The global community of human beings

Gina Khan and Maajid Nawaz flagged up this post by Amjad Khan at Left Foot Forward on Facebook. (The post is at LFF, the flagging up was at FB. God language is hard to do.) It argues that it’s not good enough for Muslims to say that groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda don’t represent them.

The first reason is that it doesn’t stop them. Most Nigerians hate Boko Haram, but Boko Haram doesn’t give a shit, and goes right on murdering and enslaving people.

The second point to be made is that statements such ‘they don’t represent me’ are only useful if they are a precursor to a sustained effort to challenge and undermine jihadism. In my experience, this is rarely the case, in fact, the opposite tends to be true.

Such statements tend to be another way of saying ‘this is none of my business because I don’t agree with them’. By merely declaring jihadists not representative of Muslims at large, many Muslims are in fact refusing to take ownership of the problem and merely performing a PR exercise.

I think that’s true but I also sympathize with Muslims who think they shouldn’t have to keep saying ‘they don’t represent me’. I’m ambivalent, as so often. It’s not my fault or my doing that there are some feminists who think there’s such a thing as “women’s way of knowing” and I shouldn’t have to keep saying that’s not my feminism. But then, reality is what it is, and sometimes we have to do things we shouldn’t have to do.

Muslims either go into conspiratorial mode or convince themselves that it is not their problem when faced with jihadi excesses.

And yet the very same people will then say they are concerned about Islamophobia and the Palestinian cause because it affects fellow Muslims and that they have concerns about the global Muslim community.

How can one be concerned about the global Muslim community and not want to tackle jihadism which, in the grand scheme of things, has killed far more Muslims tha[n] anyone else?

Rather than offering such shallow condemnations, we as Muslims need to stop being solely concerned with the image of Islam and Muslims and recognise that challenging jihadists and associated extremists proactively will do more to rehabilitate the image of Islam than shallow ‘not in my name’ statements.

Well that’s a point. Difference feminists haven’t been engaging in campaigns of mass murder, nor have they been stoning women to death, nor have they been sentencing and executing “adulterous” couples, nor have they been enslaving Nigerian schoolgirls by the hundreds. If they had been, I would be pretty damn motivated to do everything I could to oppose and stop them. I do believe in globalism and universalism, so I do think that murders in Afghanistan or Somalia matter every bit as much as murders in Canada or Scotland. Never mind the global Muslim community or the global feminist community; just join hands to defend the global community of human beings, vulnerable before armed gangs of zealots.


  1. Evan Williams says

    I agree. What is worse is that these groups who commit atrocities welcome the western belief that they do represent all Muslims with open arms, because it fuels our fear, and thus our overblown response to their actions, which in turn just enables them to recruit even more moderates or fence-sitters to their side when we blow up another wedding procession.

  2. A Masked Avenger says

    When people say this kind of stuff, my first thought is, “Does this apply equally to Americans?” Are we obligated to say, over and over, that the Bush and Obama administrations don’t represent us when they slaughter foreigners of color by the thousands? Are we blamable for their mass murder if we fail to spit on the ground every time their names are mentioned? Is it justifiable to blame us, and treat us accordingly?

    Because that’s what they’re proposing for the world’s 1+ billion Muslims.

  3. johnthedrunkard says

    I think that in real life, reasonable people who are members of Muslim culture don’t actually SEE the jihadis among them. Your neighborhood mosque in Fresno might not have an obvious crazy contingent. Just as your diocese might not have any pedophile priests.

    How much did ‘real’ christians do against Fred Phelps?

    It IS a ‘good thing’ to distance oneself from the crazy fringes of a group one might be identified with: ‘notallmen,’ perhaps some sort of ‘woofreefeminism,’or ‘nonrepublicanXian’ etc. etc.

    But if making such a distinction is needed, counter-labeling is not sufficient. Reasonable Muslims, Non-looney Feminists, Men-who-don’t-tolerate-rape-culture et al, are taking on a commitment to concrete, visible action.

  4. bigwhale says

    @A masked avenger

    I do think I as an American have some responsibility for the wrongs of our leaders. It is like a parallel to the pushback against #notallmen. Just saying we disagree with our leaders is off topic at best. Men, Americans, gamers, and Muslims should not be prejudged on an individual basis, but the problems happening within the culture of a group reflects badly on that groups culture. Replace “Islam” with “Reddit” and there have been a lot of good arguments made to this effect on FTBs recently.

    “Good people” cause harm they might be blind to or not be able to do anything about as an individual. Sam Harris loves his wife, but is part of a culture that harms women. I am a caring person, but my government drops bombs on civilians. When someone has a valid criticism of America, I should try to amplify their voice, not detract from it.

    It is a tricky question, what each individual feels obligated to do, but I wouldn’t say Bush didn’t represent me. He represented me and I disagreed with him. I caused harm by not campaigning harder against him. I caused harm by buying a car instead of donating that Monday to the needy. I do what I can, but I don’t think I can ever really say I am a good person who has done all I can and the problems of the world are because of those other people.

    Also, there is a confusion between causal blame and moral blame. The conflation of the two is a root of this problem. And those who confuse the two are really not helping, like assigning blame to a rape victim. Of course actions lead to consequences, but rape is not a problem of actions by bad women. Deciding who is a good person and who is a bad person makes us feel better but rarely solves anything. The man who forgets to lock his car doesn’t have moral blame even though his actions led to a theft. Being Muslim, American, redditor, or atheist thought leader doesn’t make anyone a bad person, but every group and culture has problems and could be better. Getting in the way of such change is deserving of criticism.

    All Muslims should not be treated like ISIS. But if all they do is spit on the ground, they are deserving of criticism. If all I did was spit on the ground against Bush’s wars, I deserve blame for that.But that doesn’t make me just as bad or a “bad person”. We all have blind spots and limitations. We should be treated accordingly for that.

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