No, not that Mohamed of Mecca who walked the earth some 14 centuries ago, and for depicting his image innocent people are getting killed in France and embassies are getting attacked and burned all over the world. No, I’m talking about me, Mohamed Abubakr, the Muslim misfit from Sudan. Those of you who know me know that criticism of religion, especially my own, and religious figures are my guilty pleasure. That, and condemnation of violent and non-violent acts committed by religious people (who are usually Muslims) in the name of God. It’s part of the package deal of being a liberal human rights activist and religious reform advocate. Activists as a group are known for being extra vocal with condemnations of everything that happens anywhere in the world. It’s one of the side effects of having a bleeding liberal heart. But it’s a good kind of side effect, like the buzz experienced as side effect of cannabis-based medicine consumption, so I’m not complaining.
I have received many well-intended messages from non-Muslim friends and contacts, wondering why I didn’t condemn Charlie Hebdo attacks and ISIS burning the Jordanian pilot, and some politely demanded that I condemn them as a moderate Muslim. Because, you know, it’s my job as a moderate Muslim. After reading these messages, for the very first time ever, I noticed the “As a Muslim I condemn…” posts by my Muslim friends, and the humiliation and shame in the tone in which the posts are written. There’s no doubt that they are doing it because it’s their job to do so as moderate Muslims, and if they don’t, they are ISIS-supporting, beheading-condoning, wife-abusing terrorists.
This annoyed me very much. Not just because I actually did condemn these attacks in Paris over
And over again…
But also because the very expectation/demand for every moderate Muslim to condemn every terrorist attack carried by another Muslim, because he/she happens to be Muslim, is both unfair and unreasonable. Not to mention utterly insulting.
I, Mohamed Abubakr, unlike prophet Mohamed, am not responsible for other Muslims anywhere in the world. I did not bring the religion to mankind, I did not co-author the Quran, and I am not responsible for how lunatics interpret it. Being Islam does not put any special responsibility on me to be any more of a condemner than you, as a non-Muslim, of random Muslim terrorism. Be it in France, Syria, Nigeria, or anywhere else in the world. That’s not in my job description as a Muslim. I’m not the Muslims’ keeper.
Like most Muslims, I love that verse so much. It has a special place in my heart not just because of its pacifist message; but also because it’s one of the few teachings shared literally between all three Abrahamic teachings. As much as I love it, I hate seeing it circulate the Internet each time a Muslim terrorist carries an attack somewhere in the world, with the cliché comments “terrorism is not from Islam” or “terrorists are not true Muslims” attached to it. That usually comes with the strongest of condemnations for violence and bloodshed in the name of Allah, Mohamed, and Islam.
While yes, you are not obligated to post these condemnations all over social media to prove your moderation, and random terrorists are not representative of you as a peaceful majority, it’s a lie to say that Islamic terrorism all over the world has nothing to do with Islam. That’s cowardly of you, and makes you part of the problem. What happened in Paris has everything to do with Islam. ISIS and Boko Haram have everything to do with Islam. Bin Laden and others have everything to do with Islam.
Islam is not just a book and sayings of Mohamed, it’s schools of thoughts, Mullah’s and Imams, the preacher in your local Mosque, and the “Sharia” by which your state is governed. Quoting pacifist peaceful verses from the Quran that condemn killing doesn’t magically erase verses that condone violence, it will not make the Hadiths (sayings attributed to Mohamed) that ISIS and others rely on for justification for killing evaporate, and will not get the Imams and Mullahs inciting hatred and violence ignored by impressionable youth. It doesn’t work that way, and if you believe it does, you need to smell the human barbecue taking place in Syria, perhaps it will slap you back to reality. In virtually all Muslim states, there’s no such thing as Moderate Islam, there are only moderate Muslims. Especially in MENA, the moderate Islam is nothing but a lie, told by those in denial to appease the humans within them. What we have is a book full of ambiguous verses open to all kinds of interpretations, outdated schools of thought that were established centuries ago and remain stuck in time, a collection of sayings that are tribute to Mohammed (some of which are just plain nasty) that are taken as divine unquestionable texts by most , and preachers, Imams and Mullahs, who mostly are genuinely terrible human beings with pious conservative look , spouting what would put them behind bars or in mental asylum if it wasn’t being said in a preachy religious manner. It’s a recipe for disaster, and while yes, the majority turned out fine and moderate, it was inevitable for Bin Laden, Abubakr Al-Baghdady, and others like them to surface, and their militias to form and start to behead infidels, stone women and burn people alive. After all, that is exactly the Islam we each in our school books, and hear about from the preachers in our local mosques, and watch shows about in Iqraa TV channel, isn’t it? How can we say these militants are not Muslims, and are fringe, when what they practice is the mainstream version that we allow schools to teach our children and the Imams to shout it every Friday on loud speakers?
It’s about time we acknowledge that Islamic terrorism is not the disease; it’s merely a symptom, one of many, which signify a very fatal disease – radical Islam. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, our off-the-charts records of human rights abuse, violence against women, violation of minorities’ rights, religious bigotry, sever social and economic cleavages, everlasting conflicts, racism, corruption, and decade-lasting dictatorships.
I salute Muslims who condemn terrorism on social media and elsewhere, especially those who do it not to prove anything, but only to express disgust with terrorists and terrorism. But condemnations will not make a very significant difference on the bigger picture. To cut terrorism at the source, we need to do a lot more than heart-felt posts on Facebook and Twitter condemning random acts of terrorism. To achieve the goal of terrorism-free Islam, we need to bring to the frontline a true “Moderate Islam” that truly reflects the thoughts of moderate Muslims. And by that I mean we need to reform all those little pieces that together form Islam. We need new schools of thought, modern ones that understand the needs of life in the 21st century, we need to stop preachers and Mullahs from poisoning the minds of youth, and more importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves about what insults our humanity within our holy book and its classic interpretations, and within the collection Hadiths, and to explicitly reject them, so that young men and women in the future know it’s OK to tell off any Mullah or Imam who attempts to use these verses and Hadiths to lure them into joining Jihadi militias. That’s the only way anything will ever change.
I’m going to close this article with some words of a Muslim thinker and reform advocate, for whom I have the utmost respect: Ismail Bey. “I chose many years ago to follow Islam as a faith, and I do see within it many excellent concepts. But in order to be a fitting, useful and applicable faith; we must transcend the limits imposed by clerical Islam. This faith came about to shatter dogma and clergies, yet has become the epitome of dogmas and clergies. Something is wrong. I don’t know if it is possible to rescue the masses from this enslavement of the soul. It is so far gone. But if people can be persuaded to understand that Islam is between the Creator and the created, nothing more, then maybe, just maybe, there can be that change.” Cheers to change!