One of the oldest voices in the Islamsphere, Umm Zaid, has penned a courageous screed excoriating her fellow muslims to take a stand and do something (paraphrasing Todd Beamer, hero of Flight 93) about extremism and terrorism. I will not excerpt it, it deserves a full reading on its own. This is my response to a dialog that I think we do, as a community, need to have with ourselves.
I think that the overall sentiment of muslim Americans is in line with her call. But saying “let’s do something” is not, in and itself, doing something. What looks on the face of things to be doing nothing – living our lives as loyal citizens, teaching our kids the true universal values of peace and tolerance of Islam, striving to contribute in a civic sense to our communities, muslim and non-muslim alike – is actually doing Something, a great deal of something.
It is because muslim Americans are so integrated into the fabric of our beloved nation that we are not as fertile ground for extremism as, say, muslims in the UK (recall that the London subway bombings were a home-grown Islamist act of terror and not akin to 9-11 in that regard).
When a muslim American calls themselves a moderate muslim, that is doing something – its emphasisizng the extremism of the jihadists’ claim to faith. When we argue against the term Islamofascism, it’s doing something – it’s objecting to giving the fascists the use f the term Islamic to cloak their actions. When we objectto racial profiling and the increased curtailing of our rights and civil liberties, that is doing something – it is fighting for the very ideals of freedom that the terrorists would deny all of us.
Where Umm Zaid’s argument goes astray is in ascribing too much importance to the dissonant voices of counterculture Islam, the equivalent of the Che Guevara idolism that is more heir to the radical leftism of the Vietnam era than of any true mainstream muslim doctrine. She points to voices on the internet defending bin laden and shrill attacks by email, but the Internet is a tool for amplifying the extreme. Go outside, visit a mosque, talk to people in the Islamic community and you will see a people united against the threat, resolute and vigilant.
In a sense, Umm Zaid is recycling the silence libel. But at some point we as a community need to stop being obsessed with what our fellow countrymen think or fear, and look inwards, and strengthen the core. And rising Islamophobia also plays a role here in obstructing all of us from our common objectives.
I thank Umm Zaid for raising the issue, and I am sure the Internet trolls will punish her for it, but I think we as a community are mature enough to have a discussion about it without falling into the stereotypes that the Islamophobes have prepared for us.
UPDATE: Discussion at Talk Islam.