Anti-terror demonstration in Vienna, Austria, on November 6, 2020. Picture by Michael Gubi/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article by was initially printed on The Battleground and is republished on International Voices as a part of a content-sharing settlement.

Whether or not within the boycott-French-products marketing campaign on social media or by way of conversations with associates, Muslims I do know really feel conflicted concerning the latest terrorist assaults in Vienna and Good.

Whereas they condemn violence, there may be additionally a way that it’s to be anticipated. Their battle will get expressed like this:

We do not condone killing, and those that kill don’t have anything to do with Islam. However when provocation is disguised as free speech, (for instance, Charlie Hebdo), a response ought to be anticipated.”

Or this:

“Why is it that it is solely assaults by Muslims that are branded terrorist?” Why is French secularism, ‘Laïcité’, utilized solely to Muslims? Why is it unlawful to query the Holocaust however okay to criticize probably the most sacred parts in Islam?”

In fact, some clear Muslim voices do denounce this confusion between secularism, free speech, and civil liberties. However this battle is widespread. It appears to come back from emotions of disenfranchisement framed within the language of latest political Islam.

The place does this rationalization of violence come from?  Is it actually one thing innate to Islam, dooming the faith to be incompatible with key elements of democracy, notably freedom of speech and secularism?

These are necessary questions as terrorist assaults produce trauma that brings out equally reactionary arguments inside European societies, elevating questions on cultural range, integration, and assimilation.

Something sounding like an apology for terrorism dangers handing political victories to far-right teams, wrongly stereotyping Islam as backward and violent.

We’ve been right here earlier than. In 2005 I watched one thing that appeared past creativeness on TV in my small lounge in Syria: mass protests throughout the Center East and North Africa (MENA) towards offensive depictions of Prophet Muhammad by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

The protests had been tolerated by oppressive regimes that might in any other case crack down on any type of protest. The demonstrations had been the one ones of their form till the Arab Spring in 2010.

Desirous about them now, I can not assist however query why different incidents didnt spark the identical outcry from Muslims.

The killing of Rohingya Muslims was condemned nevertheless it did not produce the identical public outrage. Nor have the Uyghur camps in China.

There was even a broadly circulated YouTube video in 2012, one in every of many to come back, of Syrian authorities thugs forcing an anti-government demonstrator at gunpoint to kneel on a portrait of Bashar Al Assad, within the place of a sajjāda (Muslim prayer rug).

One thug shouted at him, Pray to your god, Bashar!” True, the actions of the Syrian regime attracted jihadists from all around the world. However this didnt spark public protests at Syrian embassies just like the Danish cartoons did.

This duplicity was intriguing. It tells us one thing concerning the nationalistic nature of political Islam immediately.

It is not a matter of incompatibility between Islam and free speech. Somewhat, Islam has grow to be an insecure id that’s all the time undermined by criticism from the Christian or godless, however all the time colonial, West.

Muslims adhering to average colleges of thought, and non-practising Muslims, share this sentiment with conservative parts inside Islam. Even secular nationalists view Western criticisms of Islam as an assault on their very own tradition.

Whether or not they’re Muslim or nationalist, most individuals in MENA international locations are poor, uneducated, and haven’t any political illustration. Extended stagnation makes them extra inclined to harmful narratives that gasoline id politics and exacerbate social points. The success of Europe just isn’t seen because of humanist philosophy and a bloody battle towards nationalism, resembling WWII. To many Muslims, secularism is only a Western colonial scheme to strip away Islamic id and tradition.

Many individuals within the Center East and North Africa solely see Christian imperial Europe and grow to be slaves to their very own inherited colonial traumas. Demagogues, kings, and dictators throughout the Islamic world reinforce this narrative to legitimize their existence. This feeds right into a divisive, nationalistic id politics that negates any constructive intercultural relations with Europe.

The issue will get much more advanced inside Europe, as immigrant communities discover themselves in an alien and sometimes racist atmosphere. They cope by embracing shallow and dogmatic variations of political Islam.

Colonialism exacerbated social issues that Muslim societies already had. It did not create them. We had been unequal, hierarchical, and sectarian even earlier than European colonisation and the Ottoman Empire. European colonialism merely bolstered current hierarchical political buildings and used sectarianism to divide and rule. The dictatorships we endure below immediately are a continuation of these buildings. Meaning its as much as us to steer an mental revolution that blocks demagogues from utilizing our worst instincts towards ourselves. That entails being self-critical about all the things, together with basic reform of our id and faith.

Im not saying communities who suffered below colonialism ought to simply overlook concerning the previous and transfer on. Quite the opposite, we have to see the legacy of colonialism as a giant a part of the issue, however not the one one. Colonialism inflicted profound scars on the psychology and politics of MENA cultures, which weren’t healed The racism that immigrants from the Center East and North Africa expertise solely reinforces that.

That is why the professional sense of being victimised by colonialism should not be utilized to each social ailment.

Then again, due to the historical past of colonialism, Europe has the accountability to create a politically appropriate public discourse, respectful of Muslims, aimed toward facilitating their integration, as equals. This should coincide with supportive initiatives overseas, in worldwide growth and safety coverage. And in flip, it’s the accountability of Muslim communities to grasp that tright here isn’t any different to reform in immediately’s political Islamic discourse.

Average voices inside Islam must make it clear that nothing is sacred in a democracy, and that we should reject political violence with out fail.

To provoke this reform, Muslim communities must look nowhere else however their very own historical past for messages of tolerance, cause, and most significantly shared values with Europe.

There have been many students, philosophers, and even army leaders in our historical past who testify to the wealthy potential of Islamic tradition, and its tolerance of free speech.

One instance is the medieval Arab thinker and poet Al-Ma’arri. In one in every of his roughly translated poems, he writes “There is a commotion in Latakia between Ahmed and Issa. One rings the bell and the opposite shouts from a minaret. Every glorifies their faith. Oh my poetry, who is true?”

In Risalat al-Gufran, Al-Ma’arri provides, “There’s however one Imam, the thoughts,” and “Two inhabit the earth: one with brains however no faith and one other with faith however no brains.”

This can be a thinker who lived in the course of the Abbasid Caliphate over 1,000 years in the past. He was neither beheaded nor prosecuted. Quite the opposite, he was praised as one of many nice Arabic philosophers and poets.

A statue commemorating Al-Ma’arri stood in his hometown in Syria until 2013, solely to be destroyed by Al Nusra Entrance, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda.

On the difficulty of incompatibility with secularism, the event of the Muʿtazila faculty of thought brings out similarities with renaissance humanism from which secular humanism emerged.

The Muʿtazila motion got here into being following the interpretation and interpretation of Aristotelian metaphysics and neo-Platonism. It rejected the concept that the Quran is “uncreated,” which dominated mainstream Sunni and Shia doctrines, arguing that the world could be defined by way of rational thought alongside scripture. Its not fairly secularism as we perceive it immediately, because it doesnt separate state and faith. Nevertheless it opens the door for essential and scientific thought, probably paving the way in which for secularism.

Secularism is appropriate with Islam. It’s simply incompatible with the present model of political Islam.  

Secularism wants reform as nicely, because it was usually used to discriminate towards minorities, whose religiosity is much completely different from the religion it was purported to restrain.