Saturday, January 30, 2016
Welcoming Internal Criticism
Invitations to the Muslim community here were met with almost universal avoidance, bar a few courageous individuals who met with him privately. When I expressed an interest in attending his talk, colleagues attempted to disabuse me of the idea based on articles and allegations that related less to his ideas and statements and more to his alleged government support and personal attributes.
Despite the disincentives, I attended his talk in the Seymour Centre, and found that what he argued was logical and rational, understanding of the Muslim community but also challenging. There was little that I could disagree with. My audience question related to whether his continual reference to democracy - a system that is as flawed as all others if not implemented with appropriate accountability mechanisms and by people who are just - was more about the freedom of choice rather than the system itself. I cited Malaysia, South Africa, Mugabe and various other claimed 'democracies' - even our own corrupt Auburn Council which is currently facing the sack. He agreed wholeheartedly and did not dispute my statement.
The evening was a pleasant one and I had the opportunity to chat with many of those who attended, being one of the few Muslim community 'representatives' who could respond to queries and concerns of my fellow audience members, even being approached as I walked the streets to the station.
This highlights to me a huge problem that we have within our community. It's so difficult for many of our community to engage with realistic criticism of how Islam appears. So quick to be judgemental and call out Islamophobia - which does exist and I also am the target of trolls - we are less available to engage with discussing the ideas that underpin fear of Islam, of Shariah and those who claim Islam as their own while committing unconscionable violence to others. Many of us are so focussed on defence that we don't actually understand that theocracy is not something that historically Muslim civilisations have practiced. We haven't engaged at a grassroots level about the practicalities of when and how we should go to war, on what principles, what really is justice and what a 21st century system of governance in a Muslim majority country should look like.
As a community we pine for a romantic notion of a Caliphate where a Muslim ruler will enact laws based on the Shariah. The fact that historically most rulers were Sultans and or hereditary monarchies is conveniently ignored. The fact that the most successful Islamic civilisations had the ruler, and therefore holder of power, separated from the systems of justice developed by Islamic scholars (our modern day separation of powers) is also seldom discussed. It seems that we have combined the governance of the very last and most noble Prophet of God (may Allah grant him abundant blessings and peace) with the foretold Mahdi who will lead an army against gross injustice, without considering the mundane and practical aspects of a just system of statehood in the modern world that does not deny 'modern' human rights and led by a capable Muslim (and team) who is neither Prophet nor Mahdi, but is accountable to all of the State's citizens - of all persuasions.
We have a new generation of Western Muslims who understand their neighbours aspirations and desires for freedom of choice and for accountability of governance. We are quick to claim those same aspirations when it relates to our own needs. Many of this new generation have the education and intelligence to respond to the challenges of the likes of Maajid Nawaz. We have public debates on important issues. Discussions and challenges are rife in Social Media. As Muslims we all adhere to the belief that our religion has the answers - all the answers. If this is not going to be just blind faith, then we need to call on our scholars to articulate this truth more clearly, and develop meaningful responses to our critics whether internal or external. With their critical probing, perhaps we can finally begin to develop a realistic and practical vision of a just future based on Islam that is more than a mythical Caliphate, and cannot be hijacked for violent political ends.
at 5:55 PM