Friday, March 24, 2006

How to be a Muslim Reformer

Hello, Peace, Salaam Everybody,

This post is a sort of part-two on the last one about the US government's ham-fisted approach to "reform" in the Muslim world. I'm posting a pithy blog from elsewhere that pokes fun at those so-called "Muslim reformists" that so many in the US seem to think are going to be the great saviors of the Muslim masses. What they miss is that these folks are deficient in their grounding and understanding of Islam and Islamic sources and seem more intent on puffing up their egos instead of doing something real and profound for Muslims and the rest of humanity.

Who are the good folks? Just Google the following names for a range of Muslim scholars who know what they're talking about: Abou El Fadl, Sachedina, Soroush, Kadivar, Al Naim, Omid Safi, Ebrahim Moosa, Algar, and that's just for starters. While we might not agree with all of them or all of what they say, it is among such scholars that Western governments and intellectuals ought to be looking, not the dry deserts of Manji, Sultan, Ibn Warraq, et al.


March 13, 2006

How to be a Muslim reformer

After reading an article on Wafa Sultan (the up-and-coming Muslim reformer) in the New York Times today, it occured to me that I should get on this reformer bandwagon before the market gets saturated. I'm articulate, telegenic, exotic (yet oh so fluffy and Westernized), not to mention female (oppressed by rigid Islamic paternalism, naturally). Too bad I've got so many other little schemes on the go and can't spare the time for this one. However, I've written a handy little guide for aspiring refuseniks, male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim. Hopefully it will inspire readers to lead the charge in enlightening the benighted Islamic world.

1. Keep it simple. First and foremost, don't bother actually studying the religion or recent MENA history. Take a page from Pundita's book: no need for research when you're painting with a really big brush. If you absolutely must research, this site is a treasure trove of convenient black and white stereotyping.

2. Have an angle. Find or manufacture a useful "turning point" in your life that made you realize Islam was a bigoted and/or violent religion. In Irshad Manji's case, it was being kicked out of her madrasa for demanding proof of a Jewish conspiracy. For Wafa Sultan, it was watching the Muslim Brotherhood kill a professor at her university in Aleppo. Of course, it's helpful not to mention Hafez Assad's response. I recall Irshad was all for Emergency Law in Egypt because Naguib Mahfouz was roughed up by some Islamist thugs: "Excuse me, but if that's a reason to maim (and possibly kill), it's equally a reason for security forces to crack down on the thugs. Bring on the Emergency Law" (128).

Ahem, moving on...

3. Write a book. Start holding interviews just prior to (or immediately after) publishing a book that claims to spearhead a reform movement and/or turn the Islamic world on its head. Tell the NYT that the working title is The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster, because The Trouble with Islam Today is simply too namby-pamby.

4. Become a Western media darling. Be extremely provocative. Make rude statements about Islam and those who follow it. Make sure to have an itemized list of every horrible act commited by Muslims, rulers of Muslim-majority countries, Caliphs, etc. Make fun of Arabs and how childish and barbaric they are compared to Jews and Christians (or in Irshad's case, go one step further and blame everything on the "Arabization" of Islam. Don't bother to mention any similar acts carried out in the name of other Abrahamic religions or even atheist ideologies, such as Communism. This is supposed to be an indictment against Islam, not the vile predictability of human nature and perverse incentives.

5. Remind people that you are constantly under siege. Make sure the media is fully aware of every single death threat you receive as a result of the aforementioned provocative statements. If you're lucky, some wacko will release a fatwa that demands you be stoned, beheaded or strung up in some elaborate medieval way.

6. Rake in the cash. Watch as speaking invitations roll in from hardline right-wing Israeli and US organizations. No, it's not a Jewish conspiracy, but for some odd reason they are in full agreement with your views on Islamic reform. You're definitely on the way to winning Muslim hearts and minds if they're supporting you!

7. Remember your audience. Don't bother engaging Muslims in a respectful yet frank discussion on how to remain faithful to the Prophet's message in our modern, globalized, polarized, terrorized world. You don't even need to talk to Muslims, unless it's to get the extremists frothing at the mouth. Being a true visionary is hard work and requires far too much study, which leaves you hardly any time for gala dinners with pretentious, xenophobic ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative (really, does it matter?) activists who will praise you as a model Muslim making a real difference in the Islamic world.

Of course this list is by no means exhaustive. Readers are free to offer their own advice, sarcastic comments, etc.

[Thanks to Eva Luna for bringing the original NYT article to my attention]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my god, you are so articulate. I feel so angry at the attacks on Islam by the likes of wafa sultan and manji and the others that i can't even formulate the slightest defense..

the worst part is i am not even an observing muslim..heck i am not sure i beleive in god all that much i just like my culture and that's my right..

but these people are so unfare they make me want to shout..

2:57 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home