Leaving Islam



The Privatisation of Islam

By I Kahn   

There is one section of the Muslim community which makes me writhe more than others. The one I refer to is the “emancipated” set, the ones with Masters and Doctorates (probably from North American or British universities); the ones who have either lived or have extensive connections with the West; the ones who can speak faultless English despite being from an oriental background; the ones who would just as easily subscribe to the plethora of cable channels broadcasting a myriad varieties of programmes as they would the services of a religious teacher educating their kids in the ways of Islam. 

These Muslims will argue incessantly that religiosity essentially is a personal matter, one to be determined and executed as the individual decides – depending presumably on the individual’s interpretation of spirituality and its place in scripture. When challenged on their views and actions, which often are in brazen contradiction to the religion they espouse to, they rather smartly narrate the standard response, reminding us that one’s adherence or otherwise to any particular aspect of religion or religion as a whole is one of personal understanding and choice. I realise at this point you might be wondering that I get writhed about very little since a Western education and a tendency to relegate religion to the level of the individual can only be regarded as positives in an otherwise intellectually anaemic group of people.  The issue however which strains my sinews is precisely this propensity to trapeze walk rather skilfully over the crucial questions of the nature of religion and its place in a modern, knowledge led society.  

It is wonderful, encouraging in fact, to see some Muslims arguing in favour of a more nuclear interpretation of Islam; at least that would encapsulate the menace of the ideology to the level of the unit as opposed to wreaking havoc on a larger scale, however to do that would be to reject the whole integral concept within Islam of the Ummah (the global Muslim community). One can not on one hand relegate religion to the level of the nuclear self whilst at the same time eulogise the merits of a collective Ummah. To reject the notion of the Ummah, with its imperative on consensus and shared ideology would be like rejecting the criticality of the collective unconscience professed by Karl Marx. Can Communism sustain its philosophy without the existence of a notion of the collective conscience? Can Islam? 

Furthermore Islam is not willing to cede to Caesar what is his and contend itself with the rest. Islam is a holistic, I would argue, all devouring, system, expecting obedience to all its constituent parts, leaving nothing to the creative imagination of its subject. Islamic jurisprudence is intrinsically linked with its politics, economy, societal structures and institutions. Resisting one cog in this antiquated apparatus grinds to a halt the whole structure - or rather it should do were it not for the creative re-interpretation of the blindingly obvious. Seemingly, the enlightened Muslims would have us believe that despite this immutable tenet of the ideology, demanding unqualified subjugation to all its institutions, an individual has the licence to customise his subscription to such an extent where links are severed from one or more of the prescribed tenets and also between other units (Muslims). 

 Perhaps there is no other set of Muslims who live in a greater state of intellectual dishonesty than do the recently Occidentalised or the “neo-occidentals”, and this despite – or perhaps because- of their exposure to Western enlightenment and philosophy. A peasant tending the fields of rural Pakistan lacks the capacity, both intellectually and materially, to question the fundamentals within his belief system. The “neo-occidentals” do not however have this excuse to veil their philosophical contradictions. Perhaps it is because a Muslim can not wrestle away from the Collective within Islam – no matter how “Westernised” he becomes - there is an almost instantaneous, unqualified, and wholesale sympathy with a Muslim cause regardless of its geographical or political dimensions. Never have I heard any British Muslim side with the Israeli’s on the matter of suicide bombings. There is no Muslim evil act in the world it would seem which could not be either “contextualised” or justified by Muslim apologists by the medium of half baked and semi-concocted conspiratorial claptrap.  The very advocates of a personalised Islam and individualistic religiosity would nevertheless sense a feeling of ownership with the plight of Palestinians or Chechens as if the matter affected them personally and physically. 

The increasingly common agreeableness however, to associate religiosity with the personal is symptomatic of a psychological inner strife which has descended upon the enlightened and educated Muslims. It equates with the rather inane doctrine that everyone has a right to one’s opinion regardless of what the opinion is. Often, one will find that the people most inclined to invoke their right to hold an opinion regardless of external realities are the ones whose opinions can not be rationalised or justified through robust counter arguments. The inner sanctum of one’s secluded and remote psyche, at times, is the only refuge for indefensible ideas. There they face no interrogation and require no logic to sustain their existence. The neo-occidental Muslims have realised that they can no longer reconcile superior knowledge and epistemology of the West with their intellectually bankrupt religion and consequently have resorted to the mantra of the right to support an privatised religion, which in their case is in diametric opposition to the very essence of the religion itself. Hopefully, in the face of continuing globalisation and greater diffusion of Western philosophy and rationality, Islam will continue to retreat and be relegated as a concern of the individual – much like Christianity in the West.






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