Q&A: Legal and Social Discrimination in the Muslim World

In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Years ago, my entire decision to begin this website was catapulted into reality by a brazenly ignorant, disrespectful comment made on the late American Bedu's blog, a segment of which I have pasted below.  While this comment is no different than dozens of others I have been unfortunate (or fortunate?) enough to stumble upon online, it may very well have been the straw that broke the camel's [whoah, watch the stereotypes there buddy] back [get it--Muslim, camel?  I pun, I pun].

I find myself believing that I will do something, and then putting that "something" commitment on the back burner until later days (in some cases, way later).  While I am extremely behind on a great many items on my "let's vindicate Islam" checklist, I am blessed to say that God continues to grant me life, and I continue to struggle with this life I am living to find the time to sit down and check off the haters, one by one.

Today, He is blessing me with the ability to continue to tackle this particular remark, years after the passing of Carol, the woman behind the blog linked above, which is meaningful for me because it really does remind me of the entire reason I needed to draft up my very own little safe haven on the web--to show the reality of the beauty of Muslim women and to rightfully attribute these characteristics to the source, which is our deep connection to Him.

I ask God for the prayer of Moses (peace be upon him), facing Pharaoh:

My Lord! Relax my heart, make my endeavor easy for me, and untie any knots in my tongue, making my words understandable.

Proceeding.  You ready, readers?  Let's tackle the haters!

Question:

Given the legal and social discrimination practiced by Muslims in Islamic societies against non-Muslims and even other Muslims, and the rampant disrespect for human rights in Islamic societies, why should people in the West believe that Muslims are tolerant or even want to live in peace? Why should we believe that Muslims in the West are any different from their brethren in Islamic societies? 

Answer:

The comment above finishes as they usually do--with a challenge to Muslims to respond coupled with an assertion along the lines of "...the absence of apologetic Muslims leaping to clarify at [commentator]'s beck and whim should clearly lead humanity to arrive at the conclusion that the entirety of Islam is to blame...because, of course, mustn't there be a plethora of edified Muslim scholars with no better goals in life than to troll Islamophobic remarks on the internet and reply appropriately in a speed-of-light timeframe?"

But we'll get to that ridiculousness later.

For now, let's begin by dissecting the above comment--for those faithful readers out there, you already know how we do:

I am going to say that this loaded remark really does have several layers of accusations, all of which we need to tackle.  I have divided them into the following five categories, for simplification purposes:

  1. The assertion is made that it is a "given" that all, or at least the majority, of Muslim-dominated countries perpetuate legal and social discrimination.
  2. The implication of this assertion is that either these incidences of "Muslim-perpetrated" discrimination, if you will, exceeds that of legal and social discrimination occurring in societies dominated by any other faith--or, even, that it is Muslim-dominated societies practicing discrimination in the absence of any comparable forms of discrimination in societies led by other (or no) faiths.
  3. The question is posed regarding "Western" attitudes towards Muslims, indicating that the commentator believes that non-Muslim citizens of the western world have some kind of monopoly over the beliefs of the entire "West" [notice how he capitalized the "W" of a non-proper noun, which either indicates his poor grammar skills or, worse, his subconscious projection of western privilege], regardless of the tens of millions of Muslims living in the West [bigoted, much?].
  4. The challenge is posed to "western" Muslims to distance ourselves from their "eastern" counterparts, which dually asserts that Muslims living in the west should be whitewashed [oh yes, I did just go there] while simultaneously questioning whether or not we should even be allowed to.
  5. Of course, let's not forget the interchange between "Islamic" and "Muslim," which clearly projects the assumption that Islam is somehow responsible for the aforementioned accusations of human rights violations and social and legal discriminations in some of the Muslim world, even in the event that this can be demonstrated [which he fails to do, but I'm getting ahead of meeself here, heh].

Phew!  Did you see how I did that?  That's English for you, grasshopper.  Now, let's kick these arguments to the curb and start our ignorance-shaming to discourage future intellectual vomiting like this from continually smearing the web.  Here we go:

ONE

I take issue with any individual remarking that something is a "given" without substantiating this "given" with anything except the assumption that other people agree with the commentator's same narrow-mindedness.  In the future, if you want to hate on someone or something, don't dare project your blanket statements without any kind of evidence and think that using fancy words like "given" suffice.  It doesn't.  

So, first, I am going to argue that it is not a "given" that Muslim societies in general practice some form of widespread legal and social discrimination.  A simple google search shows that fancy-schmancy statisticians identified over fifty Muslim-dominated countries around the world.  I assert that some of these countries are extremely forward-thinking and can even give the west a run for its money.  It's no secret that I am half Syrian, which is notorious for being a country rich with a history of tolerance between Muslims and their Judaeo-Christian counterparts, for example.  Moving on:

TWO

Of course, there are some countries dominated by Muslims that are largely recognized for discrimination and human rights violations.  Having said this, there are also countries dominated by Christians that are largely recognized for discrimination and human rights violations [try female genital mutilation in Christian-dominated segments of Africa, anyone?  Or this?  But I digress].  And there are Hindu-dominated societies notorious for their gross human rights violations and intolerance towards other faiths [think: Gujarat].  And there are Buddhist-dominated societies notorious for their gross human rights violations and intolerance towards others.  And even right here, in the good ol' U.S. of A., where I sit and type this, we have--shudder!--numerous humans rights violations accusations in our past and current history.

So, the notion that Muslim-dominated societies somehow spearhead the world's humans rights violations or legal/social discrimination against people of certain faiths is simply ludicrous and unsubstantiated.  There is no evidence to support the assertion that Muslim-dominated societies are more likely to engage in discrimination or human rights violations than other societies.  But this brazen assertion made by the commentator quoted above really drives home the reality of the non-Muslim western privilege I already mentioned.  Accusations are made with no justification or supporting evidence and we, Muslims, are expected to just stop, drop, and jump to defend ourselves lest we be forever branded and stigmatized, as this person has tried to do.

It also shows the harmful reality of a multi-billion dollar industry  perpetuating Islamophobia which I have referenced multiple times before and will, by His will, continue to reference until my fingers turn blue.  The truth is, Muslim-societies are not statistically more inherently intolerant than those of other faiths, but are simply projected to be such by extremely wealthy individuals who wouldn't have you believing anything differently [hello, Fox news].

One day, I envision a world in which this doesn't have to be the case.

THREE

Why should people in the west believe that Muslims are tolerant and peace-loving?  Well, for starters, this should be the de facto position of the west for any human from any faith.  There has been a great culmination of human minds and religious and philosophical traditions that went into the establishment of the "innocent until proven guilty" attitude [of which, Islam is one], and not only is now not the time to change that, but cherry-picking Muslims and rendering us, as an entire nation 1.6-billion-and-climbing-member-strong somehow ineligible of this basic human right [yes, I'm going here] means falling into the exact same bigoted level of intolerance that the commentator accuses us of [oh, the irony!].  But I digress.

I know that, in reality, the logic I bring to the table is too much for many a Muslim-hating mind.  That's not entirely the fault of the haters--again, it's that bajillion-dollar bid-ness of Islam-bashing that we keep falling back to.  The creation of large-scale psychological stigma is a very dangerous weapon and the effects last in the subconscious mind regardless of all reason.

So, instead of relying on logic alone, I'm going to do the above commentator a favor by tackling the real underlying worry that he apparently has: does Islam teach Muslims to be intolerant?  Of course, if the commentator was brave enough to face his own question with a simple online search, he would have found numerous articles [albeit wedged in between the sponsored posts of Islamophobic haters] of Muslims who have already tackled this question in an honest, forthright fashion.  But hey, let's indulge, dear readers, and let me be the bajillionth Muslim to contribute to this topic.  It's not like I have anything better to do with my life--like write my embryology dissertation, or study for my genetics exam, or do my laundry.  I am entirely at the disposal of privileged Islamophobes, after all.

FOUR

At the risk of sounding insensitive, and bearing in mind that I am about to delve into theology in the next segment of this article, I do feel the need to briefly respond to the implication that Muslims in the west need to grovel for acceptance at the feet of those who don't share our faith.  So let me just state in no unclear terms that there simply are no words in the English (or any) language to express how little I actually care about the opinions of those who believe that I should "whitewash" myself, or essentially assimilate and mold myself to better fit another human's expectations of me based on their own cultural expectations.  I do not cater to bigots, to put it simply.  

Furthermore, the only reason I am gracing the above comment with a response is because I feel very strongly that the majority of self-professed Islam skeptics are only so because they are unaware that they have fallen victim to an ongoing campaign to perpetuate false stereotypes against Muslims and, more importantly, Islam.  Anything I write on the topic is in the interest of giving (even rude) commentators the benefit of the doubt, although I firmly believe that the responsibility should, at some point, lie on the individual himself or herself to respectfully seek answers to the questions and worries promoted against Islam by those who have both the Islamic background and knowledge as well as the authority of discussing such issues on behalf of the Muslim community.

So in summary, I am no less of a "westerner" than any human from any other religious (or a-religious) tradition, regardless of whether or not I choose to conform to the current depictions of the western woman.  Sorry not sorry.

FIVE

Lastly, I have to admit that I fibbed in number "four."  There's one more reason that I address the Muslim-haters in addition to simply giving them the benefit of the doubt, and it actually epitomizes the final point that I want to make here.  There is a beautiful verse in the Quran which states:

"And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk the earth in humility, and when the ignorance address them, they say, 'Peace.'"

The fact is, regardless of what the ascribed faith of any of my dear readers are, the above quote from the Quran should resonate with you.  I don't want my own feisty spirit to overpower the deep internal desire I have to forgive, to practice the tolerance I preach, and to embody the characteristics taught by my faith which, I believe, will truly enhance the human community and lead us to embracing one another and protecting our mutual legal and social rights.  Let's rise above the stereotypes.  Let's embrace the haters with an ultimate message of peace.

As for the actual topic of Islam and some of the plethora of ways in which my beautiful faith teaches me to honor all humans, I would like to refer you to another question posed by a very kind reader who gave me permission to re-post.  Happy reading [ha, you thought you were done, didn't you?]!

 

Dena AtassiComment