By Dina Zaman
27 November 2015
In less than 48 hours, while Paris mourned over her dead and world leaders streaming in to express their condolences, it was a war of another kind on Facebook and social media.
Protestations of how other countries suffered terrorist attacks but were blindsided because they were Muslim countries screeched down newsfeeds. Then another battle began: the clash of egos and righteousness.
Facebook statuses were screen-captured or rebutted publicly, and sides were taken. It’s like watching The Crusades all over again, as friends and peers of different faiths (and lack of them) were at each other’s throats.
Muslims were asked what kind of Muslims they were, and whether they were with them, or not. As a friend ruminated on her Facebook wall, “…It's as if we have to make clear where our alliances are- what kind of Muslim are we- here, proof we are this kind – and if our views are different, we fragment ourselves further (using words like true or real to distinguish or differentiate ourselves further).”
Are you with me or them?
Muslims in Malaysia and all over feel that they are at siege. It’s not a fantastic position to be in: you see and realise it is a Muslim problem – terrorism – but at the same time, you want to defend your religion. You have to because you’re Muslim.
But nothing you do comes out right, because you’re seen as defensive and not wanting to put yourselves out there. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
The Paris tragedy further affirmed the fear of many Muslims in Malaysia: we will be attacked. We will be hated even more.
We need to choose our battles, ladies and gentlemen. An opinion is an opinion is an opinion. It won’t pay your rent. Or mortgage.
Our outrage must be for what matters the most: the persecution and loss of innocent lives. That terrorism and religious extremism happen everywhere and are not particular to just one community or faith.
If we feel that we Muslims are being persecuted for our faiths, then we should rise above the bigotry.
We must band together to work on ending religious extremism and terrorism for good. No amount of opinion essays, videos, cute GIFs, and earnest renderings of sentiments will help us if we do not take concrete steps to end this abuse towards our faith, Islam.
Any which way you look at it, by virtue that the perpetrators profess Islam as their faith, it is a Muslim problem. They have a screwed up idea of Islam, but they are appealing to sadly, many Muslims, because they campaign for an Islamic caliphate. Who doesn’t harbour private fantasies of becoming a khalifah?
The real jihad
A Facebook post written by a Singaporean, SulaimanDaud, is going viral as we speak:
“So don't say that Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) aren't ‘true Muslims’ or that they are ‘not really Muslims’. Like any large organisation, Isis exists in a spectrum. You have the aimless, restless teenager who never amounted to anything in his life and travelled to Syria because he can't find a job and doesn't know if the Quran is to be read from left to right or right to left.
“But you also have pious professionals, businessmen, and academics who read their Quran cover to cover, pray every day, were seduced into radicalism, and truly believe that the Isis’s goal of conquest is a noble one. The so-called 'Caliph' Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has a doctorate in Islamic studies.
“We have to own the problem. We have to admit that this is a religious problem…”
Our jihad is not to be apologists for our faith and brothers and sisters. Our jihad is to be good Muslims/people, and it’s time we fought back and wrested the conversation from terrorists.
I don’t know about you, but I am fed up of having to explain how wonderful and un-crazy we Muslims are (especially those from the East Coast). Can’t we just, be?
Our jihad is also to say to the perpetrators that we are done with your actions. If you feel that you have to defend your idea of Islam, so can we. If you feel that you have to live Islam through violence, we will live Islam through our aqidah (faith) , peace and humour.
Here’s a reason as to why we Muslims are so divided. It’s not about the oil money and Saudi Arabia spreading Wahhabism that’s destroying us: it’s us who are destroying this beautiful faith through base means such as fitnah, riba, corruption, arrogance and snobbery.
We are selectively magnanimous when it comes to charity: we’ll pay big money for some huge foreign humanitarian cause while we barely blink at the injustices in our own country.
Something to chew on:
• Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries possess nearly 70% of world energy resources and 40% of its natural resources, around 40% of their populations live below the poverty line.
• About 350 million people live on US$1.25 (RM5.26) a day in member countries in 2010, with Sub-Saharan Africa member countries of OIC accounting for about 60%. Extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan member countries, in particular, averaged at 54%, more than twice the average for member countries as a whole.
• Because of abject poverty, many Muslims are uneducated, and illiterate.
• Our jihads are these: Muslim majority countries and Islamically inspired institutions and organisations have not yet developed coherent, Islamically rooted policy positions of their own.
Work with youth: There is a global youth employment crisis that we must address now. Currently, 75 million young women and men are unemployed. This problem is not disappearing: projections show that if no measure is taken, youth unemployment will stand at 12.8% by 2018.
And this concerns Muslim youth. Entrepreneurship can be used as a powerful instrument to create jobs and address the youth employment crisis. The Prophet Mohammad (SAW) was once an entrepreneur.
There seems to be a fear of losing our cultural identities, if we pursue business and globalisation. For one, it is obvious that Muslims around the world do not share the same cultural trait among themselves, but they are identical in their common cultural identity and practices in being Muslims.
We must focus on our commonality and that we are united in empowering ourselves economically. We cannot go on believing that we are at siege: that the Western secular capitalism ideology will destroy us.
The Muslim middle class is also instrumental in leading this change. “The Rise of Islamic Capitalism” by Vali Nasr, leading authority on the Islamic world and influential advisor to the Obama administration says that the flourishing of a vibrant Muslim bourgeoisie is reshaping the mindset, politics, and even the religious values of Muslims in much the same way the Western bourgeoisie lead the capitalist and democratic revolution in Europe.
As Nasr writes “the great battle for the soul of the Muslim world will be fought not over religion but over market capitalism.”
Please view this video for some thoughts on dealing with terrorism, Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists. It’s not poverty that’s driving them to become jihadis.
We will continue to argue about what’s right, correct, wrong. Let’s keep on arguing so we can find ways to end this scourge. – November 27, 2015.