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Islam and the West (08 Apr 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

New Zealand Terror Must be Condemned but Don’t Overlook How the Left is Helping the Muslim Right

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

08 April 2019

The deadly attack which left around fifty Muslims dead in New Zealand was correctly called a terror attack by its premier. Intended, with precision to strike terror within the immigrant population, the target this time were Muslims but it could have been any other group making up the emerging multicultural mosaic of New Zealand society. Amidst the widespread condemnation of the barbaric event, we saw the Prime Minister don the Islamic veil as a show of solidarity with Muslims. Not just the prime minister, but prime time news anchors did the same as did many others who came to show solidarity to Muslims at the first Friday prayer after the attack. However, certain things within these series of events need to be called out. In doing so, one is not arguing that empathy should not be shown to victims of terror attacks but then the symbols that one chooses should not end up misrecognizing the problem.

First Things First: There was certainly an attempt by sections of informed Islamists to use the attack to parade Muslims as the victims of Islamophobia. This is not to deny the existence of Islamophobia in much of the western world today but then we should also not forget that this word has become abused to such an extent that even genuine criticism of Islam and Muslim behaviour is labelled Islamophobic. Thus if one of critical of Islamists’ attempt to enforce gender segregation, then one is conveniently labelled an Islamophobe. This is sinister politics, the object of which is to silence any critique of criticism of Islamists themselves. Post New Zealand, this has found new traction and will most certainly be used no just to curb genuine disapproval of Islamist politics but more importantly will be used to stamp out dissenting voices within Muslim society itself.

Secondly, the choice of the veil as a signifier of Muslim society also needs to be called out. May be the prime minster was genuinely interested in showing empathy with Muslims, but then why chose the veil to do that? The choice of the veil gave legitimacy to the Islamist claim that the veil is an essential element of Muslim religion and tradition and that one cannot be a Muslim without either donning the veil or respecting it. The problem with this understanding is that in large parts of Muslim society, the veil is considered a symbol of oppression by Muslim women and increasingly by organised group of men as well. In Iran and elsewhere, Muslim women are currently challenging the patriarchy enforced veil as the prime symbol of their subordination.

Jacinda Ardern, being a politician on the left, should have been aware of such struggles within the Muslim world. By privileging the veil, she has thrown her weight behind Islamists and traditionalists who think that Muslim society will collapse without the veil being enforced. She has belittled the myriad contributions that Muslim women are making to change the status quo within their respective societies. In short, she has let down the progressive politics within Muslim societies. One is tempted to ask if there was no better way to show solidarity with Muslims? Why is that if she went without the veil, she would become any less empathetic to Muslim suffering?

It must be understood that the veil is not an Islamic requirement according to the Quran. It is first and foremost a political symbol which was first enforced post the Iranian revolution. Following this, the veil was adopted as part of the Sunni Wahhabi ideological drive to extend their hegemony within the Islamic world, mostly funded by petro dollars. The Islamist veil, far from representing Muslim piety, is actually an expression of political Islam. What is worse is that in Jacinda Ardern, we have a woman who is helping in the normalization of patriarchy within Muslim societies. She must have scored brownie points with the Arab Salafists and conservative Iranians, but has utterly failed her Muslim sisters who are engaged in a daily struggle against patriarchal oppression by resisting the veil. She has utterly failed someone like Nasrin Sotoudeh, the brilliant Iranian lawyer who was condemned to 38 years in prison and 148 whip lashes for defending those women who refused to wear the veil.

The veil is not a trivial issue. While it may be a ‘choice’ for a privileged few in the west, for the vast majority of Muslims, it is forced and therefore a garment of subjugation. It is being increasingly felt that the left in the west has been more than willing to accommodate the regressive version of Islam in the name of protecting minority rights. Such an understanding can be counter-productive in the long run. If the left starts defending Islamist practices such as the veil and sex segregation in schools, then it is actually making space for the right wing anti-Muslim agenda in their own societies. By being soft on homophobia which is rampant within Muslim societies and which has theological justification, the left is only digging its own grave as in the long run, voices which are critical of such regressive tendencies within their societies will have no option but to articulate their resentment through a right wing platform.

However, it seems that the left is committed not to learn any lessons. In the name of protection of minority rights, it is currently engaged in ‘outlawing’ Islamophobia in countries such as Canada. Notwithstanding what is meant by such a nebulous term like Islamophobia, one thing is clear that it will have a negative bearing on the voices of dissent and reform within Muslim societies. In the name of protecting Muslims, the left will end up advocating the causes and concerns of those Muslims who actually have been responsible for the mess that Muslim societies find themselves into.

Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com         

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/arshad-alam,-new-age-islam/new-zealand-terror-must-be-condemned-but-don’t-overlook-how-the-left-is-helping-the-muslim-right/d/118260

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  • I agree, but we also need to acknowledge it is the most visible and easily implementable element; especially to the superficial Muslim mindset prevalent around the world these days. 

    It is pretty obvious they failed to recognize her other qualities - empathy, compassion, fairness, and humanity - all of which are more islamic than the veil. 

    By Feisal - 4/9/2019 1:57:28 PM

  • Thought provoking conclusive remarks:
    "In the name of protecting Muslims, the left will end up advocating the causes and concerns of those Muslims who actually have been responsible for the mess that Muslim societies find themselves into."
    But what Muslims fail to fathom is that 'anti-semitism' is not the report to Islamophobia.
    Like we  muslims get
    offended when someone calls an act of jihadist violence "Islamic errorism'', similarly common Jews feel offended when terror is juxtaposed with Judaism.
    After all, Zionism is not Judaism much like Jihadism'' or 'Islamism is not Islam. Read the book in Arabic: "الاسلاموية ليست بإسلام"
    (Islamism is not Islam).
    Thus, there's no point in Jews countering 'Islamism' or Muslims countering 'Jewish' terrorism. It has to be done by the adherents of the same faith that extremist fringes seek to hijack, in clear and categorical terms.
    Let me put it in other words:
    'Islamist terrorism' has to be countered by Muslims, 'Jewish terrorism' by Jews themselves, 'Hindutva' by Hindus and so on and so forth. But not the other way round.
    I think this will only be able to offer a concrete and credible retort to all forms of terrorism and extremism.
     Or else, we will continue to call each other 'terrorists' without calling spade a spade.

    By GRD - 4/9/2019 7:00:10 AM

  • A good observation and thought provoking article.

    • However the term in it of “Islamic veil” is a misnomer and endorses the falsehood propagated by the religious brigade. The Prime Minister correctly empathised with the Muslim people's word wide ritual for females attending houses of worship – the mosques.

      - The event that needed to be “called out” but was not in the article, was the the glaring example of a stranger female (ghair mharam) so affectionately, sincerely and in sisterly manner hugging and comforting not only females but also males, young and old Muslims equally. This is a mile stone , in a religious culture of some Muslims where a female is NOT even allowed to shake hand with males.

      That certainly was the event which recorded her contribution to the equality of sexes on such occasions. Although many of the “Islamic” religious brigade have expressed their horror. 

    By Rashid Samnakay - 4/8/2019 7:31:15 PM

  • One can fight and must fight both Islamophobia and Islamism at the same time. It is of the utmost importance that liberal and progressive Muslims do not surrender to Islamophobia. Holding the middle ground may be difficult but it is vital.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 4/8/2019 11:24:38 AM

  • Advocacy of women’s rights deserves appreciation! 
    The veil definitely restricts women in myriad ways. Voices of Women in Islam should be heard and their concerns integral to the larger women body should get redressed....in order to achieve the goal of gender equality and justice

    By Meera - 4/8/2019 10:03:13 AM

  • I wonder what ails the Muslims that they cannot accept gracefully the exemplary response of  Jacinda Ardern who showed the world the way  to defeat the extremists. Must they involve her in their petty politics? How churlish!

    The author of the article does not know the difference between a veil and head scarf or that  verse 24:31 of  the Quran prescribes "....and let them draw their head covers over their bosoms...." which is how Muslim women wear their hijab.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/8/2019 9:49:08 AM

  • A very well thought out, and very bold article on how the left has departed from its own progressive values just to appease the Islamists world wide. This article need to be widely circulated especially in the west where the liberals' obsession against the rights in general, and Trump in particular, has blinded them to see how the  political Islam by constantly playing victim has been gaining grounds by silencing the true progressive forces that are stifling within the Muslims community. Great article indeed.

    By Syed Rizvi - 4/8/2019 9:27:29 AM

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