"Speak now or forever hold your peace in pieces."
Very rarely are Islamist movements religion-driven. They are mostly political movements hiding behind the guise of religion. As something that people hold close to themselves, it is very easy for elite powers to use religion as a tool to make masses succumb to them. This might go unnoticed, as it is being propagated through diffused fundamentalism, which I have written about in a Malay Mail column titled “Are we falling into religious fundamentalism?”
Most people associate Islamism and Muslim fundamentalism with violence, advances that are physical. But there is one type of fundamentalism that is just as deadly, and that fundamentalism is given the term “diffused fundamentalism.” This kind of fundamentalism is naturalised into your daily lives, and most times we don’t even realise it.
They are absorbed and then spread through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, the internet, television, radio, sermons and word of mouth.
A lot of times, they are being spread as forms of entertainment. Shows on who is a good Muslim or who is not, talk shows in which you can enquire about what kind of sex you can have with your spouse and still “be a good Muslim”, pronouncements (with a little bit of humour added in) on how to talk, walk, dress, eat, sleep and all the little things you do in your daily lives.
This fundamentalism is invisible in its pervasiveness and that’s what makes it so dangerous. Once absorbed and socially accepted, they become hard to combat and overturned. Diffused fundamentalism has essentially taken the beautiful and aesthetic religion that I grew up with, and turned it into a series of bodily functions.
Diffused Muslim fundamentalism is dangerous because it is the seed that supports the growth of a society that condones violence and discrimination. It is the seed that sprouts the mentality that excuses the actions of Islamist groups such as ISIS, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. It is the seed where it all begins.
We keep saying that only a small number of Muslims are like-minded with ISIS, but the harsh reality is that there are more than we think. Violent jihadists make up a small sum of radical Muslims. There are other layers that we need to dissect.
Even though I may not always agree with him, Sam Harris has broken down these layers for us. Watch from 4:00 to 5:35.
This part of the video was also featured in another video by Clarion Project called “By The Numbers: The Untold Story of Muslim Opinions & Demographics” that talks about the harsh reality that is the amount of Muslims who support and/or condone radicalism.
For a long time, Malaysia has been filled with fundamentalists, Islamists, but in recent years, we have bred our very own violent jihadists too. This is what happens when we base our religious education on supremacism, fear-mongering and instilling the “us vs. them” mentality. It doesn’t help either that we have politicians and civil servants that bring religion into their foul play in order to garner support.
We spend so much time talking about God’s wrath that we forget to remind people that God is Compassionate and Merciful.
Verily, there are one hundred (parts of) mercy for Allah, and it is one part of this mercy by virtue of which there is mutual love between the people and ninety-nine reserved for the Day of Resurrection. (Sahih Muslim 2753)
We spend so much time concentrating on the superficiality of religion, that we turn a blind eye to justice.
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” [4:135]
Some people think that unshaken faith in God results in conservatism and violent defensiveness, however:
“The basis of reasoning, after faith in Allah, is loving kindness toward the people.” (Al-Mu’jam Al-Awsat 6067)
If you have faith in Him, you’d know better than to take matters into your own hands, things that only He can be a judge of.
“Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.”
There is nothing much we can do, but as Muslims, the least we can do is to create a counter-narrative to the radicalism that is growing.
How do we do that?
I know of too many people who try to defend Islam by merely saying “Not all Muslims are like that” and that is honestly futile. Fundamentalists and Islamists know and understand their texts very well and will always present an interpretation that they are familiar with. You need ammo.
And when I say “ammo”, I do not mean guns like violent jihadists have. I mean diligence, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, patience and kindness. Check your facts, check your sources. And always remember that the way you spread your message is a reflection of who you represent.
Malaysia is in desperate need of this counter-narrative to radicalism. I recount my personal experience here:
Recently, I was given the honour to be a part of a conference on countering radicalism. A few days prior to the event, some Islamist groups tried to shut us down. But still, the event went on as planned. While the conference was running, news of the Paris attacks started surfacing.
It seemed ironic to me that Islamist groups tried to stop a discussion on countering radicalism, and right then, an act of terror was carried out in the name of Islam. While the attacks were devastating, I also felt that it was timely (for a lack of better word) to show that it is high time that we acknowledge the rising radicalisation of Muslims.
We already have ISIS links in Kuala Lumpur. What else will it take for us to finally realise the danger of fundamentalism? It’s all fun and games until it happens on our own soil. It’s all fun and games until someone you love falls victim.