” Imprisoned in a flattened universe bounded by the screen of the spectacle, behind which his own life has been exiled, the spectator’s consciousness no longer knows anyone but the fictitious interlocutors who subject him to a one—way monologue about their commodities and the politics of their commodities. The spectacle as a whole is his “mirror sign,” presenting illusory escapes from a universal autism. — Guy DeBord, The Society of the Spectacle
At the recent CAIR LA banquet, Dr. Sherman Jackson made a speech in which he really hit to heart of the matter so many of us Muslims in America, and other parts, are really struggling with: the credibility gap. This gap is what prohibits us to be able to distinguish ourselves from the likes of ISIS, al-Qaeda, or any other group or individuals who happen to act in the name of Islam with which we find disagreeable, reprehensible or even barbaric. It is this credibility gap which leaves us on the defensive like the man who is asked if he still beats his wife: if he says no, he admits that he did so in the past; if he says yes, he admits his guilt. Either way, he’s damned if he does or doesn’t.
Take a listen to the short audio clip in which Dr. Jackson summarizes this credibility gap:
“Some images that have been produced about me come between you and me … and so rather than your ability to hear, contemplate, internalize the words that I’m saying, those images come in between us, and they degrade your faculty of human encounter.” — Dr. Sherman Jackson
Amongst many salient points that evening, Dr. Jackson has also highlighted the need for Muslim leadership, whatever form it may take, get out ahead of this crisis and become credible themselves. We denounce non-Muslims who write and or say whatever they wish about Islam, even going to “the sources themselves (Qur’an, fiqh, etc.)” to prove their points, yet many of us lack credentials and even work to subjugate the broad intellectual tradition of Islam under our own personal agendas. In the end, these leaves the Muslim community woefully uninformed and illiterate of their own religion and tradition. So how can we ask non-Muslims to separate the wheat from the chaff of what is and is not representative of normative Muslim thought, morals and ethics, if we ourselves are not committed to higher standards of integrity and scholarship. Until this issue is resolved no amount of distancing or apologizing will remove the collective guilt that all of us are laboring under. May God grant us guidance, mercy and unity.
وَاعتَصِموا بِحَبلِ اللَّهِ جَميعًا وَلا تَفَرَّقوا ۚ وَاذكُروا نِعمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيكُم إِذ كُنتُم أَعداءً فَأَلَّفَ بَينَ قُلوبِكُم فَأَصبَحتُم بِنِعمَتِهِ إِخوانًا وَكُنتُم عَلىٰ شَفا حُفرَةٍ مِنَ النّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِنها ۗ كَذٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُم آياتِهِ لَعَلَّكُم تَهتَدونَ
“Hold fast to the rope of Allah all together, and do not separate. Remember Allah’s blessing to you when you were enemies and He joined your hearts together so that you became brothers by His blessing. You were on the very brink of a pit of the Fire and He rescued you from it. In this way Allah makes His Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be guided.” — Qur’an, 3: 103
The grief, the anger, that comes out of Mr. Martinez’s voice, that eminates from his face, has really had an effect on me. I’ve spoken little of it to my family but every time I hear him speak, I have to hold back tears. And yet, the man was brave enough to connect his own personal tragedy with those parents who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook, empathizing with people who unimaginatively lost little children, may God have mercy on them all.
His points also ring true to the Society of the Spectacle nature of our culture, in which media outlets cajole us to fixate on the perpetrator (who, by the way, was only half white; odd that folks are obsessing over the white half of his lineage, but I digress) and distract us from identifying with the deceased and their loved ones.
If I were to meet Mr. Martinez, I don’t know what I would say in the face of his inconceivable loss. But I am reminded of a beautiful saying of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم that fits this mood and situation, in which, according to Abu Hurayrah, stating that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, ‘Allah says’:
“I have no reward other than Paradise for a believing slave of Mine who remains patient for My sake when I take away his beloved one from among the inhabitants of the world”. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 6424)
ما لعبدي المؤمن عندي جزاء ، إذا قبضت صفيه من أهل الدنيا ثم احتسبه ، إلا الجنة
I pray that Allah will provide Mr. Martinez and all of those who lost loved one, solace and comfort. May God protect us all. Amin.