Engaging Islamophobes During Ramadan
Muhammad ‘Abd al-Haqq
This is a slight reworking of an original post found on one of my other blogs, edited to fit in more with a Ramadan theme.
I have noticed the tendency among us to debate anti-Muslim bigots with emotionalism rather than ‘ilm, as Allah tells us we should in the Qur’an. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi highlights the issue very well in one of his lectures. In Islam there are primary issues, secondary issues, tertiary issues and so on. And there are issues that are completely inconsequential from an Islamic standpoint. For example, ‘aqeeda is primary in Islam and tawhid is primary in ‘aqeeda. Zabiha is primary in halal slaughter, yet halal is much more than just food. Yet halal food is secondary. Now in Islam just because a matter is secondary does not mean it is insignificant(We must stop thinking like Westerers who are non-Muslims). Rather this typology is utilized to point out how we Muslims get bogged down debating Islamophobes on secondary, tertiary, and even inconsequential matters.
I originally wanted to write on two subjects when I first started blogging: refuting the notion that Islam is essentially violent and creating a sort of “manual” on how to engage Islamophobes, whether it is daw’ah, debate(remember, daw’ah is not debate), or just everyday interaction. Alas I never got around to it, making the statement “reality and circumstances always foil planning, but never avoid making plans”, very applicable to my situation. Insha’Allah I am returning to the subject of debating Islamophobes and I wanted to give some “tips” on how to go about it. Insha’Allah you will get some benefit from this. Never get distracted by secondary or inconsequential issues with Islamophobes, since, chances are, if they accepted any of the secondary issues related to Islam, they would already be Muslim. The aim of Islamophobes is two-fold:
1. They want to present Muslims as overly emotional psychos who cannot defend Islam in a reasonable manner. To this effect they bait us with serious but secondary matters in order to get Muslims entrenched in useless, emotional debates with someone who will never accept the Truth since their hearts are already hardened.
2. To slowly get Muslims to accept the Western paradigmatic framework and concede that Western=Universal. “Progressive/Liberal” Muslims have already fallen for it. They bend over backwards to show modern science in the Qur’an, when “modern science” believes in theories and not absolute Truth, such that what science accepts today can be challenged and even rejected tomorrow. Is this real science, when the word itself comes from a word that carries the meaning of “knowledge”? And these same Muslims are constantly trying to show Islam’s compatibility with democracy, freedom, human rights, women’s rights, religious freedom, et al without understanding that these words mean something completely different in Islam than they would mean in say a Secular Western context.
For example in Islam the concern is primarily “freedom from” whereas in a secular context the concern is “freedom to”. So non Muslims are constantly bragging about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and sexual freedoms; in other words freedom to say whatever, believe and practice whatever. But in Islam it is about freedom from evil, such that the best speech is praised and evil speech is discouraged, and people are free to practice, in an albeit limited way, whatever religion but not to do evil in the name of that religion, and sexual immorality is roundly condemned. Integrated thought seems to absent in much of Western culture which seems to be why there is no thought put into the logical consequences of beliefs and actions.
Imagine if we were to say that a religion that believes murder is not only okay but compulsory should be given full religious freedom. This example seems absurd on the face of it, yet the extreme examples highlight that Westerners do not actually believe in freedom of religion, only in allowing religions that do not threaten or challenge their way of of life full freedoms, as evidenced by the hypocritical Islamophobic attitudes towards Islam. This is why the Islamic position is more correct: Freedom to believe whatever you want, but not freedom to do whatever you want, especially if it directly harms humanity or our environment, which has the most direct impact on human survival. So when you hear Islamophobes say that Islam does not allow freedom of religion, that is mere obfuscation designed to conceal the fact that not only does the West not truly believe in its own stated conception of religious freedom, but designed to conceal that the real goal is that we accept their “religion”.
Second example. Saying that Islam is too harsh toward homosexuality and adultery and promiscuity is merely an attempt to instill acceptance of immorality among Muslims in the name of “tolerance” and “enlightenment”. Imagine a culture that constantly calls our Prophet(saws) a pedophile and a lech for his polygyny, when the aforementioned things, in addition to rape, prostitution, misogyny runs rampant in the West. Imagine the hypocrisy. Imagine the hypocrisy of Christians and Jews calling polygamy immoral and backwards, when their own religious texts do not condemn it. In fact, it is the superimposition of Secular and atheistic values on “Judaeo-Christian” society that has duped Christians and Jews into thinking that polygamy is not part of their faiths? So you can see the futility of debating someone with such a blind, diseased and dysfunctional mentality, rife with hypocrisy, inconsistencies, and love of logical fallacies. So what is my point?
I think I can demonstrate that with a quote from an Islamophobic poster on none other than Loonwatch:
In the article “Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers” we find the quote:
“for a lot of Muslims, for them to be critical of their own religion would be like expecting Christian fundamentalists to look critically at evidence for errors in the Bible.”
Just look at what Khushboo said above:“I wouldn’t compare religion with politics. One is from God (sacred and unchangable re. Islam) and the latter is man-made and therefore, fallible.”
Not exactly a critical attitude is it?I don’t know. I’m not psychic. You may have a very different attitude. But if your attitude is anything like that, you simply aren’t capable of discussing the issues. That isn’t an insult or anything. It’s just a widespread problem found in various religions,” from “greg”.
What exactly is the virtue of being “critical” of one’s religion? In a postmodernist intellectual climate where “everything is subject to questioning and debate” and “there is no absolute Truth”, this is obviously a virtue, but can you not see the idiocy of ever believing that you can arrive at truth when you also believe that here is no such thing as absolute Truth? How can someone criticize Islam if it is not believed that anything ultimately can be true? What is the point of arguing with someone like this? In engaging a person like this we should directly confront their hypocrisy and inconsistency as well as their real agenda. For someone who holds that Islam can never be true, why else would they engage in debate except to try and convince Muslims to abandon Islam, piece by piece. And they do this by going backwards. Start with inconsequential issues then move to the primary issue of Tawhid once they have been exhausted and incessantly refuted on the other matters. Ask someone like this why you should be critical of Islam, yet they should not take a critical look at their own view? Why should we start by considering Western standards as the standard for all truth when the West has moved in the direction of “there is no such thing as absolute Truth”? Maybe it is them who should take a critical view of their own Culture and Intellectual framework rather than criticizing Islam. There should only be three reasons to engage Islamophobes in debate:
1. Correct the misconceptions about Islam
2. Address legitimate concerns about Islam
3. Expose the real agenda of Islamophobes, which is to take you away from Islam by any means necessary, rather than their stated goal of engaging in fruitful discussion.
You should be exposing Islamophobes rather than trying to prove the Truth of Islam. Allah will open their hearts, Insha’Allah. Remember, Debate is not Daw’ah. Use Ramadan as to better yourself in such a way that you will always engage Islamophobes with the proper adab throughout the year , just not in Ramadan. Alot of Muslims say that they won’t curse you out or speak ill of someone or backbite because it’s Ramadan. Why only in Ramadan? This should be your etiquette throughout the year. And when engaging Islamophobes one should always be polite, state the facts, invite to Islam with beautiful speech, and refrain from becoming entrenched in the endless cycle of emotionalism, whereby each “side” is talking at each other and true dialogue is compromised.
Remember many Islamophobes are simply looking to entice a Muslim with very little ‘ilm into an emotionally charged “discussion/debate”, in order to vent their personal frustrations about Islam and Muslims and take it out on you. Your lack of satisfactory answers(and they will never be satisfied with your answers, even if you are very knowledgeable in the Deen), simply affirms their preconceived notions. These types are simply iterating assertions in the form of queries. There is no genuine desire for Islamic knowledge. In situations such as this, politely state that you do not have the answer at the moment, if the question is a tough one, and that you will either research it and get back to them, or direct them to a more knowledgeable source.
Remember that non-Muslims are our neighbors and we should strive to be good neighbors to the non-Musims not only during Ramadan, but throughout the year. Remember that mot all non-Muslims are Islamophobes; even the ones who are critical of Islam. Do not adopt the victim mentality of “everyone is out to get me because I am Muslim“. Be the ambassador of Islam you should be to the best of your ability, according to your abilities. Invite non-Muslims, even the Islamophobes you may be acquainted with, to an iftar at the masjid or suggest that they fast with you, or shadow you during this holy month to see what Ramadan is like. It benefits you both, as it will force you to be on your best behavior as a representative of Islam in their eyes, and the non-Muslims will gain valuable “insider” information on Islam and Muslim practice. Build bridges and make connections. Do not be a destructive, unproductive force in the world and you may just find that an Islamophobe or other non-Muslim friend of yours approaching you one day with La ilaha il Alllah. Muhammad Rasul Allah or as-salamu alaykum. May Allah Guide and Bless us all during this Holy Month and make us strong in iman and create a better love for this Deen. Ameen.
La hawla wa la quwatta ilah billah. Wa ma tawfiqi ilah billah.