On “Muslim Reformists”
An old family friend added me on facebook the other day, and it just so happens that she’s my political polar opposite — a conservative/libertarian Ronald Reagan admirer who runs a blog which calls itself “one of the leading Muslim reformers in North America” and “the only Muslim publication that offers a truly objective look at Islam in the 21st century.”
I should have stopped reading right then.
But I didn’t, and I realized that over the years I’ve noticed a certain brand of people who call themselves Muslim reformers tend to share a few things in common — they:
- Promote “Clash of civilizations” and “oppressed Muslim women” narratives among other Orientalist favorites.
- Pander to the conservative right and its Zionist counterparts
- Make frequent use of the term “liberal media” and suggest that positive depictions of Muslims are an incomplete or inaccurate framing of the Muslim community that only arise under the guise of political correctness
- Make sweeping generalizations about Islam and the Muslim world while completely disregarding the complexity of its various regions and the nuance required to analyze their respective social, political, and cultural contexts.
- Hold themselves in higher regard than other Muslim activists, often dismissing any non-“reformist” efforts as apologetic or extremist.
- Lack the knowledge to make legitimate claims about Islamic teachings or theology but do so anyway
- Promote Islamophobic conspiracy theories including the notion of “stealth jihad,” a coordinated Muslim effort to introduce Shariah law in the West, or the idea that Western Muslim advocacy groups like CAIR are a front for the Muslim Brotherhood
- Repeat baseless claims including the falsehoods that the Muslim community doesn’t consistently condemn terrorism or that Muslims are uncooperative with law enforcement
But the most frustrating thing of all is that so many of these people’s intentions are revealed in the intended audience of their message. People like Mona Eltahawy, Irshad Manji, Zuhdi Jasser, Asra Nomani, and Tarek Fatah cater to a Western nonMuslim audience, a fact that deals a severe blow to any claimed goals to bring about reform in the Muslim community. These people use their status as Muslims (and critics of Islam) to promote themselves because that’s the sad reality — Islamophobia sells. And while the Muslim community is definitely in need of criticism, change, and progress, it’s not going to come from the outside.