Current Affairs

“Boko Haram” and the Culture of Coercive Disapproval

“Boko Haram” is some group somewhere in Africa doing something wrong while claiming to be Islamic.

That’s about as much I knew or cared to know when I heard the news of some school girls being kidnapped. Not that I’m unsympathetic, but I didn’t much think it had anything to do with me or what I believed — naturally then, my interests would go no further than thinking this a horribly immoral act and hoping justice would be delivered by the proper authorities in the region. However, much to my dismay, I and the rest of the Muslim world are routinely called upon to denounce acts of violence in the name of Islam, for no other reason than the fact that we are somehow responsible.

And this is why I refuse to speak out; I should not be held responsible in any way for the actions and beliefs of others simply because we share the same label. By proxy, I refuse to give in to a narrative perpetuated by a culture of coercive disapproval, which threatens to place me in the same camp as extremists simply because they do not happen to hear my voice of opposition every time the media decides to highlight another act of violence in the middle east or elsewhere. Every time I stand up and say “that’s not me”, I am implicitly giving in to the idea that I am never free to define myself; I am never free of guilt. Always having to defend myself is not indicative of a free identity, but of a person on trial, whose jury doesn’t operate on the principle of “innocent until proven otherwise.”

The fact is, that while there are certainly many acts being perpetuated in the name of Islam, Islam has little to nothing to do with much of anything in this day and age: whether positive or negative. The truth is out there for all to see. The Islamophobes and the critics will continuously point to the “Islamic countries” and their problems, claiming that “Sharia” is what rules over those populations, but anyone with a bit of common sense and Google will see otherwise: Sharia rules over nothing. All “Islamic countries” are governed by civil law; even the supposedly strictest nations, Saudi Arabia, a  juristic monarchy, and Iran, a Platonist styled philosopher king republic, are concepts unheard of in the history of a traditional Islamic polity. “One-law-for-all” was never a concept that the Sharia applied, nor was voting ever something implemented on a mass scale. The Sharia was also always tied to a specific madhab (school of thought), whereas in Saudi Arabia, jurists bypass many rulings in favor of corporate-cratic kings who prefer holding hands with Western power elites in exchange for petro-dollars.

This fact also exposes another truth that islamophobes and liberalist fascists might find shockingly embarrassing: for the most part, secular principles rule this world. Calls to “police” or otherwise control our own fellow Muslims are calls to vigilantism; the very thing these “vanguards of freedom” often chastise terrorists and insurgents for. Most Muslims are civilians under a secular state; the only people who need to do policing are the police. Apparently, this logic isn’t enough for the phobes and fascists to understand, because it’s unworthy of justifying scapegoating people for their own problems– faltering economies and over-inflated military industrial complexes hell-bent on importing democracy to the rest of the world at the expense of thousands of lives and domestic grievances. Perhaps it would be overkill to mention that these same polities, considered as beacons of civilization, are the ones funding the very countries that produced the cave-dwelling terrorists to begin with; black gold and the Sauds luxuries are apparently worth more than the 3000+ lives taken on September 11, 2001.

In the end, the people who should be speaking out and running checks on their own societies, are those that believe in “a government by the people, for the people”. Boko Haram is not my government, nor is it part of my government, but I can think of many governments and its people that make Boko Haram look far more appealing.

 

 

 

2 replies »

  1. You make a very good point. Particularly: “I should not be held responsible in any way for the actions and beliefs of others simply because we share the same label… I refuse to implicitly … [give] in to the idea that I am never free to define myself… Always having to defend myself is not indicative of a free identity, but of a person on trial, whose jury doesn’t operate on the principle of “innocent until proven otherwise.”

    BUT, three things:

    1. The uninformed public who will seek to understand what is going on in such a region will read what they come across (anti-Muslim news). By not saying something (as Muslims) to condemn the crime, the public will (thoughtlessly) think the silence is a type of collusion. (I’m thinking of the silly concept of ‘Are you with us or against us’ http://modwestmuse.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/are-you-with-us-or-against-us-p-s-are-you-stupid/)

    2. If we only highlight the wrong-doings of non-Muslim societies – and remain ‘unrepentant’ of Muslim wrong-doings – do we not appear generally unbalanced and therefore, prejudiced.

    I guess the counter to 1. and 2. is:
    a) the chances of the uninformed public reading Muslim perspectives might be slight given the proliferation of anti-Muslim news in the mainstream media – so there is a pointlessness to the enterprise.
    b) as you say, we become ‘guilty by proxy’ – and our tone always becomes defensive, which always sounds ‘weak’ and (might) undermine any points we make.

    3. By talking about the topic nonetheless, we increase the chances of relaying a more balanced Muslim perspective regardless of a). And despite b), we can at least reach out and engage in dawah to non-Muslims and reminders to Muslims, and use the topic as a conversation-starter in spite of it being a distasteful starting-point.

    ***
    Your term ‘culture of coercive disapproval’ is interesting and valid (although Islamophobes believe this applies to them too). And the way you use your post to highlight that:

    i) “Shariah rules over nothing’ in the whole world so islamophobes and liberalist fascists ought to stop propagating this myth
    ii) that in fact ‘secular principles rule this world’… why don’t people realise this?
    iii) and that some ‘liberal’ “polities… are [often] the ones funding the very countries that produce the… terrorists to begin with.”
    iv) the role of the mainstream media in spreading the (anti-Muslim) news that it does is a topic worth considering (in how it sets the living-room discourse in society…)

    I think the idea of “people …. should be speaking out and running checks on their own societies” is a worthwhile strap-line.

    Incidentally, I did share Islamwich’s post on Boko Haram, here: http://modwestmuse.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/take-back-islam-bringbackourgirls

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