Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Image of Islam

As ever, the Arab/Islamic blogosphere is swarming with discussions about the image of Islam. How badly damaged it is, how to improve it etc....I mean, I must have read hundreds of these. But none of them have so far explained to me why I should care. Seriously though, who cares?

Faith is not a matter of projecting an image to other human beings. It's about your relationship with God, your personal perception of your life, its purpose and its direction. Your clothes, your car might and should be about image.But to me, talking about image in relation to religion just cheapens it and commercializes it. Faith is what is in your heart. That's something no one can take away from you. So why bother to justify or explain it to others? It's something that should be yours and yours alone. To me, it makes no sense to follow a religion just because it's more popular than others.

Frankly, I've never felt particularly interested in other people's opinions of Islam. And that includes the opinions of Muslims on what Islam is and how good a Muslim they think I might be. I might be provoked or concerned if someone started saying Muslims - as PEOPLE - should be killed or whatever. Or if someone who I know thinks of me as an infidel threatens or attempts to abuse me in any tangible manner. But so long as they keep their opinion to themselves when I ask them to, it really doesn't make me feel compelled to change anything in my life to please either camp.

I grew up reading critiques of Islam by Orientalists and modern secularists of all creeds. They're in my father's library - right next to the Quran, the Seera, the Sunna, fiqh, shariah and my favorites: the beautiful books on sufism and the spiritual dimension of Islam.

I had an almost entirely foreign education. All my life my teachers at school have been non-Muslims. And most were quite sceptical of my religion. It's a trend in my family I think. We don't believe in mixing religion and education. We send our kids to the best schools regardless. I mean my parents were educated by Jesuits and nuns and we're not even Christian.

So yeah I've always been aware that there are people out there who believe Mohamed is a false Prophet. On rare occasions, I've been shocked or offended by a certain type of attack on him. But mostly, this sort of thing doesn't make me feel personally attacked.

I can see why this might be an important issue for Muslim minorities who live abroad. The image impacts them because it affects how the host culture treats them. But here in the Middle East, surely we have bigger problems to worry about than our image in far-flung corners of the Earth? Isn't it much more worthwhile to go out there and try to combat poverty, corruption, injustice in your own community than to spend hours on the internet trying to convince people who don't know anything about your life that the religion your practice is the 'one true faith'?

If we spent more time and effort on improving our own lives than on trying to impress some perceived 'Other', I think we'd all be a lot happier.

I hereby vow that I will no longer allow myself to be dragged into these 'interfaith slugging matches' either online or offline. What a waste of time.



Blogger roora said...

Salamat Loulou,

Religon is indeed something between the person and God. And we should care about being good muslims as God wants rather than caring about how people would percieve us.

But for non Muslims, if someone entered in a discussion to exclaim about something and it happens that you know, then i guess it is a duty on every knowledgable person to tell.

But yet debates for the sake of debate might be useless. But anyways, who knows!

11/16/2006 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

Not giving a damn about what someone else thinks of you, your religion or whatever is good advice for anyone. We'd all be better off if we followed our own hearts instead of trying to please the world.

11/17/2006 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

two reasons for image concerns:
1) trying to attract people to the faith for their own good.
2) when people think that muslims are a whole are violent or whatever negative chracteristic, they invade their countries and kill them, see: afghanistan

11/18/2006 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger H.O.P.E said...

Hi Loulou...

I totally believe that everyone should have the right to do what they want and the way they want to. The topic of religion is endless and in this post 9/11 will continue to be a hot topic among haters and lovers alike.

As Arabs/Middle Eastern-ers..image has always been top priority. Although Islam in itself is not about image but about a way of life...ppl take it and twist it around like it's a piece of dough they're trying to form. I don't think Muslims these days understand the TRUE and underlying meaning behind Islam and it's true purpose in this world. But at the same's for each his own and I believe that we as humans should not judge and .in turn not be judged. Because in the end...only Allah can judge us for our actions and our main aim should be the happiness and satisfaction of knowing that we have done everything we can possibly do.


11/19/2006 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...


"trying to attract people to the faith for their own good."

Which is pompous and arrogant. To think that you know what's good for other people better than they do I mean.

"when people think that muslims are a whole are violent or whatever negative chracteristic, they invade their countries and kill them, see: afghanistan"

I know it's tempting to think that. But am afraid am too much of a cynic. International politics are not about doing good and fighting evil or perceived evil. They're about wealth, power and geopolitical influence. If you're attacked and invaded it's because your leaders are bad politicians. This is why Afghanistan & Iraq were attacked and not Saudi Arabia. You can't tell me that Saudi Arabia has a good image but the House of Saud are nothing if not pragmatists. They're survivors. The Taliban are not.

11/19/2006 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger tooners said...

I couldn't agree more w/ your post. I've always wondered about ppl who send me emails or go on about what celebrity has just converted to Islam and get into an argument w/ anyone who disagrees and such. It seems like it's a big race to see who's best.

I find it interesting when ppl, in this part of the world, want to know, first thing, what religion I am. When I tell them I converted, then immediately want to know what sect. It gets on my nerves.

Good post here.

11/19/2006 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

well, i mean muslims (and others)see it as a duty to save people. and why not, if you think urs is the right way. bas obviously the best way to do that is to act right. ma3aky 7a2.

i do think that ppl are getting invaded b/c of terrorism. i'm a cynic too we kol 7aga, but afghanistan wouldn't have happened except for september 11 (although not iraq). the house of saud are non-violent, at least visibly. obviously they gots the money and the pr skills too tho.

11/21/2006 03:59:00 AM  
Blogger Highlander said...

This is your best post ever IMHO . :)

11/24/2006 01:46:00 PM  

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