The clash of civilisations

Samuel Huntington wrote a book on it; some still deny it and once upon a time I too believed there was no problem. But my recent encounter with some non-Muslims has left me feeling disheartened and convinced the clash is very real.

You see, regardless of my intentions, ability (or inability) to discuss and explain my views, I keep getting the same response every time I try and discuss Islam.The advantage of online discussions is that I can conceal my identity of being a Muslim. However, if I do that, to initiate discussions where people wouldn’t shut me out for being Muslim, I risk people interpreting my concealment as a sign of weakness or a cowardly act. If I come out and start blatantly talking about an Islamic viewpoint, I become an opinionated, irrational and backward individual who only knows to attack the west and western practices.

I’ve had numerous discussions with non-Muslims over the years, on various political topics. I have worked and studied with them in both the west and the Muslim world. And there seems to be a pattern with how most discussions turn out.

It’s fine if I sit with a group of social democrats and criticise corporate capitalists. It’s also fine if I highlight hypocrisies within foreign policies, particularly those of the United States. Talking about the gap between the rich and the poor, the media control and bias, crime, abortion, teenage pregnancies etc. are also generally OK. People mostly agree on acknowledging the problems. So long as I discuss these problems in a secular context.

It’s when I mention the word ‘Islam’ that the previously ‘tolerant’, ‘respectful’ and ‘open-minded’ people change tune. I find them become increasingly intolerant, disrespectful and narrow-minded and any criticism is received with offence. I soon find myself facing the same criticisms thrown at me over and over again: hijab, women, punishments in Islam, honour killings, I’m sure all the readers of this (Muslim and non-Muslim) will have a very comprehensive list.

But what’s alarming, is that they’re often against Islam being implemented in the Muslim world, even though it would be the choice of a vast majority of Muslims. Suddenly a strong sense of injustice appears, that drives them to find any (and I can’t emphasise this enough), any reason to point fingers at Islam when the true oppression in this world is by far due to hunger and wars. I hardly hear desperate cries of help for the poor. Surely the fundamental human right of every human being is food, water, shelter, clothing? How can so much energy exist for what they see as injustices in Islam, but yet at the same time (and there are of course exceptions) they are almost lethargic when it comes to speaking against hunger across the world? They’ve given up in this area. Accepted that poverty is here to stay, there are the ‘haves’ and ‘haves not’. And I am denied the right to complain about this because I am a Muslim, and Islam in their view has far greater problems to offer, like the muslim woman’s clothing, or chastity encouraging relationships through marriage and restricting people from intimate relationships out of wedlock!

For years now, Muslims have been facing frequent attacks on Islam in the media and elsewhere. And we’re always standing in the dock, like guilty people trying to defend and justify our practices. I’ve come across numerous blogs in the recent past that consistently criticise Islam, indeed some blogs’ only purpose is to do so. If I refuse to stand like the guilty one, waiting to defend every time Islam is attacked, and instead try and highlight some reasons why I decided to embrace Islam in the first place, I become a critic who just knows to pick holes and attack the west.

I can’t sit idly whilst Islam is attacked and will continue to post my thoughts on the problems I notice around me that led me to Islam. However, I welcome criticism even if people believe otherwise. Whilst I regret moments when I haven’t explained my points in the best manner, I will still try and engage in honest debate. But it has confirmed the clash of civilisations is very real.

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