“From the etiquettes of Islam, and a primary sign of wisdom and maturity, is to not act rashly or in haste. The one who acts on impulse ends up regretting more than benefitting. We are told that we should instead think matters through, and weigh the pros and cons of any course of action that we desire to undertake.” – Dr. Yasir Qadhi.
For years now, every time there has been an attack committed in the name of Islam in any part of the world, there has been a cycle: most of the time the death of the perpetrator, widespread horror and condemnation, the debates about how Islam is a barbaric religion and incompatible with modern life, Muslims who react that such is not the case, many who strive, by their actions and speech, to show just how they live their faith, and many who embark on a reactionary and spiteful “teaching” of what Islam is, which is particularly visible on social media and which does nothing to quell dissent. In such circumstances, Muslims are almost forced to take a stand: condemn the attacks or be perceived as complicit by silence.
It is a fact that there is a faction among Muslims who have taken a radical approach to their belief and subsequently react in an equally radical manner to matters that take place around them. To deny that would be foolish. It is also a fact that these people represent just that: a faction. And yet, any time, anything happens, the majority is called out to answer for the actions of the faction. By now, with so many things that have been said and shared on Islam, one would think that such discourses would be more balanced and that the real issues at hand will be addressed. When seasoned foreign journalists start writing op-eds, once more, on the danger of Islam, on how immigrants haven’t given themselves the opportunity to be immersed in the local culture, one would think that such extrapolations will not take place in the local media, for after all, we Mauritians have a unique way of understanding and respecting each other, irrespective of creed and religion.
And yet, disappointingly, some key opinion leaders fall prey to just that: questioning the silence of Muslims around the world and even worse, infer that the majority of Muslims allow such vile actions to be carried in their name.
In the first place, the majority of Muslims speak out all year long, via shared speeches from religious leaders, preaching for knowledge of Islam, tolerance, how to live in today’s world as Muslims, how to become better people, how to raise children in such a way that they become exemplary human beings. Muslims also speak out all year long to dispel any misconceptions others may have, to answer queries from well-meaning and not so well-meaning people, by demonstrating, in behaviour, what being a true Muslim is. Muslims share Quranic teachings and teachings from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions among each other, for let’s not forget that the seeking and sharing of knowledge has a very high rank in Islam.
Most preachers, from their pulpits, urge Muslims to become better people, every Friday, by taking stands on matters that are important, and by urging people to connect to the source. The common thread in all of these sharing and teachings is how to become better people, not how to become radicalized. This is what most Muslims, what the majority of Muslims are exposed to and strive to apply in their everyday lives.
Secondly, the majority of Muslims do not allow a handful to commit crimes in their names. This blanket statement which seeks to hold the majority of Muslims accountable for the actions of few in the name of Islam, is not only far-fetched but illogical. It would be akin to holding all men responsible for male rapists committing a rape and calling out that crime by saying that it was committed in the name of all men. Each person is responsible for his/her own actions, and a group cannot be held responsible for that.
What, however, needs to be done, is to seek deeper as to the root causes of undertaking such actions and remediate from there, not undertake reactionary measures as is the case currently. It’s too easy to jump on a bandwagon when something trends and then turn a deaf ear when the commotion has died down. There needs to be no hypocrisy: one must be willing to listen to hear what is being said. Having an ear to the ground consistently would help refrain from making blanket statements and holding biased opinions. Moreover, now is also the opportunity for media platforms, worthy of their names, to rise above the fray and give the majority its voice consistently and impartially, so that the majority can speak for itself instead of being wrongly spoken about.
In an era where algorithms determine a user’s preference, it is no wonder that people see things that are closer to their inclinations and therefore they are not necessarily as exposed as they may think they are to a vast array of things. Which is why it is sine qua non to be (social) media intelligent, to discern fallacy from truth, to identify undercurrents and the connecting thread of engineered hate encouraged in the name of liberation and freedom when in fact, the stakes are much higher, to be able to keep an open mind towards contradictory opinions, form one’s own, and have the capacity to rise above any kind of propagandist influence that make the rounds. More important than all, within this very era of information that is readily available at fingertips, now is the opportunity to listen to voices who experience things that we may have only read about in secondhand accounts, to gauge just how much deeper issues go and wounds are. If not on a belief level, we can empathise with each other on a human level. For at the end of the day, aren’t we all striving to uphold just that: our humanity?