Extremism — Defying Diversity

Extremism — Defying Diversity

The relation between Muslim societies and the West is quite complex. In recent decades it has come to be underpinned by suspicions and hostility due to a host of factors: economic, political and ideological. Ignorance of the former and the arrogance of the latter have created an explosive situation that poses a threat to world peace and stability. In order to get rid of such a pandemic we need thorough analysis to know the reasons which actually caused it. But sometimes what happens is that an incidence or a character comes along to symbolize the whole phenomenon in miniature form.

Take the case of Tashfeen Malik. She was a young Muslim woman who, along with her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, shot and killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California. In the wake of this attack, she has been elevated to a terror mastermind, the lethal Pakistani bride who did not simply participate in the massacre but planned it as well and led her husband on. The consequences of her acts and the suspicions borne from them are not only far-reaching but also disastrous for the Muslim community living in the US. A natural response to her act came just 10 days after the attack, whereby The New York Times reported officials saying that the only way any future ‘terror brides’ could be prevented from entering the country was to extend the scrutiny applied to female applicants of K-1 and other visas. (K-1: non-immigrant visa for foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a United States citizen). The probability that these instructions have already been issued to US consular posts is almost 100 percent.

Apart from other counter-terrorism measures taken by the US establishment, how can anyone forget Donald Trump’s latest broadside against Muslims. I take his views very seriously. While the American discourse has promptly taken the superficial aspect of Tashfeen Malik and is now presenting it as a wide-ranging truth regarding Muslim women and terror plots, it has conveniently ignored some complex issues such as the US propagation of militant Islam guised as jihad against the ‘infidel’ Soviet army that occupied Afghanistan in 1979 without visualizing its future implications. Import of social conservatism, Saudi and Iranian variants, driven by reactionary ideology and consequently turning into misguided zealotry could not be described as an aberration.

Some pertinent yet frightening questions arise out of this conundrum. It is time Muslims living in the West and elsewhere come to grips with the real issue and try to be part of the solution instead of just raising hue and cry against the anti-Muslim wave in the west, which in all honesty, is not totally ill-founded. Not only do they have the responsibility to engage with the West but to also be able to participate in the public discourse to dispel the impression of violence and extremism associated with both Islam and Muslims. Let us for once, put ourselves in the place of millions of westerners who bend over backwards to avoid giving any offence to the Muslim migrants who have made homes for themselves in the west.

Muslims born and brought up in the west who have resorted to terrorist attacks recently raise suspicions about the entire Muslim community that has struck roots in Europe and America. A common phrase, the ‘enemy within’, as referred to in the west, is now officially a part of the public discourse, and the ‘Islamophobic’ views of far right politicians who spew hatred against Muslims and immigrants are finding acceptance among the wider audiences.

The anti-Muslim wave is gaining ground with each terrorist attack. Recent studies and surveys have tracked deep resentment against both Muslims and Islam. There is a rising wave of anxiety and fear even amongst liberals in the US and elsewhere about the Muslims living midst them. And inevitably, this further isolates and marginalizes Muslims, radicalizing many.

The slogan of ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ is no longer bought in the west as more and more people voice their suspicions. When they witness the violence in large swathes of the Muslim world, and fall victim to barbaric acts of jihadist terror within their own countries, who can blame them? So while Trump will, in all likelihood, not be elected as President of the US next year, his irrational tirade, full of hate and venom, may find many takers.

In all honesty, while Donald Trump’s hypocritical rant against Muslims should be condemned, isn’t it time we, as Muslims, accept certain basic realities about the hypocrisy injected into Muslim societies? On one hand, Muslims are highly attracted by the open and democratic society of the west, on the other, they are repulsed by it for being too liberal; a threat to their ill-conceived notion of religion and orthodox worldview. For comparison sake, let us have a look at what fundamental rights are accorded to foreigners in Muslim countries especially Saudi Arabia. Can they buy a home and settle there? Does it grant immigration rights to them? Are the female members of their family allowed to live the way they want to? Why should a non-Muslim be subjected to Islamic laws? Are they allowed to practice and/or preach their religion openly? The answers are not only disturbing but prove the hypocritical double-standards upheld by Muslim societies.

Foreigners and their families have to abide by the laws meant for Muslims. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia for Christians to pray in; even possessing a copy of the Bible is against the law. Muslims, on the other hand, can pray at hundreds of mosques across the west, mostly sponsored by Saudi money spreading their literalist version of Islam known as wahabism. Look at your own country. Does democratic Pakistan accord non-Muslims all the basic rights that it affords to the Muslims? While non-Muslims enjoy equal rights in theory, the reality sadly is far bleaker. How equal can they be when no non-Muslim member of our society, can become the Prime Minister or President of Pakistan[1].  The law of the land says all citizens are equal but obviously Muslim citizens are more equal.

Essentially, why do Muslims expect westerners to provide them every courtesy and right while, in their own countries, they do not give the same rights and respect to the westerners? These pinching questions go to the crux of the problem; while Muslims in the west think they have every right to pray at mosques, spread their faith, buy and eat halal food, cover their faces and bodies in burqa, and follow what they consider Islamic injunctions, they are generally unwilling to accord to non-Muslims in their midst the same rights.

Thus, a foreign woman exposing a few inches above her ankle in Saudi Arabia can be whipped by the shurtas. Possession of alcohol can be and has been- punished by flogging. A whole list of activities common in the west is punishable by death. And yet Saudis travelling to Europe and elsewhere lose fortunes in casinos, get violently drunk and resort to a list of activities illegal in their own country. The same is true for their Iranian adversaries who have firmly entrenched theocracy capable of matching the Saudi Kingdom in every sense of the word.

While most other countries are not as preoccupied with exposed female skin as Saudi Arabia and Iran, western women are expected to dress modestly in public. And almost universally, no open Christian evangelical activity is permitted to convert Muslims. And yet, activists from the Muslim religious organizations fly off to countries around the globe to convert others to Islam. But henceforth, they might find it harder to get visas.

Recently, a German court decided not to try members of a ‘Shariah Patrol’ in the town of Wuppertal[2]. The court’s ruling is being challenged by the prosecution. These salafist zealots were forcibly trying to prevent couples from holding hands, and advising people not to go to casinos or bars while signs of shariah-controlled-zone were displayed. Imagine, for a moment, the reaction in Pakistan or for that matter any other Muslim country, if foreign immigrants tried to impose their values on them. And yet, if Muslim migrants behave in obnoxious ways, falsely claiming their acts are sanctioned by their faith, and are punished or criticized, a howl of Islamophobia goes up. While non-Muslims and their faiths are described in the most objectionable way in many of our textbooks, perceived criticism of Muslim migrants’ way of life in the west is seen as racist.

The crux of the matter is, if Muslim migrants insist on bringing their faith, culture and way of life with them, why didn’t they just stay at home where it would be easier to live by the tenets of their religion? And this issue becomes especially poignant when so many Muslims are openly contemptuous of western values and lifestyle. In reality, many of them have migrated to avail themselves and their children of the free educational and medical facilities there, as well as many social benefits available to them and their families. All too often, this generous social security system is abused by migrants.

Even after the California massacre, most Americans, 61 percent to be precise, continue to reject the notion that Muslims should be subjected to increased scrutiny because of their religion. However, 46 percent of Americans believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. This is a staggering and sad figure.[3]

It is time Muslims stop defying diversity, pluralism and enter the realm of globalization by unchaining themselves of extremist radical notions imposed on them by groups of uncivilized men who are guided by false, hypocritical mindsets. This radicalization process must end immediately, not with the aim to pacify our western friends but in fact to put an end to the misery brought upon ourselves by none other than us. Let us at least learn to co-exist with the western society and the values it upholds, and be a part of this integration instead of segregating ourselves and finding solace in quarantine. If ‘clash of civilizations’ becomes a reality, it would be almost impossible for Muslims living abroad to cope with it and for Muslim societies, which are diverse, and not necessarily anti-west, to live in peace on this planet.


[1] Article 41(2) Constitution of Pakistan 1973-President of Pakistan must be a Muslim

[2] 10 December 2015—BBC News World Europe.

[3] 17 Deecember 2015—Dawn Media reports for Pew Research Centre in Washigton.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.

Saavil Soofi

Author: Saavil Soofi

The writer is a law graduate from the University of London with a keen interest in Human Rights Law and Environmental Law.

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