Shiekh Al-Kabi Teaches Me Islam

Sometimes signs are undeniable. They go beyond the probabilities of mere coincidence. Today, I was shown just such a thing that sometimes you find what you’re looking for in the most unlikely places. I was invited to be on British Muslim TV, a program on Sky to speak about the Women’s Mosque which just opened last month. I was quite happy to do so as I believe that mosque space is one of the main areas where misogyny is most expressed. Female spaces in mosques are mostly just afterthoughts. This was enshrined in a line from the movie ‘Four Lions’ where Umar’s (the terrorist leader) wife said about such spaces ‘it was a flippin’ toilet till you took the china out!’. That is the situation, in a nutshell.

I had prepared myself with some sound theological arguments. To me, it was clear as day that was not an offense against Islam. I saw the prayer institution as a cultural practice anyway. How can culture be wrong?

British Muslim TV had very kindly offered to pick me up via taxi and I graciously accepted. I waited at the agreed spot as instructed by the cab driver. However, it was not easy for him to find the spot. That part of London was notoriously difficult to manoeuvre and you’d be lucky not getting fined. He had me on the phone while he looked for me and it was a good fifteen minutes before he finally found me. I thought this guy would just give up and then I’d be in hot soup but no, he was as cool as a cumber. Finally he found me (before I found him!) and he had to yell across the road before I finally clued up and saw him. Into the cab I got.

This was a Polish or Lithuanian man (possibly an associate of Boris the Bullet Dodger – called that because he dodges bullets, as we are told in the film ‘Snatch). I particularly liked speaking to East Europeans because of their very novel outlook to life. Theirs was a fresh immigration experience, much like my own.

I tried some small talk (weather, traffic, sorry about not seeing him) but it didn’t seem to take. He had a lot going on. Looking for the roads to take him to the next passenger was his number one priority. The area, as I said, was a mass of closed roads and hard to find exits. I decided to shut my gob. Then a call came on his mobile and he jabbered in a foreign language…except it wasn’t Polish or Lithuanian or even Russian. I was trying to remember when I had heard it before when he ended his call with a loud ‘khudaaa hafiz!’. This man was Iranian!

Finally we found the place where he was meant to pick up the next passenger who, as it turned out, was also a panellist on the same show as myself. Finally this Iranian gentleman was able to speak and introduced himself. He had been in this country for twenty-five years, he said. When I correctly identified his country of origin (we immigrants call it ‘coo’ for short), he became extra-friendly.

Then the other passenger got in. I became slight tense as this young man was dressed very conservatively. He wore a topi, a jubbah and had the standard Sunnah beard sans mustache. Uh oh, I thought. Guys like this usually hated guys like me for my irreverent views. He was sure to slaughter me during the show, I expected. I introduced myself and he surprised me then and there by saying he was part of a very important movement for social justice. I was very impressed because the cause he stands up for is a particularly sensitive issue in the Muslim community. He has his work cut out for him.

This other passenger and our cab driver quickly got to know each other through the whole Muslim brotherhood thing. Naturally the conversation turned to the topic of discussion and the other passenger asked my views. I figured he’d find out soon enough so I came out with it. To my surprise, he was open to the idea of an inclusive masjid. I dropped my defences and was ready to open up, being rather ashamed of myself for jumping to conclusions.

When three Muslims get together, it would be surprising if the conversation did not turn to the sorry state of affairs Muslims are currently experiencing. We got to that topic in about two seconds. It turned out, our cabbie had a lot to say!

He first talked about the beautiful religion of islam. He says it gave him so much peace and tranquillity. I really felt as if this man had some personal connection with Allah or something. Ok, if I wanted to get technical, I could perhaps fault his quotations from the Quran but that would be besides the point completely. The Quran was not his hymnbook, it was his jumping off point, his springboard. Perhaps his springboard usage wasn’t great but he more than made it up with his physical prowess (still sticking to the metaphor here). I’m referring to his deep intuition of what was islam and I was intently listening.

He also spoke of some of the more unsavoury characters he has had to ferry over the years. One in particular disgusted him by saying we shouldn’t feel bad for those who are suffering in the cold if they are ‘kuffar’ (infidels). He replied by first asking permission to the Islamofascist if he could speak freely. When he got permission to do, he said to him, if you were in the hospital seriously ill and the doctor said, I don’t want to treat him because he’s a Muslim, what would you do? Not many can argue with such logic.

He also had a wonderful ‘feel’ for the hadith and sunnah. Prophet Muhammad is known in the Muslim world as ‘rahmah lil ‘alameen’ (mercy to the worlds, Traditional translations tell us) but with the presence of Islamofascism, one can rarely feel it these days. But he didn’t forget. He knew of some stories which captured the essence of the Prophet’s character. Even I, a Quranist, who haven’t been moved by these stories for so long felt the love for the Prophet again. Were these stories ‘sahih’ (authentic)? I don’t know. I would ask , were those stories authentic? The stories of him calling for the subjugation of mankind and forcing them into Islam? Our cabbie said, if they were authentic, he would not able to feel what he felt in Islam. That was good enough for me.

And so went on our happy chatter for the better part of an hour (traffic was heavy and it was a long-ish journey). Our cabbie told us about what he thought the Muslim world needed. To stop exploiting each and to go back to the basics. Islam was a religion for humanity. We are to be good neighbours to each other. We are not to force each other into our respective religions. We are to hold back our negative emotions and try to be patient (this man was the Job of cab drivers, believe me).

Finally we arrived at our destination with time to spare. Despite my fears, I did not want to say anything because I knew our cabbie. would just chalk whatever happens down to it being fated by Allah. Such was his absolute reliance. It turned out I had my epiphanic experience even before I arrived at the studio having an intellectual discussion. And it was all thanks to Shiekh Al-Cabbie.

I am A Muslim and I Love Free Speech!

I am a Muslim and I love free speech. Not just like it, I absolutely love it. I do not love it because I am free to insult other religions or even politicians. In fact, I never exercise free speech to those ends at all. No, I love free speech because it enables me to listen to the other sides of the story. And that is tremendously valuable in my human journey.

Growing up, I led a sheltered life, from a religious point of view. I did not grow up in the West but in Malaysia, where Islamofascist elements within the government prevented me from having open dialogue with people of other faiths. It is actually a crime to preach to Muslims, even by Muslims who are ‘unlicensed’ to do so. And so when I came to the West, I experienced a supermarket of ideas. I enjoyed that smorgasbord like no other!

Of course there was criticism towards Islam and challenges to its truth. At first, it was uncomfortable to experience but now I realise that, unless you actually listen to criticism and provide a rational explanation or even an experiential one to refute the, you faith would be like a hollow shell. That sort of faith is not for me.

Today, my belief in Islam has been through the harshest of criticisms and yet (praise God) I still believe that it is a path to God. Moreover, I believe there are infinite other paths to God and that people should follow their own portions of the Truth as long as they are peaceful to others. Does it compromise my faith that I believe Islam does not have the exclusive claim to Truth? Absolutely not. Rather it just means that given my cultural positioning, Islam is the best path for me. I acknowledge the fact that religions are vehicularized by cultures and that cultures are subjective. Thus it is incredibly easy for me to abstain from eating pork but it may be quite difficult for someone who converts to Islam.

I understand at present that Muslims are mostly opposed to free speech. The excuse they give is that free speech must not be used for mockery and insults. But let us think about this for a second – are we not insulting other faiths by our very existence? The Quran speaks mostly strongly against the belief most Christians hold – that Jesus is the son of God or God Himself. If we expect the Quran to be allowed circulation (which it is, you can find the Quran anywhere in the UK), then why are we upset that criticisms against Islam are also allowed? True that some of the criticisms against Islam are visual images which are perceived as insulting, but who is to draw the line against what’s acceptable? If we Muslims are ok with criticising other faiths, then we must be open to be criticised as well. The stoicism in the face of such insults is what creates true faith, in my opinion.

I say to fellow Muslims, try to understand that we live in the world and the world is full of diversity. Muslims are the inheritors of the result of historical agencies. There are cultures which despise Islam and Muhammad simply because of its historical interaction with Muslims. Try to be understanding and magnanimous. This is actually beneficial to your faith. Free speech is beautiful.

Female Leadership in Prayers – Challenging Islamic Male Privilege

Ten years ago, Amina Wadud Muhsin, a Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University, led Friday prayers with a mixed congregation. I can still remember the reverberations in the Muslim world as well as in the then embryonic social media. Conservative Traditional Muslims, guardians of the male privilege in Islam, were up in arms at this affront to Islamic male privilege. When social media became popular, the now notorious picture of a female-led prayer organised by the MPV became viral and not in a good way. The picture was smeared with hate rhetoric, calling them all sorts of hateful names. The Muslim world, it seems, is very resistant to such a big change. Last night, I attended a film screening of The Noble Struggle at the London School of Economics, a documentary about Amina Wadud’s struggle during those early days. There was a massive support of course , since the screening was attended by members of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative (of which I am a member) and LSE’s Feminist Society. However, there was a question raised by a member of the audience which I feel doesn’t quite grasp the implications of female leadership in prayers. In Traditional Islam, to understand if something is valid or otherwise, one must recourse to the massive tradition of knowledge (turath). It is true in the Quran and the hadith, there is no explicit prohibition against women led prayers. Scant hadiths are quoted with some logical gymnastics but this is missing the point completely. The opponents of the female-led prayer give one seemingly unassailable point and that is, in the Sunnah (practises of the Prophet and of the Salaf, the earliest community) , there was no female leadership in prayers in a mixed congregation. This point is irrefutable and there must be confronted and overturned by stepping out of the paradigm of Islamic knowledge tradition. The question we need to ask at this point is – how much was Prophet Muhammad a cultural being? In other words, how much of his activity can be attributed to direct inspiration from Allah and consequently to his interactions with his cultural situation? Being a Quranist, the answer simple is for me – everything outside the Quran is culture. It’s such a clear demarcation. However, I appreciate my fellow Muslims would like to use extra-Quranic material. In this case, I urge them to consider the following arguments. Prophet Muhammad engaged in some spiritual practices including the ritual prayers. These prayers were recited in Arabic. If the Prophet was Chinese, Muslims would be praying in Chinese today. This is also true for the ritual itself. The ritual was already being practised in Makkah hence its inclusion with some modifications in the Islamic framework . It is culturally incidental and thus appropriated by the Prophet, historically speaking. Following this, it was probably not a cultural practice for Arabs to have female leadership in prayers. Prophet Muhammad, for reasons of his own, did not contravene this norm. It’s really as simple as that – he was a cultural being and reacting to his own cultural situations. Muslims have no problem adapting to technology. The ultra-conservative Salafees, literalists to the core, have a tremendous web presence despite their dislike of innovation (bid’ah). Ask them about this contradiction and they will tell you, they only dislike innovation for religious matters. Well aren’t religious discussions and preachings religious matters? Of course they are and perhaps the Prophet favoured direct interaction because it was ‘inspired by Allah’. Whatever the case, Salafees have turned a blind eye to this conundrum simply because they have to survive in the postmodern world. In the same way, female leadership is something which challenges them so they redrew the delineations between religion and worldly matters to exclude such a practice. In conclusion, female leadership in prayers is not unIslamic. It is simply an affront to the male-privileged Conservative Traditional Islam that the world knows. I think it is about time for such an affront. The Islamic prayer, being a ubiquitous symbol of the religion needs to be appropriated by women as well. This is simply a first step in overturning the oppression of Sharia law against women. Hail Amina Wadud and those with her!

Dear New Atheists Re: Chapel Hill Shootings

Dear New Atheist Thinkers,

Salaamun alaikum (Peace be upon you),

I understand how conviction drives people. When we believe in an idea and we believe that it is good, nay the best for humankind, then we will go to great lengths to ensure that this idea is accepted. Sometimes we may even lose our objectivity in pushing this idea. We see it with religionists all the time. The compelling nature of dogma causes you to delude others, inadvertently perhaps. Maybe this delusion can even be self-delusion.

However, being New Atheists, I highly expect you to be reasonable people. After all, it was the very exercise of reasoning which enabled you to conclude that God does not exist. I disagree with your conclusions, of course but I respect you more than I respect religionists who simply inherit the dogma of their forefathers without question. Through your works, I can see that you have highly developed reasoning skills which obviously went into your ground-breaking and often philosophically challenging thought. This is how you became a movement, heralding a new phase in Atheism, as it were.

I must therefore ask you, why has this genius not found its way into your analysis of Islam?

I have read your books and followed your statements about Islam for some time and I find the most generalising language being used. I see phrases like ‘Islam is the problem’ ,‘Islam believes in’ and ‘Islam says’. This sort of language one can only find in public discourse. No, I take it back. Not public discourse but public chatter. It is no different from when, waiting for a bus along with a middle aged lady, we saw an elderly man in Muslim garb spit his betel nut juice on the ground. She commented to me, perhaps not guessing I’m a Muslim myself, ‘it’s his religion’.

I do understand that you see religion as the bane of human existence. From your writings, I would guess that you feel that Islam is probably the biggest bane of all. That’s fair enough. That is your perception and I respect it. I can even agree with you that Islamofascism (which I define to be the strain with the Islamic tradition given to oppression and suppression) is a huge menace to humanity and needs to be extinguished. However, why not use your mammoth intellects to also see that Muslims use their religion to empower themselves towards becoming better people? You may say that they can do that without religion and I would agree but why does that matter if they do indeed become better people? Surely if you press your way as the only way to Truth, then yourselves would be construed as religious fundamentalists! Why not respect that other people have their own ways to evolve?

A great tragedy occurred two days ago in Chapel Hill. I don’t need to tell you about it because you have responded. It is becoming clear that the alleged murderer was inspired by your writings. I am in no way suggesting that your writings encourage murder. Far from it. However, you cannot control who your readers are. One may read your books and use it as a justification to commit violence against those whom you consider ‘deluded’. This would be in no way your fault but here is what I would like to ask you: Is it possible that your generalizing language enables such evil individuals to perceive Muslims tribalistically, almost racially? Such perceptions cause random violence.

Perhaps, instead of saying ‘Islam says’, say ‘within the Islamic Tradition, it is said’ or ‘Islamofascism, an ideology distinct from other forms of Islam, says’ or even ‘some Muslim scholars say, but there are Muslims who disagree’. This is specific and precise language worthy of people with gargantuan intellects. Such people can understand various shades of grey. If you think about it, ‘Islam’ cannot say anything anyway. It is mostly a complex network of human discussions compiled over a thousand plus years. People speak, using these texts as their mouthpieces. By highlighting the specificity and subjectivity of these views, you will help people isolate the Islamofascists from the main body of Muslims and thereby cut it off from its human resource. Isn’t that your objective, rather than using Islam as a punching bag to increase your popularity? I sincerely hope it is.

Thank you very much for reading my humble letter and I hope we can all live together in a more peaceful world soon.

With peace.

Farouk A. Peru

The Chapel Hill Murders – A Proactive Response

My deepest condolences to the families of the three young people murdered in Chapel Hill last evening. They were 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. They were in their shared home when a man broke in and shot them ‘execution style’.

I can’t even imagine the grief their families are experiencing right now. These three had bright futures ahead of them and seemed to be enjoying life to the fullest. Deah was in dental school and did charity work. His sister in law, Razan, had recently graduated and showed some great creative pursuits. These were not radicalised young people who hated the West. They seem to be fully normalised and were getting somewhere in life. What must have been through in their minds in those final moments? I shudder to think, truly.

In times like this, I believe Muslims need to remind ourselves to be proactive. What can we do to stem the rising tide of Islamophobia? Depend on the media? Probably not. While there are good media framings of Muslims, there seems to be also a huge media bias against us. This is especially true in the States where apparently the Chapel Hill murders are said (at the time of this writing) to be only minimally covered. It is not the same in the UK. When the Charlie Hebdo massacre happened last month, the was plenty of media coverage of Muslims who vehemently condemned the attack.

But what can we really do in the face such hate? According to reports, the man who turned himself in, was an atheist-fundamentalist who read the works of major atheist thinkers. I can easily see how these thinkers can promote hate in their writings. These thinkers have extremely well developed critical thought but when it comes to scrutinizing Islam and Muslims, they have a total Dick-and-Jane approach (These are Muslims. They do X). Such hate rhetoric does not help the situation at all but merely throws fuel upon the already raging fire. Something eventually got burned.

Perhaps there is nothing we can do to prevent Islamophobic attacks. After all it only takes one person who go from ‘Islam is a problem’ to ‘Lets kill Muslims’ (an actual trended hashtag, if you remember). However, I do believe we can go a long way towards diffusing this anger. We need to be more proactive rather than let media portrayals define us. Here are a few things we can do:

  1. There are Muslims who show extreme vehemence and recalcitrance when it comes to the West These Muslims are generally young, born and brought up in the West themselves and well-educated. However, they subconsciously see Islam as a tribe and it is against their tribal pride to admit there is a problem within the Ummah. You will recognise them by their use of their term ‘White’ in a very negative way. When Cathy Newman retracted her ‘ushered out of the mosque’ response, they referred to her as ‘white woman’. Muslims often say that Islam does not recognise racial superiority. Why then do these Tribalist Muslims press that button often?

Not only that, they condemn Muslims who agree that Islam has a problem as ‘coconuts’ (brown on the outside, White on the inside). This is a highly racialised slur which shows that these people are themselves racists. How do we know if the alleged killer did not experience the wrath of these Tribalist Muslims? Their hate rhetoric could easily raze the blaze of his own hatred. Muslims need to identify these Tribalists and abandon them en masse.

  1. Going by the story which is emerging , it does not seem unreasonable to assume that the alleged killer targeted these victims due to their dress. That is the only overt sign I can see about them and that too, only among the Abu Salha sisters who wore the hijab. We have to understand, by adopting a religious uniform, we are enabling general perceptions. It is no different from people condemning Goths even though they are all individuals. The Goth look is the first thing they encounter and so they judge by it first. Is this right? Absolutely not. Does it happen? Well it just has.

I am not saying abandon the hijab (even though I do not think it is a command from God) but I am saying that please be aware – if you have a religious uniform, you will be defined by what the other members do. This is unfortunately how violent people operate. They do not come into your homes, ask about your religious beliefs and have in depth theological discussions. You assume the tribal signals – you become unwitting victims. That is how fast it happens. Even approximate tribal signals get included. Remember the Sikh gas station attendant who was killed after 9 -11?

  1. Finallay and perhaps most importantly, Muslims need to go to our tribal leaders and demand that they reform their views. During the Charlie Hebdo incident last month, no one single leader said a word about the theological causes behind Jihadism. There is a massive number of hadiths and ‘scholarly’ opinions’ which enable violence. When are our tribal elders going to be honest and call for the reform of these texts? This is not about becoming ‘modern’ or ‘westernised’, this is about becoming more islamic in the true sense. I guess these leaders are afraid of losing support from the Muslim populous if they do call for reform. Well they have a choice to make. Reform or continue to feed the Islamofascist narrative. Don’t be surprised then when Islamophobia rises accordingly and tragedies like this occur.

It is perhaps the greatest irony of this tragedy that Deah Barakat, the promising young dental student said on his twitter account in the final month of his life, “It’s so freaking sad to hear people saying we should ‘kill Jews’ or ‘kill Palestinians’. As if that’s going to solve anything.” I think it is even sadder that his rare voice of conciliation and moderation will now be silenced forever.


Positive Dissent: An Evening with Ex-Muslims

When I was growing up, my best friend wanted to leave Islam. He had every reason to. His family were only officially Muslims due to the draconian laws in Malaysia which forced anyone who married a Muslim to convert to the faith. Consequently, even though they did not want to be Muslims, legalities forced them to remain officially so. My friend was also a constant target by religious teachers who wanted to instil ‘true faith’ into him. Islam had become the bane of his existence and he naturally wanted to leave.

Being a Conservative Traditional Muslim at the time, I was horrified at this confession. I believed that anyone who left Islam would be executed under Sharia law but Malaysia did not have such a law in place. My friend would still burn in hell forever though. I loved my friend dearly and did not want him to suffer this fate.

Fast forward a quarter of a century and after much thought and contemplation, I now know that I should have supported him in his decision. I believe it is Allah himself who gave my friend his freedom and that Islam (by which I mean the religio-culture) is not the only means to the Divine or perhaps, for a more palatable term to atheists, to human evolution.

This evening, I attended an event organised the Council of Ex-Muslims. A Conservative Traditionalist Muslim might ask me, why on earth would I attend such an event? Have I lost faith at last? Since I am a Quranist, some Traditionalists assume it is simply the last stop before complete atheism. Well if it is, then I have been at this ‘last stop’ for nearly 20 years!

No, I was there for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am interested in the Ex-Muslims as a social phenomenon. Why are they emerging into public life now? What are their narratives like? Where do they go after Islam? These are fascinating questions for me. Secondly, I consider this a test of my faith. Ex-Muslims would ask some difficult questions to challenge my faith. These are the fires which purify the steel of one’s faith. If you cannot listen to dissenting views, then is your faith really that pure to begin with?

The panel members were chosen well. They represented a diverse set of narratives and when combined, emanated a very balanced view of the Ex-Muslim experience. The first was very well-spoken lady with whom I had a chat earlier. She had been through the rigmarole of the Traditional Islamic education and had even spent a year in Pakistan studying Quranic exegesis. However, she had questions brought about through learning various other modes of philosophical analyses. She felt that Islam could not answer these questions and that the notion of a god was untenable in the fact of the vastness of the universe.

The second speaker was also a woman who recounted her traumatic conflict with her parents who prevented her from having a normal social life. It was a very moving story about how she came close to even ending her life. After a long battle with her parents during which she left home, returned and left again, in the end what was the final straw was her consuming non-halal chicken! Such trivialities can cause a severance of family ties? What a world we live in!

The third speaking was from a more liberal background. She had no overt cultural compulsion to practice Islam although Islam remained her religious identity. However, at a certain point in her life, she had some complex theological questions which were simply unanswerable. I especially liked her open attitude about her own Muslim friends. She was like ‘to you your religion, I have my own beliefs’. That should sound very familiar to Quran readers.

The final panellist was the only male and was very affable. He was from a strict Salafee background and was fed fundamentalist diatribe as a child. Although he had doubtful periods, he quickly quelled them and become radicalised and even attended a training camp. However, he began to question some of the harsher beliefs in Islam. His own sexuality made him wonder why Allah would create homosexuals then condemn them to hell (I don’t believe Allah condemned homosexuality but that’s another story). The fourth panelist did become a Progressive Muslim though before leaving Islam altogether.

All in all, I had a very enlightening evening. Do I agree with their critiques of Islam? Partly yes. I do feel that Muslim’s attitude with regards to Islamic education is less than healthy. Very unhealthy in fact. Islamic education is seen a mechanism of identity transference. ‘I am a Muslim, my children must be Muslim’. Little thought actually goes into it. It is a didactic experience and the facilitators are generally rote learners themselves (Ghulam Ahmed Parwez called them medieval librarians). Forget any kind of philosophical thought. That stuff’s haram (forbidden). Big time.

I also disagreed with the Ex-Muslims on some issues. Well obviously. If I agreed with them fully, I would be an Ex-Muslim myself. I basically disagreed with their arguments concerning God’s existence. From the little that was mentioned, it was due to a material conception of the universe. I do feel that there is much to be said for inner explorations and the unity of mysticism and science (Fritjof Capra’s Tao of Physics is a good place to start). Secondly and more importantly, I do feel that their statements regarding the Quran weren’t accurate although I would not fault them for it. They were only repeating the Traditionalists’ understanding which is so prevalent that it is difficult to see anything else.

Having said the above, it would be extremely patronizing to claim that these Ex-Muslims left Islam because they ‘misunderstood’ or for the treatment they experienced. We must respect the fact that they decided that Islam (whatever its form) was simply not for them. And that’s fine. They have lives to live and should do so in the manner in which they find most comfort. As the first speaker said, when she was pretending to be Muslim, she felt like an alien in her own skin. No one should have to live like that. To me, as long as they continue their earthly journeys positively and find fulfilment and happiness, then as a muslim, I bid them peace.

Jeepin Takes On Another Meaning

I caught a tweet this morning which was something to the tune of ‘Muslims shouldn’t be jeepin’‘ referring to the now famous commercial by Jeep. The tweet was obviously by a racist Islamophobe (Yes, Islamophobia is racism and I will explain why below).

I am rather glad that ‘jeepin’ has taken on a more G-Rated albeit more literal meaning. I previously knew ‘jeepin’ from the 1995 movie Clueless where Murray (Donald Faison) accused his girlfriend Dionne (Stacey Dash ) of it. Dionne immediately defined it as ‘vehicular sex’ but strangely, for all its charm, the term never caught on unlike the ‘as if’ catchphrase. Back to the issue at hand though. What provoked the Islamophobe to make his remark about the commercial? Only this person below who appeared in it: hijabi in jeep commercial

Note that there is nothing exclusively Islamic about the woman above. She could well be wearing the headscarf to protect her hair from the sand. Or she could be wearing it because it was her cultural dress. Or indeed, she could be a consciously practising Muslimah who was into spirituality but repudiated any sort of political activitism.

The point is – we can’t tell. Not from the picture anyway.

Yet the Islamophobic tweets kept on shootin’ (pardon the pun).

And this is why Islamophobia is racism. Lets think about this. These people knew nothing about this woman. All they can see is a piece of offending cloth. Yet this cloth is as effective as skin colour as a stimulation to discrimination. This woman already has ‘the look’ from an ethnic angle. Her clothing item merely reinforces her perceived identity as a Muslim. And to the Islamophobes, the enemy.

Ideally, they should talk to this woman. Ask her about her beliefs. She may well be Muslim but that does not mean she is hostile to the West. She may actually adore Western culture and know more about it. We do live in a global village after all.

It’s most unfortunate that superficiality is how the world works. A level of perception which is ripe for exploitation. This is why we need to build human relations based on compassion, kindness and understanding.