A Difference of Degree, not Substance?

With the approach of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we are seeing many programs on TV, on the Internet, and in print media, programs that honor the lost lives as well as try to heal the residual emotional trauma felt as a nation and as individuals. We see programs outlining the museum and park that has been built on ground zero,and also programs that underscore the continued tension between Muslims and non-Muslim America.

This last focus– upon the continued tension between Muslims and non-Muslim America, concerns me.

I was laying on an acupuncture table when the planes hit the towers. The partitioner did not know I was Muslim– I do not cover. My gut reaction was that “Muslims” did it, and that I did not want to be associated with those who had caused the catastrophe. I did not want to belong to same religion they belonged to, especially after they’d used that religion to justify their heinous, megalomaniac cruelty.  From that day forward, I stopped efforts to practice Islam here in America, where the practice of Islam is a challenge, to say the least. This was not an active decision on my part. I merely stopped. If I had not embraced Islam years before 9/11, I would not have done so afterwards.

As the chain of events leading to the catastrophe unfolded, two words were heard repeatedly: extremists and fundamentalists. I cringed, as I still cringe, every time I hear these words. They imply that those who fit the definitions are indeed Muslims, just like the rest of the Muslim community, with the exception that their ideology had taken on an “extreme” character. Their ideology is one of degree, not substance.

That means that the entire Muslim community holds similar views, but stop short of committing murder. First-hand accounts from Middle Eastern countries support this idea. Muslims were seen celebrating, smiling, cheering, as the images of the falling towers dominated the screens and headlines. Those Muslims, surely, endorsed the ideology of the terrorists, and were maybe too cowardly to act upon those convictions, therefore cheered the handful of brave souls who gave their lives for their ideals.  Books have been written to prove that Islam is a religion of force, misogyny, and oppression of all.

Over the years, Muslims groups have denounced the terrorists and tried to convince the greater society that Islam does not condone terrorism and murder in the name of Allah. Qur’anic ayahs have been dug up to testify to Islam’s peaceful nature. Why has that message not prevailed? Why, for instance, does the opposition to the New York Mosque project still chug along?

Well, Muslims themselves have not eradicated these two words: extremism and fundamentalism.

They have never said, “There is not such thing as extremism. There is no such thing as fundamentalism. The majority Muslims practice Islam using the customs and rituals into which they have been born, and much diversity flourishes. Men and women who murder in the name of Allah are not Muslims. The constellation of ideals and acts that are commonly referred to as extremism and fundamentalism do not embody the spirit of Islam, nor illustrate its teachings. People who subscribe to them are not Muslims. They may have been born into Muslim families, or they may have embraced ideals of terror and murder as a result of mental illness or severe political oppression that have nothing to do with Islam, but they are not Muslims.”

As long as the Muslim community cannot say the above, it implies that extremism and fundamentalism are indeed, part of Islam, and that the difference between peaceful Muslims and terrorist Muslims is one of degree, not substance.

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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8 Responses to A Difference of Degree, not Substance?

  1. susanne430 says:

    But then I’ve heard other Muslims say they have no right to say who is or who is not Muslim as the only requirement is to say the shahada and do some of the other stuff (salat, charity). I’ve heard them say in Islam they are not allowed to say who is or who isn’t a “true” Muslim so there is that stance as well.

    I tend to agree with you that people who do such things aren’t truly submitted to God just as I would never say someone who killed others like this is a true Christian i.e. follower of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed your thoughts!

  2. Marahm says:

    Hi, susanne, I’ve heard the same dribble, that we, “…have no right to say who is or who is not Muslim…” That idea serves to remind us not to judge fellow Muslims when we see that they have slacked off on their prayers, or neglected the fast, etc.

    If it applies here, it suggests that Allah may forgive these wicked souls. Indeed, we cannot say for sure; the prerogative is His. However, Islam, like Christianity, is a world view as much as a religion, and certain rules apply.

    Christianity uses excommunication and shunning to get rid of unrepentent “sinners.” Islam should do the same thing. That it doesn’t has contributed to the difficulties faced by Muslims in the West since 9/11.

  3. Issam says:

    I agree with you sister Marahm. These guys are not real Muslims. They are evil terrorists who have murdered far more Muslims than non-Muslims by the way. God will never forgive these miserable souls because a crucial part of attaining Paradise is being good [2:62, 5:69 etc…]

    The reason that the message has not prevailed not because Muslims have not eradicated the words of fundamentalism and extremism (many of them have), it is because radical and intolerant Christians and Jews do not want to believe that Islam is a peaceful religion and want war on Muslims. That is what I have come to realize after several years of engaging them. They will read a third rate book by an intolerant and ignorant person than a peer-reviewed book published by a university press or world class publishing house.

    That is why I rarely engage with them nowadays. They are irrational, intolerant, ignorant and arrogant.

    But laving all that aside, I still believe 9/11 was an inside and that the towers collapsed by planned demolition. http://911scholars.org/

  4. Marahm says:

    Issam, I also agree with you in that, “…radical and intolerant Christians and Jews do not want to believe that Islam is a peaceful religion and want war on Muslims. ” I do not engage these people, either. Perhaps they would not soften their positions, even if Muslims did eradicate the concepts of extremism and fundamentalism.

    I still advocate for the eradication of these concepts, if only to reassure Muslims like me, who want to run as far away as possible from the cult of so-called Islamic terrorism.

    However, I do not believe that the towers fell by demolition. I have looked at some of the evidence and listened to the rebuttal, and I simply reject this theory, but Allah knows best.

  5. hebah1985 says:

    The ways those towers were built a plane shouldn’t have destroyed them the way that it did.

  6. Marahm says:

    Well, hebah, at first glance, one would think so. However, the laws of physics do not conform to “common sense.” I do not have knowledge of structural engineering, so I must rely upon others who have such knowledge to explain things, and I choose to be swayed by the professionals who who’ved explained how it happened with no help from pre-installed detonators.

  7. Issam says:

    But there are other professionals who disagree with the professionals you talk about, Marahm. I have given two links that contain the views of hundreds of professionals. I can provide other sources too. I would be interesting to provide us with your sources too.

    Frankly the whole thing just does not make sense to me. It also was the perfect excuse for the establishment to launch its war project.

  8. Marahm says:

    Yes, Issam, there are professionals who disagree. With all due respect, I’m not ready to compare sources, because neither of us is interested in embracing the opposite theory at this time. With no background in structural engineering, we must rely upon the professionals who are most persuasive in argument. Since the art of persuasion does not necessarily serve the truth, I prefer to let the thing rest with Allah. At the same time, I claim my right to stand with those who debunk the conspiracy theory. Perhaps the truth will be established in the future, with the emergence of evidence yet to be discovered.

    We do agree on one thing– that the tragedy was a good excuse to launch war.

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