Monday, November 24, 2008

Islamophobia

Although this is being written in haste and hurt, it comes in peace.

I encountered a couple of pages here on blogspot (which I will not link to lest they invite troublemakers), and to my misfortune and hurt, discovered some contributors who love to hate Islam and Muslims. Despite my attempts to talk with reason and respect, I was bombarded with derogatory jargon and mudslinging. I couldn't be apologetic, so I quietly left.

The blame? Islam is imperialist; it promotes genocide, endorses slavery, looks down upon non-Muslims, and seeks to kill apostates; oh, but there's so much more...

Their sources? Al-Qaeda's philosophy, and "scholars" like Bernard Lewis and Salman Rushdie. Lewis is a strong reference for them because he hails from Princeton. And Rushdie is just so darn popular that Britain had to decorate him with knighthood.

I thought it my duty to at least help my own non-Muslim readers to see the other side of the coin and the other face of Islam. In "scholars" like Lewis, Muslims see a bias. Read, for instance, Scholarship or Sophistry? Bernard Lewis and the New Orientalism. As for Rushdie, his claim to fame has not been the quality and depth of his work; it has been the undue attention furious Muslims have so stupidly accorded him. Had they let him be, he would've been consumed by the seas of mediocrity. Ziauddin Sardar, in an interview with The News, has something interesting to say about him. My point is: don't look to the Osamas, the Lewis' and the Rushdies for your scoop on Islam. Look to its own scholars of calibre. Scholars like Ghamidi, who speak with reason and sense, who have their understandings and opinions grounded in primary sources, for anybody to check and verify, who do not choose to flow with the tide, who choose to steer of their own grit.

When I posted some photos from picturesque Pakistan, I was pleasantly surprised to have a fellow blogger comment, "Pakistan in a different light, and one that we never get to see, a picturesque Pakistan!" I felt the need to present Islam in a different light too. One that people don't usually get to see.

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

40 comments:

bhaw said...

**he would've been consumed by the seas of mediocrity

Hey thanks for sharing that, yeah it makes so much sense, seriously

Haan I completely get you , to understand any religion or its complexities and beauty one should rely on the primary sources

Saadia said...

Thank you for commenting. Have you ever had somebody misunderstand your religion? Do you face these kinds of issues internationally?

Id it is said...

I used this coinage , "islamophobia", in one of my earlier post:
http://iditis.blogspot.com/2007/12/ayan-hirsi-ali-controversial-voice-for.html

Your post made me revisit it. Interesting writes Saadia!

Id it is said...

Here's another Lewis, Bernard Lewis, associated with Princeton whose text "The History of the Middle East" made for some interesting and objective reading:
http://iditis.blogspot.com/2006/02/americas-greatest-middle-east-sage.html

Id it is said...

I guess Lewis in "What Went Wrong.." had lost his objectivity on an issue that was so vital to the emergence of a new historical era!

Saadia said...

I'm thankful for all the links! Do you think that in the West, Lewis is considered a greater authority on Islam and the Middle East than Edward Said? I'm curious as to your opinion.

M Junaid Khan said...

Seems a bit too scholarly for a person like me :P
Anyways a very well researched and nicely written blog posts. Keep it up. thelandofpure used to be my primary blog and a test range but now i have shifted to pro-pakistan.com. Even i term it a learning centre as well but here i tried to implement some of the lessons i learned at my first site.
Thought to invite you as a fellow blogger on Pro Pakistan which you can call your blog as well as its for all Pro Pakistan people.

Rammal said...

lol @ Ghamidi

Saadia: Ghamidi is the worst!

Saadia said...

Whatever you have to say, say with good reason and in an educated manner. Why do you say that Ghamidi is the worst? Because he challenges ideas you were born with? Because he does not blindly follow anybody? Because he uses the grey matter so much? Why?

People have given fatwas on Ghamidi; given him death threats; spoken ill of him; launched unreasonable and unfounded personal attacks on him. How has he always responded? He leaves the matter to God. A scholar of great calibre and a human being par excellence!

Id it is said...

Given that Said is a Princeton alumni even though he taught for the longest time at Columbia, he is quite the name to reckon with on the Palestine issue...
Lewis, though not a Princetonian, has great credentials on Islam and the Middle East, but he's always invited controversy!Here's a link to an interview he did for the PAW a few years ago that both riles you up and also gives you an insight into the abrasive personality of this erudite man:
http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/archive_new/PAW02-03/01-0912/features.html

This is not to say that I am a fan of Lewis, if anything, I'd read Said and Chomsky anyday.

I have to admit that I've only read a chapter or two from 'What Went Wrong...'; I really enjoyed reading the bit about the 'status of women', perhaps one of the latter chapters in the book which was published in The New Yorker. Have you read the book?

S2K2 said...

"I felt the need to present Islam in a different light too. One that people don't usually get to see."

Doing a good Job keep it up

Momekh said...

Welcome and join the club!

About presenting Islam: content is king, but the presentation is the castle. No king without a castle. Period.

Our 'scholars' have tried very hard to look the part. But no content. Fail!
Our average I-have-read-a-few-book-on-Islam fella' knows a lot of content, but his/her presentation fails when he bribes or cheats.

The only thing that one can work at is correction and direction of one's self.

Ghamidi is not just a knowledgeable person, his personality is exceptionally polite and remarkably ethical! And I use these big words carefully. You have to meet him to know this.

Hoping to see/read more good stuff from you, sister.
God bless and good luck,
M.

Duffy said...

Keep in mind that most of the voices we in the West hear from Dar al-Islam are the most strident ones. There's a saying in newsrooms that "the house that doesn't burn isn't a story". That is, bombastic statements get people's attention. Most journalists are more interested in popularity than accuracy. I'm sure there are countless wise and learned imams and scholars who are rational and reasonable but our world has no time for reasoned thought. Only thrilling soundbites and then we're off to celebrity sightings, sports and weather.

Saadia said...

Iditis, nope! Guilty as charged. I haven't read the book cover to cover. Some pages, and some book reviews; plus a lot of coverage on Lewis some years back, while I was working as an assistant with an Islamic studies professor.

S2K2, thank you for the note of encouragement. Your profile isn't public so I can't access your blog.

Momekh, agreed. Presentation is very important. Especially, when it comes to the academia. Pupils of Ghamidi are now beginning to realise that in order for people in the West to take him seriously, they need to present his theses by publishing scholarly articles. Otherwise, his work will remain of no value to them, which will be quite sad. Islahi's work is beginning to be heard in their corridors now, thanks to the efforts of Mustansir Mir. So yes, that method is tried and tested.

Duffy, I hear you. Then are people to be blamed too, as much as we blame the media? Why do they accept mediocrity and not cringe from propaganda? If you can understand that, why can't others? It is not so much to ask. Common sense, really.

Noor Ali said...

Interesting!


And scenes in those pics are just beautiful! :)

Anil Chopra said...

Dear Sir,
Is it not possible to leave our respective religions/faiths home?

Problems arise when we bring/carry/wear our faith to the streets?

Saadia said...

What do you mean?

Afaque said...

Yes I feel it my responsibility as a youth to show the world what Pakistan is and what is Islam...
great work Saadia... I always say its gonna be a long process which not needs decades but may be centuries... if we are unable to accomplish it... our children are gonna carry the legacy...

Noor Ali said...

Hmmmm.. but then greed isn't that bad :)

Noor Ali said...

Haha! Yeah.. I mean may be


And that greed thing wasnt for attention! Sound people waisey hi keep on coming to my blog ;)

human being said...

hmmm... very interesting... both the post and the comments... i understand you and respect your feelings... but as you know, nowadays many religious beliefs are suffering from a political overtone... that's why many people just want to ignore them...
sometimes not backing the faith but simply living it is the best proof... think the way you show your country and its peolpe little by little shows others that people are each others' brothers regardless of their faith and country...
love to you...
namaste!

Saadia said...

I just found this very interesting blog: Blogging the Qur'an.

Which main? What cross? said...

Salman Rushdie? I think he is a master craftsman of words. However, I guess he is famous for the wrong reasons among many.

Saadia said...

Infamous, you mean!

Anonymous said...

Blog hopping here.... and I just feel compelled to post a comment....
First of all, I am an Indian, a Hindu. So now that is done with, let me also tell you that I believe that all religions lead to God and I truly believe in the concept of Secularism.
Yes, I accept that Indian Secularism has a long way to go, but we did take the first step in 1972 when we declared India to be a secular state.
All religions are misinterpreted by people for their own advantage and this happens in India as well.
But the only thing that I am unable to accept with the "Islamic states" is the fact that the functioning of the government is not separated from religion... if you get my drift here....
For me it is always country first, I can even say that "India is my religion"...
Talking of Islamophobia is difficult, but what do you have to have to say about the extremists or the fundamentalists that Islam seems to produce a lot...
i would really like to know your take on that... coz that is what experience has taught me... (in my very limited scope)....
Religion for me is personal; it should be for everyone, but when you try forcing it on others, is when the problem starts...
Sorry for the long comment but I would like your take on this one.... coz I believe that the roots of "Islamophobia" start here....

From a Indian,
Who lived a few kilometers from where the Mumbai attacks happened.
(posting as anon as I want no controversy) :)

Saadia said...

You want to know my take on why "Islam seems to produce a lot (of extremists)"? Here's my take. The answer doesn't lie in Islam, but with Muslims who increasingly feel as if they are being singled out, targetted and killed. In Bosnia, in Afghanistan (Taliban first bred and then abandoned), in Iraq (no WMDs), in India (there is finally a debate on Hindu terrorism. 60 years on, Muslims still feel discriminated against), in Indian-held Kashmir (they have been denied a referendum/plebiscite according to the UN charter, at the time of the partition of India)... So my answer is: frustrations. I obviously do not endorse terrorism, but since you asked how I understand the development of militant outfits...

If a Muslim country desires an Islamic state, then it is the choice of the people. Why should outsiders worry about their system of governance. Similarly, when Muslims live in secular states or under non-Muslim governments, they are required to adhere according to that country's constitution and law.

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ on a lot of your comments:
My answers:
Hindu terrorism:
Yes, unfortunately it has become an issue now and I hate these extremists but it is relatively a new term. But you are right here.
Muslims in India:
Your comment:
"60 years on, Muslims still feel discriminated against"
I hardly think that is right. So many people or should I say Muslims have flourished since the birth of my nation and India does include "Indians" at every stage of the government to include them.
Indians first and then Muslims or Hindus.
Can you say the same about Hindus in Pakistan?
Kashmir:
What about the Kashmir Pandits? Do you think about the other side of the coin as well?
I do..... wrongs done by both parties, fuelled by extremists.....
Afghanistan, Iraq:
Taliban should be banned and have rightly been so and please dont tell me that Saddam was a magnanimous leader.......

Your comment:
"If a Muslim country desires an Islamic state, then it is the choice of the people. Why should outsiders worry about their system of governance"....
I personally dont care, but when the ineptitude of a certain state start affecting the whole region, then yes I have a problem!

I would like to reiterate the fact that I am here for abusing anyone but this is what I feel.

Saadia said...

You asked for my take, and I gave it to you. Don't lose your temper now. We disagree. I'm fine with that. I'm not interested in politicizing matters.

- There are more militant organizations in India than there are in Pakistan;
- There are so many Muslim Indians who feel insecure. I could post numerous links, but I am not here to incite hatred. No country is perfect. Neither is mine nor is yours.
- Kashmir was predominantly Muslim at the time of partition; it still is. Besides, the Pandits should of course be a part of the referendum. Whatever the Kashmiris decide, we are fine with that. We're not making claims. But at least give them their right to choose.
- I'm neither defending the Taliban nor Saddam. My point is that the Taliban were created to fight the Soviets. Exit the Soviets, and Afghanistan is left by the Americans, raped and plundered. Saddam was ruthless but Iraq was attacked on the pretext that he held WMDs, which he didn't.
- The Islamic state has nothing to do with the tensions in the region. There is a difference between militant elements and the state. Recognize that difference, please. Also, learn to respect the choices of others.

You should end this holier than thou attitude towards Pakistan, Islam and Muslims. You yourself asked for my two cents. If you couldn't bear the thought of a different understanding than yours, then you shouldn't have fiddled with the thought of a constructive dialogue in the first place.

Peace!

Anonymous said...

Peace....
Same here.... was in it for a constructive dialogue but just could not agree with with your comments....
anyways ... this would be my last comment here...
Best of Luck..
Your Comment:
"You should end this holier than thou attitude towards Pakistan, Islam and Muslims".
sorry man, if you felt that way.... my mistake

human being said...

very interesting discussion between you and Anonymous... both of you are right... don't think the disagreement is deep...
just one point from the crow... don't you think that the big guys up there add more fuel to the fire? sure they benefit from the fights between the religions... psychologically they need an ever-present enemy to justify their greedy acts for gaining more power... formerly it was communism and now it is Islam... it could be anything else... years ago i read in an aricle that the new enemy could have been the Yellow danger(i.e., far eastern countries, especially China)... but they decided it to be religious because it affects people more emotionally...
i'm with separation of religion from politics as their mixture ruins all moralities among people...

Saadia said...

Anonymous,

There can be good dialogue when there are disagreements. You couldn't have expected me to have ditto views, right? Anyhow, I'm sorry too that it had to be this way. I tend to value the friendship between the people of our countries. But this horrible massacre has left so many Pakistanis stunned with the way the Indian media and government, pre-maturely pointed fingers at us. They then softened their stance to mean 'elements in Pakistan' rather than the government itself. Their tone wasn't one of friendship, it was one of animosity. Let's hope that is all in the past, and that we can cooperate on most issues, if not all.

Human Being, you are right. It is never the masses; always some group or power trying to manipulate people because it lies in their interest to divide everybody; otherwise, they'd have to face a united front.

cubano said...

Though I agree with what you are trying to say but I must argue that your criticism of Rushdie is unfair.

First of all Rushdie is a novelist and not a scholar. I don't think that it's correct to refer to him as a scholar. He doesn't claim to be one either. He may subscribe to Orientalist views such as those of Lewis but that doesn't make him a scholar.

I also have to disagree with your statement that Rushdie's claim to fame has not been the quality and depth of his work. Rushdie proved
himself as a writer long before the publication of Satanic Verses (1988). His best and most acclaimed works, Midnight's Children and Shame were published in 1981 and 1983 respectively. Midnight's Children won the Booker prize in 1981 while shame was shortlisted for
the 1983 Booker. All this happened long before the publication of Satanic Verses for which he gained a different sort of notoriety but which isn't considered to be his best work. Considering these facts, I think Rushdie learned to swim against the tides of the sea of mediocrity long ago. He is a master storyteller and there are very few writers of his caliber in the world.

I may not necessarily agree with the political or religious views of Rushdie but I will give praise where praise is due.

In terms of Satanic Verses, I wonder why people have chosen to criticize a novel in such a manner? After all it is essentially meant to be a fictional account. Should people stand accused and be punished of so called crimes against religion because of fictional stories that they write?

Saadia said...

First of all, thank you for addressing the issue in an educated manner. I must appreciate your tone. You are welcome to disagree, but I suppose we both agree that Rushdie is not a scholar, hence no authority on Islam.

I can't say much about his mastery over the art of writing; thanks to his insensitivities, many Muslims never care to buy his books.

People have criticized Satanic Verses just as they have criticized The Da Vinci Code (insensitivity towards Christians) and The Passion of the Christ (insensitivities towards the Jews). I haven't read the book, but if Rushdie uses verses from the Qur'an (a Book, divine to the Muslims) to call on Pagan goddesses (a concept that Qur'anic verses on the Unity of God refute, and abhor), then this kind of sensationalism is worse than simply being distasteful on the part of the author.

I think we all agree that fiction too must have its boundaries. Otherwise, why should pornography be looked down upon. It too is a form of art.

cubano said...

I must say that I am split over this issue of art being restricted to boundaries. On one hand I think that people should be responsible but on the other hand how would we advance if we were to stifle art by restricting it. Doesn't progress depend on freely allowing artists to express themselves instead of forcing them to conform to the reactionary tendencies of religion. I am reminded of Galileo when I think of this. If he had failed to express his ideas in fear of insulting the church then we could still be living with the beliefs that the earth is flat and revolves around the sun intead of the other way around.

This insensitiveness that you speak of has some other problems as well. First, it is not concrete and changes over the course of time. What is insensitive today may not be considered insulting tomorrow. History is full of such examples. There are various cases where artists, thinkers, and scientists were ridiculed and persecuted by people because their ideas didn't seem appropriate to those amongst whom they lived but now we consider the same artists geniuses and admire their forward thinking. Should artists of today refuse to express their thoughts as they might injure the feelings of some?

Another issue is that insensitiveness is relative and not everyone is equally affected by it. Let's take Rushdie as an example. There are many people including Muslims who love his books and don't find him insulting. They may be equally outraged if his books were banned. Should they banned universally to satisfy the selective moral needs of a particular community? It's true that some Jews found Passion of the Christ to be insensitive but there are also a large community that enjoyed it. Same with Da Vinci Code. Who should be satisfied and who should be ignored? Where do you stop? If you are going to worry about the emotions of one community then you might as well ban everything as I am sure there's somone in the world who will be insulted by something no matter what.

I personally don't think that Rushdie was trying to sensationalize anything. He didn't invent the idea behind Satanic verses. He was alluding to a controversial story that has existed since the very dawn of Islam. See this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satanic_Verses

Here's a quote from him:

"Almost entirely. Almost everything in those sections - the dream sequences - starts from an historical or quasi-historical basis, though one can't really speak with absolute certainty about that period of Mohammed's life ... [with the Prophet] there seems to have been a brief flirtation with a possible compromise - about monotheism - which was rapidly rejected ... For a writer, that conflict is fascinating and interesting to explore. So that's what I was doing, exploring."

"Almost entirely. Almost everything in those sections - the dream sequences - starts from an historical or quasi-historical basis, though one can't really speak with absolute certainty about that period of Mohammed's life ... [with the Prophet] there seems to have been a brief flirtation with a possible compromise - about monotheism - which was rapidly rejected ... For a writer, that conflict is fascinating and interesting to explore. So that's what I was doing, exploring."

It's sad that Muslim refuse to read his books in fear of being insulted. That seems like cowardice and ignorance to me. At least read what he's saying before criticizing it.

As for pornography, its looked down upon for reasons that I don't necessarily agree with. For me, if an adult wants to take part in it then they should have the right to do so. Who am I to judge?

Saadia said...

I suppose we have intense disagreements then. To me, everybody - whether religious or not - has some boundaries defined for themselves in whatever that they do.

What is strange to me is that we are all very agreeable on defining boundaries when it comes to how much the government can tax us but when it is an issue of religious and/or moral impetus, there is talk of freedom and expression. Mind you, there have been great artists, inventors, leaders who have believed in a religion, and obeyed its boundaries. I do not subscribe to the argument that it snubs creativity or development.

cubano said...

Government taxes and the morals which we are talking about are different things. Government taxes are usually just applied to one particular group of people who happened to be governed by a specific body of people. Government taxes are also typically open to debate as part of the democratic electoral process. These morals that we are discussing are being forced on everyone in the world and not just a particular society, country or community. These morals are usually not open to debate, at least from the religious perspective as they are considered to have been originated from a divine source. Why should one set of values be forced upon everyone in the world when they may not necessarily agree with them?

Of course there are and have been many great artists, inventors, and scientists who believe in religion but we are not talking about those. We are discussing the one's who go beyond these so called boundaries established by followers of religion.

Let's say say someone makes a discovery that contradicts with a relgious teaching, should they hide it lest it offend the beliefs of the followers of that particular religion or should they share it with everyone?

I find it ironic that Averroes or Ibn Rushd who is now considered by Muslims as one of the greatest Muslims scholars that ever lived was constantly attacked for his writings by the clerics of the day. He was rejected by the Islamic preachers. The christian church condemned him and accused him of spreading heretical teachings. His followers were presecuted and his books were burned.

Avicenna or Ibn sina also didn't escape the wrath of the Mullahs of their day. I can find various other examples detailing similar cases

Should these two have kept quiet for the fear of offending others?

Saadia said...

Fine examples, but I'm not proposing that limits be placed on scholarly pursuits. Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ibn Taymiyyah were persecuted by 'mullahs' of the time, and I think if you've been following this blog, you'll realise how much they peeve me - as much for their holier-than-thou attitudes as for tarnishing the image of Islam.

I admit that it is hard to draw a line - in principle - as to where limits should be placed and where they shouldn't. If I were to still suggest one, then in my utopia, those limits would apply to two areas: divinity and universal morality.

The first, because where people and their belief in the Divine is concerned, there is no room for 'creativity' in terms of the apostles they hold dear and the God they worship. Creativity can use other avenues. Scholarly pursuits like the ones you mention, however, are a genuine need. I wouldn't categorize them as creativity per se. If today, somebody calls Muhammad (sws) a great statesman and a tribal leader but not a prophet, I can digest their way of thinking given that they cite reasons of substance to their claim/opinion. However, if they go on to ridicule my Prophet and offer his supplications to goddesses, for the sake of creative fiction, then I will not only be hurt, I will be angered and I will react. Some would call it being close-minded, others, reactive, and yet others, judgemental, but I will not stand by and have my Prophet or my religion be insulted. And part of my protest will be in the shape of denying any support to that person, which Muslims have been doing to Rushdie by not encouraging his literature. To me, it is far more important to express allegiance to and love for my Prophet and if it is at the cost of missing out on great literature, so be it. When scholars talk, they talk with reason and with respect; not with distasteful and offensive mimicry. I will take care of people's sensitivities as much as I expect them to take care of mine.

As for universal morality, I believe that there are many, which are common in mankind, regardless of where they are and who they are: the need for respect, the propriety of the dress, the obscenity of lying, modesty, humility et all. I do not subscribe to losing traditional values and ethics in the name of modernity, and I know that I am not alone in the way I think. Hence, when I talked about snubbing porn, I was talking about snubbing obnoxious attempts to ridicule universal values. As a side note, I think pornography is not creativity; it is the utter lack of it.

cubano said...

I never said that you don't have the right to be insulted or you don't have the right to react as long it's reasonable and by that I mean non-violent. I am actually arguing that everyone should have that right. We were talking about censorship and whether people should be allowed to freely express themselves. In my opinion, they should have just as much right to express themselves as others who want to respond.

You suggest that boundaries be placed on divinity but doesn't religion essentially always insults beliefs of others. For example, don't Muslims, Christians, Jews and others always claim that their specific God is the only God and the Gods of others are not real and based on lies and incorrect beliefs. Isn't that insulting to the followers of the other Gods? In the Utopia that you speak of, a Muslim wouldn't be allowed to say that their God is the only true or real God as that would insult claims of divinity by others.

According to this idea, I could claim to believe in the flying spaghetti monster and say that no one has the right to question or ridicule my beliefs and who ever discusses them in any way that may seem derogatory to me should be censored.

Also I think that Muslims have every right to refuse to read Rushdie's books but may people argue and express opinions about him without ever having read any of his writings.

There are morals that can be applied universally such as stealing, murder, violence etc but the ones that you are speaking of such as propriety of dress, modesty, etc certainly cannot as they differ according to cultures and traditions around the world. For example, the concept of Modesty in Riyadh is much different than in New York city. These concepts also changes with the course of time while universal morals like murder being wrong are immutable and can be applied to all humanity regardless of the time and place.

Saadia said...

You write, "For example, don't Muslims, Christians, Jews and others always claim that their specific God is the only God and the Gods of others are not real and based on lies and incorrect beliefs. Isn't that insulting to the followers of the other Gods?"

Muslims can claim they possess the right religion, so can Christians, Jews and whoever wishes. That is the world I'm talking about. Where there is room to disagree with the other, but within boundaries of respect, rather than insult.

The values that you separate as being different according to culture and tradition are all common at the base. You just need to go back in history a little to see that all societies possessed the same rules for propriety of dress, decency and modesty - from West to East.

Many people also object to Rushdie without having read him because reviews and word-of-mouth are so substantial and reinforcing across the spectrum that they feel it against their religious moralities to go through that rubbish he wrote. After that, reading anything else coming from him was a matter of love and respect for the Prophet and the Qur'an, and I agree with that approach.

cubano said...

Allright, I guess I am going to agree to disagree here then. Otherwise this could go on and on.