It is naïve to think that the New Zealand mosque terror attack that left 50 dead and 40 injured is an individual incident. It rather represents a new trend in the Western world that is feeding on hate speech in the media, Islamophobia and the rise of the Christian Right. However, there is a lot that Muslims can do in circumstances of this nature to advance the cause of Islam.
A few years back, before the ascension to power of Donald Trump in the United States, the media was a bit reserved to express xenophobia and hate speech openly. However, Donald
Trump’s coming to power sparked off hate speech, where incidents of assault on the basis of hate against Muslim women have become rife. Trump himself is an ordinary person who has no ideology of any sort, which created an ideological vacuum in the US political establishment. But since the Christian Far Right shares his racist and xenophobic views, it looks like the Christian Far-Right has filled the vacuum.
The New Zealand mosque terror attack is not an isolated incident, and it should be dealt with as a phenomenon that feeds on hate speech and Islamophobia. Therefore, Muslims need to work on two major tracks. One is to utilise occasions of this nature, horrible as they are, to present Islam in a way that appeals to an ordinary Western-minded person. The second, is to collaborate with peace-loving ordinary individuals and institutions to promote shared grounds.
Making Islam relevant and appealing to indigenous people means that Muslim minorities in the Western world need to remove the cultural clichés of their countries of origin from Islam, be it the Indian subcontinent or Arabia, and present Islam as a universal religion that addresses mankind in general, particularly current pressing issues. Such cultural clichés make
Muslims live in their own ghettoes, isolated from the rest of society except when doing business. This makes Islam alien to the people who do not identify with Indian or Arab culture, while teachings of Islam appeal naturally to every human being, irrespective of what culture they belong to. It means Muslims must always be involved in societal activities, positively contributing to the welfare of society at large. This makes it necessary that curricula of Islamic studies at all levels of education be reviewed to reflect the content and core teachings of Islam instead of just its forms and shapes. Children are made to memorise a lot of stuff which they do not understand and makes no impact on their lives. Making Islam appeal to local people means making it possible for them to Islamise their own cultures and world views, instead of depriving them of their identity to make them look alien to their own cultural environment.
On the other hand, there are many non-Muslim organisations that enjoin good and forbid evil. Joining organisations of this nature or at least cooperating with them on issues of mutual concern helps in two ways; it accelerates integration, on the on hand, and highlights the contribution of Muslim community on the other hand. The unfortunate part is that many Muslim minorities in the Western world are obsessed with minority mentality, which curbs their efforts and imprisons them in cells of their own making. It makes them keep Islam as a personal property, implying that the “other” does not deserve it!
There is no point in history where Muslims, no matter how small they are in number, kept minority mentality. Had that small, oppressed group of early Muslims in Mecca kept Islam as their own property, it would not have spread to the world. A Muslim’s vision is always that Islam will be the religion of the world, no matter how long it takes, and no matter how oppressed it is in modern times. Muslims need to come up with initiatives that will change people’s lives to better, and from an Islamic perspective, without giving such initiatives the name of Islam. Through daily interaction and collaboration on common causes Muslims can be able to present Islam to the world from a practical point of view. This is the method of the Prophet (peace be upon him), where he interacted with his pre-Islamic community and he was known to be a man of trust.
When Muslim minorities in the Western world present teachings of Islam aloof of cultural clichés, and integrate positively into society, only then can we create alliances with virtuous people who will fight by our side when forces of evil attack. In fact the forces of evil will be repelled by the mere fact that we have won the trust of society at large.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of MUSLIM EYE.