By: Mohamed Ghlian
More than a few people got upset with what I had to say regarding the alleged “Jihad” in Syria and my description of the different groups using Islam for their political ends as criminals. It’s amazing how fast people will turn on you when they discover that you’re not exactly falling in line with their political ideologies. It’s the same person, with the same writing style who was on your good graces just last week. But all of a sudden he’s on your naughty list because he voices a different stance than you on some political matter that you happen to feel very strongly about. More amazing still are the fervour and zealotry political difference comes with. It definitely puts the whole “religion is the cause of all conflict” business into perspective.
The most striking thing about the backlash I continue to receive is the recurring comment that I should refrain from writing on such matters because “clearly” politics is not my area of “expertise.” If this speaks of anything, it’s that politics has become the number one priority for many Muslims. This is evident by the fact that in all my writings on politics I always spoke of principles that are either clearly articulated in the Quran or extracted by our scholars from Islamic sources when it comes to this area. The point of these principles is for one to come back and reassess their political actions in light of religion. Not the other way around.
Political thinking has taken such a grip on Muslim mentality that many have now subverted religious teachings for the sake of politics. People can do whatever they want and think however they wish. But when Islam is being used as a tool to advance political agenda, we have a problem – a very big problem. When a Muslim associates a generally filthy practice like politics with Islam, people no longer see it as Muslims doing bad politics. It becomes “Islam is doing bad politics,” which entails that Islam is inadequate to address this part of human activity. It gets worse when it’s not simply politics, but deadly politics that’s being practiced in the name of Islam.
My last three posts were about the idea that men travelling to Syria are on a genuine mission of Jihad in support of the Syrian people against the oppressive regime. I’m not interested in the political intricacies of the situation and nuances related to Syria. It’s not that hard to spend a couple of hours of research to figure it all out. My posts were targeted at the religious legitimacy claimed by the different groups and those participating with them, especially the ones travelling there for that purpose. But due to the political mindset of many of those who read those posts, they missed my whole point and cried foul when they didn’t get their political “fix.”
There’s an insidious effect that stems from being subjected to nuance and detailed analyses of a situation like Syria when it comes to one’s understanding of Islam. It gives the impression that Islam does not have any absolutes. Everything becomes relative, including the worth of human life. This is an unfortunate externality of education, especially higher education. Not only that, but one also loses touch with their Fitrah, that primordial human quality that can identify Truth from Falsehood without the need for prior academic tools to do so. Nuance and detailed analyses of Syria have made people lose their moral compass and desensitized them to the bloodbaths that are taking place. This is not to mention the countless pictures and videos of corpses and limbs shared all over cyberspace, which are by the way Islamically impermissible to share or look at. But hey, who cares? We need to stir emotions. What better way to do so than sharing a video of someone getting slaughtered like sheep, or a child getting shot in the head.
So the comments and messages I received kept repeating the same sentiment about requiring nuance and scholarly analyses. This made me think of a statement Christopher Hitchens made about religious people and how their theology is about squaring circles. I disagree with the statement with regards to theology, the purpose of which is not to square circles, but to ensure one thinks clearly so he or she doesn’t mistake a square for a circle. However, I do agree with Hitchens with regards to many religious people, who should be described more as religiously ill than religious. Only a religiously ill person will ask for nuance and academic treatment of horrendous death in the name of religion, especially if the religion categorically rejects the taking of single life unjustly and equates doing so with killing all of humanity. Only a religiously ill person will ask for an academic treatise justifying Jihad and killing in the name of Islam because criminals like Al Asad are killing their people too. Only a religiously ill person will ask for nuance in Syria so they can condemn atrocities committed by Al Asad and his gang, while at the same time support self-declared “Mujahideen” who commit the same atrocities. Only a religiously ill person will prefer a great act of mental masturbation to produce intellectual drivel so they can be able to voice their horror at the suffering of Syrians, then call their kids to the dinner table right after they shared a picture of mutilated kids in Syria or articles about starving ones in Yarmouk refugee camp.
Once again, I expect the backlash from this post topped with questions like, “So what are we supposed to do?” “Should the Syrians remain in suffering under Al Asad?” “How dare you speak ill of the Mujahideen?” “Clearly you’re not a specialist in politics so stop writing about it,” “You don’t know what’s happening on the ground in Syria,” “You’re making too many generalizations,” “This was a terrible read. You didn’t construct your argument with solid evidence,” and on and on and on. This is not about Syria. This is about Muslims and how they see Islam. The reactions to Syria are symptoms of a deeper disease that’s killing our hearts, one by one. There’s no use in talking about political details when our very principles are abandoned. In fact, there’s no need to wonder why God hasn’t changed our conditions yet, for He “does NOT change the condition of a people until they change what’s within themselves.”