The decade that ended seems to have its epitaph written by consensus: thank god it’s over. And while it certainly was no picnic for the West to have terrorism, economic meltdowns, and environmental catastrophes as afflictions, in all respects the burden of these bad things fell far more heavily on the muslim and developing world.
However, that’s not to say that the decade was uniformly a bad one. Even the silver linings attached to the catastrophes were valuable in themselves. In fact at altmuslim my friend Zahed takes pains to enumerate the “top ten good news stories of 2009” for muslims and it’s a reminder of just how much has indeed changed over the past ten years that we are not as aware of as we should be. I’ll list the top ten items below, but you must read the whole essay for the details:
1. A technological (if not political) revolution in Iran
2. Muslim countries become more democratic, more moderate
3. In 2009, a tipping point for halal foods
4. In the US, a Muslim promotes change from within
5. Striking gold with the Goldstone Report
6. Italy makes a stand against rendition
7. In popular culture, a new Muslim image
8. An education in freedom for Saudi Arabia
9. Faced with violent protest, Muslims learn from experience
10. Rifqa Bary is freed from her kidnappers
Again, read Zahed’s piece for in-depth explanations of each of these, it’s truly essential reading. I’m proud to say that I’ve covered many (though not all) of these stories here at City of Brass, and of course all of them have been debated at Talk Islam as well.
Zahed is not the only one considering the silver lining of 2009. Asim Siddiqui, a writer at Comment is Free at The Guardian, also considers the way in which muslim communities were empowered (by neccessity) to communicate:
The upside of this new focus on Islam has been far greater levels of engagement between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Fresh voices began to be heard in the public domain that showed wider society an Islam whose values were common and whose aspirations were shared by most ordinary people. Muslims would increasingly ask themselves what benefit they could bring to those outside their faith community. There was also far greater interest in learning from others.
(…) Today, the diversity of Muslim voices in the public domain make it much more difficult than it was 10 years ago for any one Muslim group to get away with speaking on behalf all Muslims. It is also more difficult for elements in the media to make gross generalisations, as so many more Muslims are now themselves part of the print and broadcast media. The same is increasingly true of the political and business worlds.
The British press in particular has been one avenue of that communication and exposure of muslim voices – my friend and TI co-blogger Thabet gives credit where it’s due in that regard:
Muslims did not have an adequate platform on which to respond to such criticisms. However, to their credit, some in the “mainstream” English media are now giving voices to “mainstream” Muslims (this still appears, to me, to be a major problem in mainland Europe). And I think Muslims should recognise and welcome this change.
Perhaps the biggest and best experiment in mass blogging, The Guardian’s Comment is free, has given a voice to Muslims across the entire range of Islamic/ate viewpoints. This includes non-religious secularists; Islamists; reformists; representatives of major Muslim organisations; and even to the much-dreaded Hizb al-Tahrir (which is a major irony). Indeed, run through the list of contributors at the blog and see how many “Muslim names” appear.
And the very platfrom from which Ayaan Hirsi WhatsHerFaceName was recently denouncing Islam, On Faith (part of Washington Post), has devoted an entire section of their blog to mainstream figures such as Sh. Ali Gomaa, Sherman Jackson and Timothy Winter.
I think that this is a key point – in 2009, the muslim voice was liberated and motivated to respond to the provocations of the muslim etxremists. Those who continue to argue the old canard that muslims are “silent” are simply irrelevant; muslims are increasingly a part of the debate thanks to the new media and will continue to grow in that regard during the decade ahead.