By Shireen Qudosi
September 2, 2018
The answer to Islamophobia is more Muslim scholars, for the chief reason that honest and informed conversations about Islam will dispel many of the myths surrounding Islam. Those myths are usually rooted in the belief that Islam is inherently fundamentalist.
Not coincidentally, it is usually orthodox Muslims and anti-Islam personalities who underscore this narrative despite their animosity toward each other. No matter how much they disagree, they agree that Islam is a rigid monolith — and that’s where our problem starts.
Within Muslim circles, orthodox personalities and organizations embed themselves within Leftist narratives that often sincerely seek to aid oppressed groups of people. Due to a lack of education about authentic Islam, a pigeon-holed monolithic interpretation becomes the only visible representation of Islam in the public sphere — and often, too, in the media.
While this version of Islamic “Puritanism” is guarded by one sector of society, it is vehemently opposed by another sector. The political right, seeing no other visible narrative or discourse is led to believe that an often alienating, identity-driven version of Islam is a true representation of the faith. Essentially, both sides fail the conversation, and they fail themselves.
The fault here isn’t so much that people on either side of the political spectrum often have a limited understanding of Islam. The fault doesn’t even necessarily lie with Muslims, who are now very much in the same boat in having to wade through the reeds in search of their faith.
At large, folks are doing the best they can with the information presented to them. In all fairness, Islam is such a broad subject that it is not reasonable to expect everyone to be so well-studied in the subject. It takes at least one generation to have a significant and complex understanding of Islam. Most people, Muslims included, simply do not have that time or luxury.
This is where Muslim leadership comes in. Unfortunately, that leadership is nested within often sensationalist activists who scream the loudest, or with imams who are not scholars or experts in field.
To be very clear, activists who represent a Muslim identity are often not informed sufficiently on the faith they’re advocating for. Similarly, imams are also not well-studied theologians; yet they are expected to serve as scholars. We have to start driving this point home: Imams Are Not Scholars.
What’s actually missing from our conversation is actual Muslim scholars — authentic Muslim scholars who aren’t influenced by Islamist organizations.
The Answer to Islamophobia Is More Muslim Scholars
If we had proper Muslim scholars trained in Islamic sciences, and if those scholars were given the same platform freely given to propagandist activists and imams, three questions would immediately be addressed and solved:
Public Prayers – Public Muslim prayers that sprawl onto streets and block traffic are not allowed in Islam. Communities who say that opposition to obstructive public prayer is anti-Islamic need a better education in Islam.
Hijab Debates – The debate over hijabs would end tomorrow. Islam lends a lot of flexibility to this subject and the choice to wear a hijab is a woman’s alone. The Quran, which has given detailed instruction on military and civilian life, does not give detailed instruction on this issue. If hijab was mandated, it would have been clearly and plainly stated in the Quran. However, scholars would frown on the need for some Muslims to use a hijab to mark themselves as visibly Muslims. Signs, symbols, and other demarcations are not required in Islam.
Ethics – Ethics plays a significant role in Islam from everything to jihad, Hadiths and integration with new cultures. Ethics have always informed the conversation as the faith unfolded in the first 700 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death.
Now that we understand the unique value of Muslim scholars, the next question is: How do we produce more Muslim scholars?