My existential crisis of a Muslim man who haunts me the heart of my being. In the midst of the terrible nihilism of Isis, the dull orthodoxy of the self-proclaimed guardians of Islam and the culture of fear in the west, which sees all muslims as pure evil, I am looking for an answer to a simple and non-requested question: how does it feel to be a Muslim today?
Instead, you ask me to denounce – even apologize for – the horrors of Manchester, Nice, Orlando, Paris and Berlin, as if I was a silent accomplice to applaud gently behind the costume of my faith. You mistake my silence for duplicity, my shock for the deception, and my choking inability to understand for disloyalty. But have you asked me how I feel instead of how you feel about me?
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Well, I feel morally and psychologically exhausted. The moral gulf that separates me from the evil strength of Isis is both comforting and haunting. Haunts because of their abominable strike will always be stronger and more spectacular than the tenor of my indignation. Their tales of terror and destruction will always stifle my calls for tolerance. My voice of moderation is deep, but low in the face of unspeakable bestiality. I do not apologize. I clamor for my right to be heard and to tell my distress, confusion and hope.
I’m tired of seeing my faith, trapped in a cancer cycle of terror, reduced to a vapid discussion of the veil, the burqa and burkinis, and by an obsessive fixation with the fatwas. An imam who condemns the music because it has the potential to transform young people into apes and pigs is simply an aberration to the islamic theology. We have much more important issues in need of urgent answers. Questions that should haunt our present and disrupt our everyday life as followers of this faith.
What keeps me awake at night is the way we have been immersed in this sad state of decline. Why all of a sudden we have stopped thinking and inventing, we who gave the world astronomy, chemistry, algebra, surgery, university, the musical scales and coffee. How can we reconcile the anarchic savagery of our worst Muslims of today with the humanist to the generosity of our best Muslim yesterday? What have we to offer the world today?
In addition to the brutality of colonization and imperialism, I often wonder about our own responsibility in this waste of energy. Our humanist ancestors of an epoch of the golden age ruling the world because they have chosen, at his own risk and at the same time, engaging history of the project and their knowledge in favor of all humanity.
Unfortunately, Isis is only the cumulative result of people who have long expelled themselves from the story, or things moving, or bring back something new. That is the tragedy of being rendered superfluous. In fact, the viscerality of Isis has deep and painful roots in a relentless process of atomization of the Muslim. The vast majority of Muslims have not resorted to violence, but they have not actually raised against the closure of the free thought.
Many have written about this historic decline and often in bad ways, by assigning to Islam in an unflattering place in the waiting room of history. My goal here is not to denigrate a civilization, but to diagnose the current malaise, one that inflicts the Muslims of today and prevents them from thinking about themselves in the world, not because they are incapable of doing so, but because of a coordinated campaign to deny them the right to do so. Like many Muslims, I feel the weight of this tension every day because the distance between the religious leaders and the world in which we live is a gaping hole.
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The greatest conductor of this campaign is not Isis. This is only one of its sad events. It is Saudi Arabia and the rise of Wahhabi religiosity that cripples every Muslim today. His literalist theology is stuffy and has no place in the modern world.
How can we tolerate a religious system which still flogs his people, in the public squares, is a denial of women as fundamental human rights, such as driving and the windows search, and criminalize any form of dissent? Weight of words worthy of a huge danger that is Saudi Arabia. I don’t mince my words, because this tragedy has lasted too long and it flies Muslims around the world for their ability to think their religion again.
In fact, I am in agreement with the Algerian author Kamel Daoud, who made a subtle distinction between a “black Isis” and a “white Isis”. Black Isis says it beheads, plunders, kills indiscriminately, and destroyed the cultural heritage of humanity, while the white Isis – Saudi Arabia – is best-dressed, and clean, but it does more or less the same thing.
Saudi Arabia has produced, according to Daoud, “a fatwa of the valley” and a massive industry of theologians, imams, mosques, books, cartoons, and religious, editorials, and satellite tv channels. The oil has not only polluted the planet, but he has a lot picked up the intellectual and religious in the month of march of Islam in erecting the walls of the prison around thinking and innovation. This is not an extreme view to hold. It is one widely shared in the streets of Muslim-majority countries. However, we do not have to act on it.
This should also explain the pain that I endured after watching Donald Trump is dancing with the members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia, last month. The violence of this scene is infuriating because he said any Muslim that no matter how the Saudis, the guardians of the most sacred sites of Islam, to violate human rights, bomb and starve the children of Yemen, or prevent any opening for religious moderation, the united states will simply look away because the oil and free trade have much more value that the Muslims were fighting for their right to freedom.
But why we allow ourselves to live at the mercy of this vicious game strategically suspended between the greed for resources and power? How can we turn away from this path of indoctrination and passive absorption of embrace an open society that questions and tests his beliefs and values in the eternity?
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We don’t have to go far to find inspiration. Muhammad Iqbal, a Muslim modernist, philosopher and poet, told us at the beginning of the 20th century, to the thought, to be free, it must not be reactionary, defensive, or simply restorative. Above all, it must lead to an acceptance of the risk and open discussion. Religion, for Iqbal had a project in perpetual motion; not a closed theology condemned for imitation, pure and simple. Islam has marked the end of the prophecy, not human intelligence.
In a moment of deep confusion and anger, we must look to the hope in the midst of us get rid of our intellectual laziness and awaken in each of us a new spirit of vitalism which is turned towards the world. The muslims are in need of a radical theology of hope, in harmony with the world, not outside of it.
This anguish that we feel inside can only heal if the Muslims can draw their faith from the darkness of intolerance and the lull of the tradition. But, for this we need to fight against the futility of the suicide bomber, the bomb wherever it hits with the quiet of the promise of moderation.
If we rise up to this urgent challenge is the answer to our existential crisis.