A Rant on Islamic Extremism

â??ex·trem·ist Pronunciation Key (k-strmst)
n.

One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics.�

The following is a rant…

The word “extremist” in my opinion has become exclusive with the religion of Islam these days, partly because of Uncle Bin Laden and partly because of Uncle Sam. But forget about the media, forget about the ideological rantings of the spin doctors, even society has soaked up this word.

My interest, for the sake of this post, is to take a look at how the word has been employed in the Islamic context recently.

Remember, the following is a rant


In the Arab world now to be an “extremist” you do not necessarily have to be aligned with the politics or religious interpretations of Bin Laden. On the contrary, simply being a Muslim makes you an extremist. But Naseem, you must be exaggerating just a tiny bit? Truth be told the word is being thrown around so casually these days that almost everyone who I consider an average everyday Muslim is considered an extremist or even, dare I say it, a fundamentalist to others.

Look at the very simplistic tenants of the religion, be they fasting or praying or paying charity, being involved in any of the above makes you an extremist. Although these acts of worship are relatively low key, they are internalized; you don’t generally practice them in the light of day. If you talk about them though, it makes you an extremist.

The externalized world of Islam is just as worse now. A woman with her hijab is an extremist; a man with his beard is an extremist. Never mind the underlying principles of our religion, ignore it. These symbols are important to us because they are a measure of our religion, a measure of our devotion, and they say with such brilliant clarity that this person can be considered “devout” and therefore he practices Islam and therefore he is an extremist. What the hell?

You see what worries me is not what the non-Muslim world thinks (including non-Muslim Arabs); I really could care less in fact. What worries me is about the Muslim community or typically (for my sake) the Arab Muslim community.

Walking in Amman, what is the perception of a man wearing a beard or a woman wearing a hijab? Of a man or woman saying “salam wa 3aleikom” upon entering a place? It is negative. Not always, and not almost, but generally in my experience and the experience of others it is negative. Negative here not in the sense that it is shunned or that it is something to be looked down on, but negative in the sense that with such external actions of Islamic practices people are inclined to pass judgment. To prove the point, compare the above examples of such individuals living in the environment of Eastern Amman, or outside the capital for that matter, as opposed to the high life society of Abdoun.

And that, you could say, is the point of this post. We pass judgment on each other so casually; throw around this word “extremism” so casually, whether vocally expressed or mentally decided, it is there. And the negative impact is also there.

What the Arab world is going through, or let me be specific, the educated Arab elitists are going through, is a transition of thought. The educated look down on everyone who is not aligned with their type of thinking, the same way Zarqawi and Bin Laden condone the killing of any Muslim who doesn’t agree with them either. To be civilized in the Arab world, to be considered a progressive thinker, a progressive Muslim, a progressive anything, a modern just about everything, you must abandon your ancient ways. This is what we’ve been told and this is what many have followed. To hear the cheers of Americans and Europeans and first worlders, to feel their sweet embrace which says “welcome to our modern world, here’s your membership card” we must be inclined to think like them. You can retain your Islamic citizenship as long as you shun all that is Islam, and omit everything that might clash with western civilization. Disagree with it by default because you’re not prepared to defend it (or rather do not desire to defend it).

When I read more liberal blogs on Islam I’m thinking to myself, wait a minute, this isn’t Islam. In fact it has as much to do with Islam as the more radical blogs do. (this is just an example) Itâ??s become that in order for us to be deemed liberal Muslims, and therefore forward thinking and progressive we are abandoning everything we don’t like, and if you think about it this is the exact same thing that the other side of the spectrum does! And God forbid you disagree with them or you’re labeled as an extremist, the same way the other side calls you a kafir: an apostate.

I think a great deal of this stems from the lack of understanding of our own religion. No one puts the effort in it anymore. Because all of a sudden if we start going to mosques and talking about religion instead of pop videos, if we put on the hijab or grow beards, we are all of a sudden living a re-run of the Flinstones; we are all of a sudden backwards people. And it’s funny because everyone tells us Islam is terrible because it’s not progressive enough, but in truth there is no one there willing to move ahead into a brighter future with Islam as their companion. It’s sad because most of these people feel the only way to progress is to leave it behind, like useless 5th grade math. And now we live amongst a generation of tech-savvy suit sporting Muslims, none of which can count, if you know what I mean.

A beard or the hijab for that matter are not trademarks of extremism. Heck in many cases they are not trademarks of one’s religious devoutness either, some use it as a mask. But either way they are not symbols which demand that other Muslims, or even non-Muslims, mock or judge.

In Amman I’ve heard someone being described as an “a5wanji” which is basically a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The term is usually followed by a pantomime gesture of a long beard. Now this person being described is probably a computer engineer in some company who works his hours, lives a normal life, but is more religious than most in the sense that he might try to pray in the mosque more often, or does more charitable work or what have you. But the word “a5wanji” is used with such negative undertones that it is basically telling the listener: this guy is an extremist. As opposed to me, the guy who doesn’t fast or pray and fills his time passing judgment on those that do. I’m forced to ask myself what harm have those people brought onto you to deserve such judgment?

And even religion aside for a bit, if a person believes in armed resistance in Palestine he is also an extremist; and heâ??s an extremist in the religious sense! This one I find the funniest coming from so called liberal or progressive Muslims. Essentially what they would rather have is a situation where Palestinians did not resist so that they wouldn’t have to explain to the rest of the world why they do resist. Essentially what is being desired here is that Palestinians continue to be slaughtered and everyone basically feeling sorry for them every once in a while; you know those faces and those shrugs that say “oh well, what can we do”.  It’s fascinating to say the least because at the heart of it is truly an abandonment to the Palestinian cause. It really is. You don’t have to agree with how they choose to resist but heck, at least as a Muslim or an Arab (if you call yourself such) acknowledge their right to resist. And please do not claim their resistance is un-Islamic, this isn’t Al-Queda ramming planes into buildings, these people are occupied. Who are you to know better than those who are resisting! Those who are actually living under the occupation instead of in cozy homes in elitist-ville. Otherwise shut up and stop bitching about others who do support it! Suddenly these people have equated supporting Palestinians with supporting Al-Queda, an in the same instance an apple has magically become an orange.

Now everything I just said, flip it around and apply it to the hardliners who pass judgment on women who don’t wear the hijab and men who don’t grow beards. I just don’t have enough time and energy to rant about both; I’ve chosen the former because it seems to be the most prevalent in the Arabian blogosphere and in the industrial cities of the Arab world today.

Anyways I have to draw a final conclusion here to end this rant and it is quite simple, in a message to my fellow brothers and sisters of the Islamic faith please don’t pass judgment on people as being Extremists simply because they differ in thought from you. Being progressive does not mean you have to abandon your principles, or your religion, or your culture for that matter. Being progressive means you take all of those things and you push them forward on your own journey of progress; as opposed to leaving them behind. These things are not easy to defend, especially in the world we live in when we are bombarded by those who wish to destroy it, insult it, or twist it, but it’s a worthy fight. Being a real progressive Muslim does not come without a fight and a few scars to say the least.

22 Comments

  • being in the south of the US now (north carolina), i’ve got to say that the majority of americans aren’t ready to accept that even *moderate* muslims might feel obliged to follow specific duties, like praying five times a day.

    moderate american christians might go to church five times every six months… if not a year.

    such dedication gets in the way of being “productive” — adding to the GDP or the bottom line. it’s how we’re all indoctrinated over here.

    great post, nas.

  • thanks sean, and I agree that even “moderate” muslims appear fishy to people outside the Islamic sphere, especially in the southern of states of the U.S. I think, or actually I believe, that Muslims in general are inclined to practice their religion more than western christians based on our religious obligations. this of course is debatable but thats just based on what i’ve seen.

  • Very well said man.

    Just yesterday I sent my friend a link to a Quran recording that I liked and told her that I’ve been listening to it for the past couple of days and she immediately asked “why? are you becoming this religious dude or something?” 😮

    Yes you, I’m talking about you, I know you’re reading this, I was hurt :p

  • Americans (and I speak as one) are always afraid of anyone who actually tries to live up to what they profess. We are such a nation of hypocrites and liars, that to be confronted with anyone who takes their religious, cultural, national or filial duties seriously scares us, shows us up for the fakes that we are.

    Resist hemegony. Muslims do not need to betray their faith and culture to be accepted by true Americans; we believe that you should not only be allowed to be Muslim, but should be so fervently and openly. America needs to learn something of personal responsibility and dedication from the Muslim, Buddhist, etc world before we go talking about who should act like us…

  • Hamzeh, dude why are you listening to the Quran? you extremist you 😀

    Jon, you have a point there although my focus on Muslim-to-Muslim interaction in this post. However considering that you are an American I guess we cannot generalise right. 🙂

  • Great post Naseem. When I went to visit my sister and University of Jordan they would quickly judge people based on simple things such as dress, appearance, or major.

  • Nas, what do you think of the term “Post Modern Muslim”? How would you, as a devout Muslim living in Post Modern Canada define that, how does it strike you as a definition? I’ve been pondering this for a month now and need some input.

    You don’t have the exclusive rights to ‘extremist’…media and liberals have added that word to any Christian who actually practices what they believe as well. In my Christian circle, (about 15% of the US) we attend worship on Sunday, a mid-week house group, have an accountability/prayer partner weekly and attempt to practice ‘praying without ceasing’ as disciplines of our faith. But none show outwardly…but when others find out this is our unseen practice, they flip. Such cartwheels they turn over visible manifestations of faith in Islam!

    Jon has a great point. Most Americans will tell you they are Christians until they are pressed to ask what that means. It means they haven’t ever killed anyone – but don’t ask me about the other nine commandments. I was the same way – amazingly, it was a Muslim University student who said “You are not a very good Christian then, the way you act”. He was one of the links that led me to Christ, and an about face into ‘extremism’.

    On the other hand, most Americans fear Muslims taking over. To be completly honest, I share that fear. Maybe is Nas or Haitham were president, it wouldn’t be so bad :).

  • Kinzi, post modern Muslim? I’ve always had trouble with post-modernism in its relation to religion. Isn’t the concept in opposition to the traditional structures of religion in general? I think the term depends greatly on one’s definition of what exactl a post-modern Muslim is.

    yes of course we don’t have exclusive rights, i am massively generalising here. however suffice to say when you hear the word in the media it’s usually followed by “Muslims” or “Islam”, and media aside, for the sake of what my post is about, the word is being attributed to the religion amongst our own religious culture; i.e. Muslims calling each other extremists.

    fear of a Muslim president? lol I think on the list of “people we fear becoming Presidents” Muslims probably rank in the top 10, right after Blacks, Hispanics and women. 😉

  • Not being a Muslim myself, I must say that y’all have to prove to the rest of the world that the overwhelming brief of evidence we have before us is not valid.

    You see, to the entire world, islam IS a dangerous, deluded, violent Cult that DOES want to destroy the rest of us.

    There is not one nation that has not been shocked and appalled at what goes on in the name of this so-called Religion of Peace.

    I’m afraid that after your abominable refusal to own up to how WRONG y’all were in burning embassies (an act of WAR under International Law), declaring fatwahs, I now have only contempt for the Islamic world and the Islamists in our midsts.

    If y’all think y’all are these mythical “moderate” Muslims, it is YOUR duty to get rid of those who are not “moderate.” If you don’t, western tolerance will turn and a mood will develop to protect ourselves and deal with you accordingly.

    I hate to blunt, but you people have been pampered for far too long.

    I post offering an Olive Branch, don’t take it away from us.

    I hope this helps.

  • Neochick…was that an olive branch offered or a cactus catapulted? I’m afraid the manner of delivery doesn’t help…and I’m the Born in the USA California girl Bush voting Evangelical Christian (I don’t tote a gun, though).

    I hope you will stick around this site and others to meet ‘moderate’ Muslims in dialogue rather than contempt. We can all have our opinions, but this crowd isn’t the kind to attack or fear. Remember, they got bombed in November for not beign ‘good enough’ Muslims. And they aren’t the kind to ‘get rid’ of others…how do you think they should accomplish this?

  • Kinzi, I don’t believe she’s worth your time. This one laments even the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. See, to these people, the only good Muslims are either a 100% obdient or a 100% dead. Nothing else could satisfy them.

  • Neoleftychick,

    Trendy name, is Islam-bashing part of your cult? You clearly associate yourself with one and you too have to prove to w’all that the “overwhelming brief of evidence we have before us is not valid” – speaking of the “crusade” of the neocons of course.

  • First off, i have to say that there’s something addictive about this blog of yours.. i come here everyday and i enjoy all your posts! Good Job! 🙂

    As for your rant i was amazed at how you broke it down.. like you mentioned, ppl are always inclined to make judgements that are usually very negative.. just based on ur appearance. I will tell you, when i go to amman every summer and i go to some high-end malls or stores (mecca mall, mango, etc), i am always looked at in this negative light..(i wear hijab and jilbab).. the ladies at the store will look at me from top to bottom rolling their eyes and talk to me like i’ve never entered a mall or store in my life or that i dont belong there.. then, when i make a point to speak in english or give them my american express card to pay (and they always look puzzeled) .. all of a sudden they understand that i am an educated, “cool”, american muslim girl..and then they treat me like they would treat any other “liberal” (used for lack of words) girl..

    I also really liked the way you mentioned that we as muslims dont need to let go of our religion to be progressive, instead its the application of our religion that will allow us to not only progressive but to be successful in every light.

    finally, just yesterday i was walking to my car when i saw a bumper sticker that read “when religion ruled the world, they called it the Dark Ages”.. i just found that to be very interesting because religion is really a sort of enlightenment as it progressed the backward ppl of the world..

  • Dark Socialist,

    I’ve actually had a great time with folks like Neo and seen attitudes change. I must say most were Christians, who contrary to popular belief, can be appealed to.

  • One quick comment:

    many people are oppossed to restiance in palestine, however, we are oppossed to making a death cult out of it.

    shaheed translates to ‘witness’. People who fight oppression are shaheeds. People who murder young girls in line to go dancing, don’t fit the bill in my eyes.

    As for the being religious, that’s fine. However, if you feel that I am goiong to burn in hell for my disbelief, then I am offended that you would worship an entity that would do such a thing.

  • one more comment:

    because it seems to me that religious extremists almost always eventually want me to act like they do.

    be extreme as you want, I am all for it. Just leave me out of it.

  • well, I am trying to say that people equate palestinian resitance with religious extremism because of the religious undertones the islamic fighters have adopted.

    and

    that people don;t like religious extremists becuase they are different, and becuase they have a history of forcing thier views on others.

    sorry, trying to post quick, and I’ve been to several threads, and everything is running together.

  • A couple of hundred years ago supposed witches were being burned alive in Salem USA. Murderous crusades by christians on colonial missions were being carried out. Now Western religion has evolved where democracy,civil and human rights do not clash with the church.They co exist and keep each other in check. I think the muslem world is almost at this point. Unfortunately to get there it usully involves war and losses of innocent life.

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