First of all, I realise that I’m very late to the party. On a review of various articles and blog posts (I’ll provide links at the end), it does seem that, metaphorically, I’ve arrived just as the host is offering the second round of coffees.
Well, anyway, a tweet from the aforementioned Muslim commentator, that was retweeted by Nicky Campbell, caught my attention……
Now, on first view, you may well disagree with the tweet. I certainly do. But why is it wrong? Why is he using the term ‘Secular progressive’ to draw some sort of equivalence to ISIS? I’ve never seen ‘secular progressive’ used as an insult before, so let’s look at the thinking behind the tweet……
The tweet is asserting that secular progressive Muslims (I think we can safely assume he’s not referring to non-Muslim secular progressives) are on the opposite end of some (to be defined) spectrum from ISIS.
In his self-labelled orthodoxy, he appears to put himself in the middle of the spectrum. In his mind, this is the reasonable place to be.
So let’s define the spectrum (or spectra) being tweeted about:
1. Secularism / Theocracy – This is certainly a spectrum. ISIS would be ruled by Islamic holy scriptures and Sharia. Forever. Secularism is certainly at the other end of this spectrum. Laws, free from religious privilege, that change with the will of the people, and free exercise of conscience whichever god(s) one does or doesn’t follow. So, that’s clear. Where does Mo sit on the spectrum?
As the orthodox position is that Islam is a complete way of life and is perfect, I can’t see, logically, how Mo wouldn’t want, with free choice and no constraints, a theocracy with Islam at its heart. Of course, as a secularist, I’d be happy for him to state otherwise. We can conclude that, on this spectrum, Mo is more aligned with ISIS than secular progressive Muslims.
2. Violent / Non-violent – Is it a stretch to include this spectrum? I don’t think so. The original tweet infers extremes and extremism. ‘Extremism’ as a term is largely meaningless. It is actions that crystallise this definition and the actions of ISIS are most definitely violent and barbaric. Of course, there is no violence associated with the secular progressive Muslim movement (except the occasionally threat of violence against them). Where is Mo? Well, say what you want about Mo, but outside some ambiguity around Hudud punishments, he’s not a perpetrator or advocator of violence. This naturally aligns him with the secular progressives. Good for him!
3. Progressive / Regressive – The last of the spectra I can see here. The progressives are looking to change the orthodox Muslim mindset to better reflect the place of Islam in the modern world. That of a personal matter of conscience which relegates the more unpalatable parts of the Qur’an to metaphor and something to be theologically disavowed. The Christians let go of the literal belief in both of their books (but especially the Old Testament) during the Reformation and Renaissance. The regressives? Well, it’s a bit of a misnomer. The worst the regressives can do is want no change. Ever. I fear Mo is aligned with ISIS on this spectrum. (See tweet below).
To sum this up:
- Muslim secular progressives want secularism & Islamic reform through non-violent means.
- ISIS are violent, regressive theocrats.
Mo thinks he’s in the reasonable, rational middle, but he’s a regressive theocrat. The only difference between Mo and ISIS (and one could argue this is the only difference that matters in a liberal democracy with largely unfettered free speech) is Mo isn’t condoning or advocating violence to achieve the goal of a Caliphate.
Ending up polarised on various spectra is the consequence of maintaining an entrenched position where every view is driven by confirmation bias. Absolutism (as shown in the ‘Islam is perfect’ tweet) is a rank denial of the way the universe works. Nothing that manifests itself in the universe is perfect or absolute. It’s just a fact. The same as confirmation bias being the enemy of reason.