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Clash versus Dialogue: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

 

By Syed M. Islam

 

The need for a dialogue between Muslims and the west has been identified. Progress along this need, however, has often been hampered by a pressing challenge: to convert the sometimes-pronounced and mute-at-other times propensity on both sides for a "clash" into one more conducive for a “dialogue.” 

This propensity manifests separatist, communal tendencies. It doesn’t matter whether the tendencies were triggered by ignorance about a different way of life or an arrogance to consider as inferior everyone else who does not subscribe to one's faith. 

While some pioneering Muslim writers and leaders might be willing to facilitate a respectful, honest dialogue, many arrogant faithful may need to look inward to understand how they're serving as tools for the destructive mindframe clawing for a "clash". 

When some Muslims claim that by saying La Ilaha Ill Allah they free themselves from everything else and anything that stands between Muslim God Allah and themselves is nothing but shirk, could they be paving the way for a "clash" or a "dialogue"? 

What exactly does a Muslim mean when seeking freedom to run his life according to his faith? How exactly does he interpret the rights and freedom of others to believe and/or not believe anything else? Most people now live in pluralistic societies; does a Muslim faithful view everyone else’s lifestyle as consummate subtraction from his freedom to practice his faith? 

This question I ask rather poignantly because I hear many expatriate Muslims living here in the US grumble about the pubs, the alcohol, the pork, people eating during fasting season and tempting them with food, and of course the scantily-clad women prancing about that they just cannot cane into veils. With so many of them being not only visibly bothered but also ignorantly critical of the American way of life, does their anti-American and communal attitude serve to fuel "clash" or "dialogue"? 

Many Muslims seem quick to support the need for "dialogue" when at heart they concurrently consider everyone else who does not embrace Islam as a believer in kufr and Jahiliyyah, who, regardless of their virtues as humans, are doing nothing but living Fi Sabilish Saitan (in the path of Satan). With this religious yet illogical bent, how could they realistically expect any empathetic "dialogue" from the West? Interestingly, many Muslims act bewildered when the west seems to harbor prejudices against them. Must prejudice be directed only from a Muslim believer to non-Muslims? 

In a Jumuah Khutbah (Friday sermon) delivered in a Midwestern town in the USA in the mid-nineties, it was said that the Muslims were still not grasping well the fact that the world they were living in was run, governed and dictated by the global kufr and Jahiliyyah. It was suggested that it was high time to realize the true message of La Ilaha Ill Allah and confront the so-called new world order.  

Does the term 'confront' in this context evoke the melody of respectful "dialogue" or might it beat, albeit indirectly, the drums of Jihadi "clash"? Far from being an isolated case of bigotry, similar rebel-rousing promotions of bigotry seem to have been ongoing across the United States during the Eighties and Nineties, much earlier than the fateful September 11, 2001 tragedy, after which most if any of the latent prejudices against Muslims began to surface in the US. What was the agenda of these faithful bigots? 

When Muslims seek respect from others for their belief, would it be too much to ask for the same in return, instead of gunning their religion engines during Jumuah prayers for a confrontation? How could a Muslim, who endorses a khutbah of confrontation, possibly display an iota of HONEST respect for non-Muslims, while viewing the latter as nothing but global kufr and Jahiliyyah? Is this dichotomy too difficult to admit or might this be a case of hypocrisy and pretension, albeit faithfully engendered, presumably? 

Centuries ago someone said that charity begins at home, or so was I told. We must start offering to others what we crave from them: honesty for a ‘dialogue’, as in this case. 

Many years of bureaucratic slack and mismanagement in the US has caused its immigration system to become bloated, disorganized, and mismanaged. The tragedy of Sept. 11 yanked our perspective to the obvious. Consider how organized terrorism managed to slip through their cracks, allowing such a tragedy.  

As a step toward tightening its security belts, the US government started to reorganize the immigration process, beginning with listing and fingerprinting Muslim men from a certain age group. Some have argued that their civil liberties were violated. Perhaps. 

Daniel Pipes recently raised the question whether Muslims should be trusted in the US Security Services. This must have hurt many Muslims. However, consider the case of Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, which may have prompted Pipes to raise the question. Why did Gamal refuse to ‘record’ a Muslim, claiming that it would be against his religion? Why should his ‘religious bonds’ ‘trump the requirements of his office not to show favor’? 

Was it not religious bigotry when and if Gamal refused to record a Muslim? In this secular country, must we allow someone’s communalistic religious preferences to interfere with his objectivity as required on the job? Mustn’t he follow his religion in private like everyone is expected to, and not bring it to his job? 

Is it rare or frequent when a Muslim may fail to keep his religious faith private? This is a valid question since Islam claims to provide a comprehensive view of life. Hence it seems only reasonable that its fervent adherents would allow its comprehensive ‘guidance’ to supersede their job requirements. 

I would have been convinced that most Muslims do not let their religion interfere with their jobs and that they are not boorishly prejudicial against non-Muslims. Yet why I am skeptical? It is because of the proliferation of imams and other Islamic pundits across the US who are seen vrooming about quite effortlessly, stirring up communal prejudices at Jumuah Khutbahs

Let’s consider this. Had there been a general rejection amongst the allegedly moderate Muslims of the bifurcated Islamic view of the world: true path to God (Islam) and paths to Satan for ALL ELSE, these shallow utterances at Jumuah prayers would have been long discarded. Yet, why do they virulently persist? 

Could there be a strong undercurrent of hatred toward America, its foundational principles, and its way of life amongst expatriate Muslims? Perhaps because American way of living challenges everything that they have been taught as the ‘ultimate’, yet they see America thriving economically, whereas their old countries, endorsing primarily the ‘ultimate path to God,’ continue to languish at many levels? Worse, Allah seems to be nowhere in sight to reset the trend, if only to prove the truth and perfection of Islam. 

The currency of shallow, bifurcated khutbah utterances at Friday prayers may lend defensible credibility to Daniel Pipes’ contention. Gamal Hafiz may not be an isolated case. Rather, he might be a poster-boy for the latent religious bigotry toward all non-Muslims that wiggles in the hearts of many a Muslim faithful who now call the US their home--and grudgingly so, on the surface. Yet, and rather comically, they seem reluctant to move to any Islamic nirvanas, such as Pakistan, Iran, or Nigeria, despite having complete freedom of movement. 

Would it be too much against their faith and ummah to be proud as Americans? Does it seem reasonable that a Muslim faithful, who endorses Jumuah khutbahs about a bifurcated world, can be capable to plot against America, to rid it of its kufr and Jahiliyyah and establish the true path of Allah aka Islam?  

Muslims need to be honest and self-critical before they can unite on the platform of “dialogue.” Why is it that so many of them hate the US? What exactly do they wish to see in here? Must the US rewrite its constitution, tossing out the word ‘secularism’ and, better yet, adopt Islam as its ‘state religion,’ so that its less than 6 million Muslims would no longer cudgel their brains, losing sleep over any potential confrontation with the 'so-called' 'new world order' of kufr and Jahiliyyah? Would this land then become 'free' and unhindered for Muslims to practice their faith, with nothing between them and Allah? 

In case anyone reading this should harbor such delusion, let me ask: why should you not consider leaving this kufr-land and migrating to a country where Islam and its seemingly unworldly bifurcated perspective are more unabashedly flashed in the government's actions and attitude? Just kill the 'so-called' notions of 'pluralism' and separation of church and state, and sing instead in praise of separatism and communal bigotry, of course as ‘interpreted’ by any Islamic faithful. Incidentally, it might be a bit hypocritical to ignore the context of Quranic verses that seem to highlight its virtues, while discrediting anyone’s critique of other verses by insisting that all those were taken ‘out of context.’ 

I must admit that a recent comment on a forum by an erudite Islamic writer has bothered me considerably. He stated "You may make the case that Saddam Hussein was evil, but compared to the people who run this country (and most of the world for that matter) he was definitely a saint! So evil has been replaced with a greater evil." 

I happen to know that the writer has for a while enjoyed living in the sunny state of California, US. Saddam Hussain was not an Islamic person. Rather, he was a secular dictator who was strict about the length of men's Islamic beard, among other things. Is the writer suggesting that a secular non-believer can be a "saint" as a leader? That coming from a Muslim faithful seems rather perplexing

Besides, how exactly has Sadaam been a better run-ner of his country than any US President has been of his? Which US President, for instance, has sat glued to his position as a dictator for 35 years, despite his people's wishes? Which US President has gassed 60,000 US citizens, as Sadaam did Iraqis? Which Us President led its citizens to mass graves, as Saddam did? Perhaps the writer was ill-informed and made hasty comments, primarily and presumably to vent his interpretive Islamic anger against the US?  

It also seems relevant to wonder why the writer is languishing in a country where the ruler, according to him, is much worse than Saddam could ever possibly be. Did the writer not have freedom of movement to migrate to a saintly country like Iraq? A point to ponder, applying the full gusto of one’s faith. 

In this context let me quote Dr Ausaf Ali, a retired professor of economics based in the US, who wrote: "What I find "amazing" is that even orthodox, traditionalist, and fundamentalist Muslims, comfortably settled in America, for instance, do not want to leave America, not for all the Islam and Shariah that they can find, say, in Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia!"  

Is that really true as a general rule of thumb? How many amongst the Muslim expatriates fit the profile? Could the above writer be among them? 

While one has a right to stay where he or she must, does the (religious) snobbery and anti-American arrogance so prevalent among Muslims in the US helpful for any "dialogue", really? Trying to be true to their faith, must every Muslim faithful in this day and age consider all non-Muslims in terms none other than kufr and Jahiliyyah, while lip-singing to the global demand for a "dialogue"? 

Unless the Muslims can unitedly be more sincere and honest in this regard, respect others no less for their differences of faith or lack thereof and exhibit no arrogance by playing little judgmental gods towards all others and their customs, I do not see how they could ever prevent the clash from becoming more ominous and clangorously clear. Was Samuel Huntington correct in his hunt—and hunch—for a clash, after all? 

It is high time for the majority of the Muslims to match their attitude and actions to their stated desire for “dialogue.” For actions can speak louder than words. 


Syed M. Islam is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at

[ [email protected] ]

 

 

 

 

 

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