I was holding off making a comment on the recent tragedy in Orlando (Florida) because I really couldn’t adequately express what horror, disbelief and frustration that we’re currently living in 2016 and there are still people who hold onto socially regressive views then demand that those views are respected because “it’s my religion!” (this goes for all religious people who use religion as a shield when it comes to valid criticism). That being said though I have to put these points out there:
1) It is time for the Muslim scholarly class to take responsibility for the steady diet of hate that has circulated in the name of ‘authentic Islam’. The views held by the person in question didn’t occur in isolation but was a product of culture and then re-enforced again by those in a position of influence and responsibility within the community. The average person doesn’t have time to study the nuances of text and hermeneutics of hadiths and thus there is a professional scholarly class who is supposed to take on that responsibility as the intermediary between the sources, the interpretation and then explain it to the lay people in a way that is relevant to the contemporary challenges that take place in the community.
The role of a scholar is a massive responsibility and it is important not to downplay just how influential someone can be within a community. Remember, the average lay person has their family, work, bills to pay etc. and thus have trust in the person giving them the information about their religion is doing it truthfully. When you have the likes of scholars such as this gentleman who voices his opinions with no counter critique then what is a lay person supposed to assume? ( link ) Inflammatory language and no counter critique by the scholarly class and keep in mind that he isn’t some sort of ‘fringe lunatic’ like this guy ( link ) but a mainstream scholar akin to someone from the Vatican giving their five cents on the religion. If one were going to get riled up when the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage rant, rave and whip up hatred over talk back radio then I think it is fair that the scholars and clerics also stand up and be willing to make it abundantly clear that such views are inconsistent with the teaching of said religion rather than just standing by quiet and through their silence give those who are speaking an implied nod of approval.
Regarding Hamza Yusuf ( link ) he noted the following:
Q: There have been many statements from Muslims condemning terrorism. Why issue another one?
A: Muslims are constantly being accused of not condemning these types of attacks, even though I don’t have any control over what other people do, and they don’t represent me or my faith. Nobody associates all Seventh-day Adventists with David Koresh, who belonged to a splinter sect, or all of Judaism with Meir Kahane. But when these things happen, the whole religion of Islam is besmirched. We’re trapped in this constant cycle of: events, condemnation; events, condemnation. And then people still say, “Why don’t Muslims condemn these things?”
The issue isn’t about condemning individual acts but getting at the source of the acts, the ideology and condemning those points of view before they get out into wide spread circulation and turn otherwise indifferent people into those who are drawn towards social regressive views and violence. You cannot condemn every random act of violent but you can and should call out fellow scholars who drift off into the deep end by critiquing what they said through well written discourses. There has been well written discourses in the past – Al-Ghazali vs. Ibn Sina (associated with the Mutazillites) – if you want to stop the blood shed then you to form a cogent argument rather than speaking out against the symptom of a larger problem that exists.
The problem is that there are people like Timothy Winter (Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad) that write about “Decaffeinated Islam” but such discourses tend be relegated to the nether regions of the internet ( link ) rather something that should be spoken about in mosques and after school religious instruction. To counter the narrative put out by extremists you need to first of all openly admit that such views exist and launch a robust counter critique because in the void of silence the inevitable consequence is for that void to be filled with ideas that are less than desirable. I’m not normally fan of the Catholic Church but at least one high profile member of the clergy has spoken out at the ( link ) noting that the language used by religious leaders have fed into the dehumanisation which has led to an individual doing what he did as he no longer saw the victims as humans because he was brain washed into believing that they ceased being human the moment that they fell out of the cis-gender heterosexual mainstream.
Back to the topic that was raised in the link from where the text was quoted, the other problem is the complete lack of willingness to talk about a complete separation between religions and politics – that the complete condemnation of corporal, capital or imprisonment for those of the same sex having sex with each other. There is also a lack of addressing the issue of Muslims who are gay but want to leave the religion but find that they’re subject to either punishment by the legal system of their home country or subject to threats on their life by those within their only country (see the recent spate of murders within Bangladesh).
2) There was also a story about Chick-fil-A ( link ) and the issue of the founder supporting organisations that opposed same sex marriage. The problem is that the issue wasn’t the fact that the founder was supporting organisations that oppose same sex marriage but the fact that these organisations were linked to the ‘kill the gays’ push in Uganda not to mention some of the nastiest elements within the Republican Party hell bent on bringing back anti-sodomy laws by claiming that they’re not targeted at gay men. I really do wish that when people do talk about the relationship between the founder of Chick-fil-A and the anti-same sex marriage movements that they such people actually talk about the wider context of the discussion rather than just viewing it as a simple matter of two groups; one being for and one being against.
No movement ever works in isolation and it is ridiculous that the media couldn’t even be bothered looking into the links between the various groups that make up those group that see themselves as ‘fighting a culture war’ (a war that they lost 50+ years ago but they’re like that lone Japanese soldier that held out until 1974 ( link ) ). It is something that the SPLC has done a good job at when it comes to showing links, both formal and informal, between reactionary groups that may have divergent opinions but will come together when interests overlap and working together is of mutual benefit. In the case of these anti-same sex marriage organisations, their interests go well beyond just merely stopping same sex marriage but focus on rolling back hard won rights along with obstructing even seemingly innocuous recommendations such as when a department of education offer guidelines when it comes to dealing with bullying LGBT students and how schools should address that matter.