Monday, December 07, 2015

Whose Islam is it anyway?

I've noticed more articles like this lately, about Muslims who live in Western countries, complaining about being asked to apologize for terrorist acts that have nothing the do with them:

This British teen hilariously captures why Muslims are tired of being told to condemn ISIS
Within hours of the attacks in Paris, the familiar ritual began: the calls for Muslims to denounce ISIS rolled in, as they inevitably do after a terrorist attack by a group claiming to act in the name of Islam.

This is a common occurrence, and Muslims — myself included — are tired of it. We're tired of being held responsible for the atrocities committed by individuals whose actions and beliefs are abhorrent to us and completely at odds with our values and our understanding of our religion. We're also tired of people acting as if we haven't already condemned ISIS, al-Qaeda, and terrorism over and over and over, loudly, publicly, "unreservedly," and in great detail.

It just starts to get old after a while.


It wasnt the views or opinions of politicians that made me respond but the views of the general public when fridays terror attacks happened which were extremely unfortunate there were only 2 opinions on my twitter time line the first was of people demanding an apology for what happened which was met by either muslims apologising for the acts that occured or the other view, which was my view of muslims asking why we should apologise as ISIS has nothing to do with Islam? [...]
The last part I put in bold. I get tired of hearing Muslims saying that. Why? Because ISIS and other terrorist groups commit their acts in the name of Islam. Looking at it quite objectively, the majority of terrorist actions in the world are being committed by Muslims, in the name of their religious beliefs. To keep saying that it has nothing to do with Islam, treats the rest of us like we are stupid, or not paying attention.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that ISIS has nothing to do with YOUR interpretation, YOUR understanding of Islam? In fact, the author of the article practically says as much later on:
[...] This isn't the first time Muslims have used social media to express irritation at being told to "do more" to counter extremist ideology and to apologize for the actions of strangers who have perverted our beliefs and who actually kill way more Muslims than they do any other group. [...]
Yes, very true. As is true the fact that many Muslims and Muslim groups often denounce the acts of terrorists, which is good news. Which is ironically, why you don't hear about it much. The Media tends to focus primarily on bad news. Muslims denouncing terrorism, not so much. If you follow the above link to the article, there are embedded links to many such denunciations. Much like many I've seen elsewhere. But it's not typically front-page, headline news.

I essentially don't disagree with the author. I would just balance it a bit by adding that the reasons people ask for denunciations by Muslims living in Western countries is, that we like to believe that our Muslim neighbors and coworkers really do denounce the violence, that YOUR interpretation of Islam genuinely is peaceful, and therefore you wont murder us at the next holiday office party.

It's human nature for you to complain about the unfairness you feel in your situation. It's also human nature for us to not want to be murdered, to wish for and welcome immigrants who want to join us and support our culture, not kill us and destroy it. We have already had too many refujihadis. If people are getting fed up with that, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Ideally, peace loving Muslims who wish to join Western cultures should be our allies against terrorism. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to tell who is who, or when a seemingly integrated immigrant may "convert" to more extremist views and act on them. It's doubly unfortunate, because the extremists want us to be distrustful and alienated from those Muslims who would be our natural allies.

And talking about "Whose Islam is it anyway", have a look at this really, uh, "different" perspective:

How a Blonde Tattooed Texas Girl Became an ISIS Twitter Star
Last Monday, I had 60 followers on Twitter. Today, I have more than 4,300. Not to brag or anything, but that's more than Benjamin Wittes; more than Bobby Chesney; more than Jack Goldsmith; more than my boss, Daniel Byman. But here's the problem: A healthy number of them are Islamic extremists, including no small number of supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A lot of them live in Saudi Arabia.

And some of them want to marry me.

The reason is a single tweet.

Early last week, the hashtag “#MuslimApologies” began trending on Twitter. The hashtag was a tongue-in-cheek response to those—such as right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham—who, in the wake of the beheadings of Westerners by ISIS, have questioned why Muslims have not been more vocal about denouncing terrorism carried out in the name of Islam (except that many have). Tired of constantly being asked to apologize for the acts of a few vile individuals who twist Islam to justify their barbarism, Muslims on Twitter decided to take a humorous stand—by apologizing for everything: the Twilight saga, World Wars I and II, that Pluto is no longer a planet, and, my personal favorite, that Mufasa had to die in The Lion King. Some also used the hashtag to sarcastically apologize for the important contributions Islamic culture has made to the world, from algebra to coffee to the camera obscura.

Of course, I wanted to get in on the fun.


If you were to pass me on the street, you would never suspect I’m a Muslim: I don’t wear hijab. I have platinum blonde hair and blue eyes. And I am heavily tattooed. I grew up in Texas and was raised Southern Baptist. I use the word “y’all” a lot—and not ironically. But I am Muslim. I also speak Arabic and hold a Master’s degree in International Security with a focus on terrorism and the Middle East. Several years ago, I realized that although I had long studied, analyzed, and written about Islamic political theory and how jihadist ideologues like Osama bin Laden use the Qur’an to justify their heinous acts of violence, I had never actually read the Qur’an. So I read it—and what I found in its pages changed my life. I found answers to questions about faith and belief and morality that had been plaguing me since my youth. I found the connection to God I thought I had lost. And three years ago, I converted to Islam.

Just to be clear: I detest the twisted interpretations of Islam espoused by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS just as much today as I did before I converted—in fact, probably more so, since now I see it not only as a sick bastardization of a beautiful religion, but a sick bastardization of my beautiful religion. When I read the Qur’an, I find a God who is beneficent, who is merciful, and who cherishes mankind. I find a religion that encourages independent thought, compassion for humanity, and social justice. The jihadis claim to love these same things about Islam, but have somehow decided that the best way to share God’s message of mercy and compassion with the world is to blow up mosques and behead humanitarian aid workers. Great plan, guys.

After sending my tweet, I went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my humble little tweet had been retweeted numerous times and I had picked up dozens of new followers. Several people—almost all Muslims—had responded expressing their happiness for me and welcoming me to Islam. So that was nice. I also got a few trolls, of course: people telling me I was brainwashed, trying to convince me that the CIA created ISIS, or asking me if I had engaged in female genital mutilation yet. That was less nice, but to be expected; it is Twitter, after all. Then things took an unexpected turn. My tweet went viral—at last check, it had been retweeted more than 11,300 times—and I soon began to notice a disturbing trend: of the thousands of people who were retweeting and following me, many of them had the black flag of ISIS as their Twitter profile photos. Others had pictures of themselves holding swords, standing in front of the black ISIS flag. Uh-oh.


You know all those articles (some better than others) that have sprung up lately about how ISIS is this social media juggernaut that is remarkably adept at spreading their propaganda online? Well it turns out that you don’t become a propaganda juggernaut by conscientiously vetting your sources or fact-checking. Who knew?

So it doesn’t matter that I also happen to tweet things in support of LGBT rights, post YouTube videos of The Clash, or actively try to get the “#No2ISIS” hashtag trending. All that matters are the tweet about becoming Muslim and the tweet with the picture of pro-ISIS graffiti.

Here’s the thing: it’s clear that my tweet about becoming Muslim struck a nerve with a lot of Muslims, both here in America and in the broader Muslim world. Non-Muslims sometimes don’t realize how much hatred and negativity gets thrown at Muslims and how utterly soul crushing it can be to have to defend yourself and your beliefs on a daily basis, and it’s really nice to see someone saying something positive about Islam.

At the same time, though, it’s precisely the actions of ISIS and their followers and the words of intolerance emanating from the Salafi camp that provoke this reaction against Muslims. And I, for one, do not appreciate having my conversion story used to attract more people to a repugnant ideology that spawns suicide bombings and beheadings. [...]
Read the whole thing for embedded links, her twitter posts, responses to those posts, and more. Not to mention her photo; she definitely IS a platinum blond without a hijab. Her story is fascinating. Just when you think you have it figured out, it takes another twist or turn. Two things I gained from reading this are:

One: There certainly is more than one way to interpret Islam. Your mileage may vary. And...

Two: Be careful of what you say on social media, and who you say it to. Your words can easily be taken out of context and used by other people for purposes you never intended.

At first it confirmed what I've always thought about social media like Twitter; that it is inherently shallow, and because you can't use it to speak about anything in depth, it's way too easy to be misunderstood. But, on the other hand, any one who follows up her story (actually bothers to find out more about it and her) might have their minds blown.

Islam isn't going away, and if it finds more ways to peacefully coexist with the rest of the world, so much the better. Many of it's adherents keep insisting it's a religion of peace. Well, let's see more of it, folks. Seeing is believing. Actions speak louder than words. Although I'm sure many would argue that the majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful, are not terrorists, and in fact are often victims of terrorists. So, what do we do?

I would like to see a follow up to this story, to see what happens next. Will Jennifer regain control of the Twitter message SHE wants to communicate? I'll be watching.

Also see:

Bombing Syria Won’t Make Paris Safer

The CAIR Effect: See something, do nothing


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