The Narrative Behind #HappyMuslims

BismillahiRahmaniRahim. La Hawla Wala Quwwata illa Billah. Hasbunallahu wa ni’mal Wakil. 

I offer asalaamu’alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh to both Br. Adam Deen and “The Honesty Policy”.

INTRODUCTION This is a formal response to the current, and what may be considered petty, dilemma that has been caused by the recent release of a controversial video titlted”#HappyMuslims”. As a matter of formality– due to the public nature of this address —  I shall henceforth refer to Br. Adam and The Honesty Policy indirectly. This is also conducive as both parties represent a segment of the Muslim community that agrees with their stance on the matter now being discussed.  As such, this response should not necessarily be seen as limited to those being singled out. It should also be noted that in no way is this address meant to humiliate or insult all aforementioned, rather it is in hopes of affirming and manifesting a directive of the Qur’an:

[Prophet], call [people] to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good teaching. Argue with them in the most courteous way, for your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way and who is rightly guided. – (16:125)

I must admit that there have been many times in my life as a Muslim that I have not adhered to this criterion, so this is more a reminder for myself than anyone else. I do hope that my words, despite their opposing nature, will stay true to this. While I am not too familiar with The Honesty Policy members, I do know Br. Adam personally, though we are not close. I remember when he visited here in Malaysia to give a conference, and I was allowed the privilege of escorting him around Kuala Lumpur. We talked on a number of issues related to dawah and our backgrounds. From what I know of Adam, he is a sincere and passionate brother willing to give his intellectual talents for the faith. His academic background is similar to my own — Philosophy — despite the fact that we emphasize different methods in the discipline; he towards a more synthetic approach, whereas I more deconstructive. His is about reconciling differences, whereas mine is more about destroying opposing ideologies. One is constructive, the other destructive. Where the former builds, the latter takes apart; a thorn in the side, as it were. Adam then should be fully expecting what I’m about to write, though I hope he does not become frustrated with my approach. Where destruction occurs, the chance to rebuild is always there, so such criticism should not be viewed in an entirely negative light.

Adam and I at ISTAC, Kuala Lumpur

Adam and I at ISTAC, Kuala Lumpur

THE ISSUE
April 16 marked the day when the video “#HappyMuslims” was released on to YouTube and spread viral throughout the inter webs. The video featured a small group of British Muslims dancing and lip singing to the hit song “Happy” by R&B artist, Pharrell Williams. Reaching now over a million views and inspiring various spin-offs, the video has basically become a marketing success. Aside from FaceBook and YouTube, it has been featured on many various media outlets, including the Huffington Post, The Guardian, Independent, and The Washington Post, all lauding the surprising fact that some Muslims listen to music and dance, and want to counter the popular stereotypes that they are  terrorists or extremists. This is precisely what the creators of the video, The Honesty Policy, were hoping for when they announced on their blog the intentions behind the project:

We Brits [Muslims] have a bad rep for being a bit stiff, but this video proves otherwise. We are HAPPY. We are eclectic. We are cosmopolitan. Diverse. Creative. Fun. Outgoing. And everything you can think of….This video is to show  the world despite the negative press, stereotypes and discrimination we are burdened with we should respond with smiles and joy, not anger.[1]

Adam Deen, director of the Muslim think-tank The Deen Institute, was a participant in the video for the very same reason: “to show mainstream Muslims as ordinary people, who can have fun and who have a sense of humor, away from the usual headlines sadly so typically associated with our community.”[2] Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, senior lecturer of Islamic Studies in Cambridge University, was also a participant in the video (though he neither danced nor sung), and reiterated the same sentiments, “I’m delighted to see the outcome of the Happy British Muslims video, which has unlocked a remarkable tide of goodwill around the world, and significantly tilted the image of Muslims among many sceptics.”[3] Overall, the point was to express that Muslims are “normal” and “good people”.
Adam getting his groove on...

Adam getting his groove on…

However, the video failed to escape criticism, especially from within the Muslim community itself. Many Muslims complained of the “immodest nature” of singing and dancing in public, whereas others provided a  sociological deconstruction of the intentions behind the video.[4] The counter-response to these objections, both by the Honesty Policy and Adam Deen, was to concentrate on the former while completely ignoring the latter. Neither of these objections are more valuable than the other, but weaving a counter response that excludes one of them is indicative of a very serious flaw in reasoning. The Honesty Policy repeatedly mocked those who opposed the project, calling them the “haram squad” (literally meaning “the sin squad”; a pejorative label typically used against Muslims who are seen as too restrictive because of their open disapproval of certain actions or statements within the Muslim community). On his FB page, Adam frequently applied the label of “puritanicals” to those who disagreed, though he would later clarify that not everyone who opposed him deserved this label.[5] However, a question cannot help but be raised as to how this really makes things better, since he has yet to really tell us what the differences are between the two parties. The Honesty Policy has also defended their statements based on the fact that an eminent scholar, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, has backed their project; they reference apparent disagreements among scholars as evidence of Islam’s “openness” to various perspectives. Adam has repeatedly called for puritanicals (and that other group he has yet to label) to provide evidence behind their claims, while simultaneously stating that “there is no evidence” behind their claims. Adam has either remained unaware of the contradiction behind these two mutually exclusive statements, or he’s simply posturing. The other side of the debate has also not been so forgiving in their judgments. Many Muslims have outright condemned both The Honesty Policy and Adam in a very hostile manner, playing into the pejorative labels being applied to them. This has not helped matters, though it does help that among all those that disagree, this appears to be a minority of angry individuals, who despite their harassing comments, are still not “extremists”, “radicals”, “terrorists”, etc., just as The Honesty Policy and Adam, are not necessarily “deviants”. What remains to be found within this heated discussion, despite already a number of well-reasoned and measured responses, are the real reasons behind this backlash and why exactly the #HappyMuslims project is wrong. Wrong how? Morally? Rationally? Islamically? All of the above? At the bottom, it’s neither, nor all. All of these are merely products of another problem: #HappyMuslims is wrong because it destroys the very discourse necessary to answer this question to begin with. Prior to dissecting this however, let’s deal with the counter arguments brought up by Adam and the Honesty Policy first, so that I am not accused of lacking concern on matters of religiosity.

HALAL OR HARAM?

As noted above, Adam and the members of The Honesty Policy have primarily focused on the issue of whether or not the video was “halal” (permissible) or “haram” (sinful). The latter have been less eager to respond to accusations against them, and have completely relied on the fact that Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad has given his support. Adam, on the other hand, has attempted a full out refutation of his detractors on his blog. As such, I will be responding to Adam primarily. Adam’s entire argument can be best exemplified by the following excerpt on his blog:

When engaging with Puritanical Muslims, one discovers there really is little substance to their claims. Often Puritanicals ask for evidence to deem a given action ‘Halal’, or permissible.  Although this gives the impression that one is being true to the faith, the question is based on a false premise, namely that ‘every action is Haram until sharia permits’.  E.g of a question, I had someone ask me “where is the evidence during the Prophet’s [sallallhu alayhi wasallam] time, of the women of Medina dancing publicly?”…This is a completely topsy turvy way in which do deduce ‘Hukm’ , Islamic rulings, not to mention the fact it leads to absurdities. It’s analogous to the notion that one is guilty until proven innocent!   While it should be noted that this principle is true for Ibadat, i.e. acts of worship, it is not the case for anything else…The correct view regarding fiqh (jurisprudence) of actions is ‘Every action is halal (permissible) until texts restrict’. Thus, the onus is on the Puritanical Muslims to find the evidence to deem dancing ‘Haram’ or impermissible…So my challenge to the detractors is this, where is the clear-cut or definitive evidence to deem the video ‘Haram’ or impermissible?…There simply isn’t clear-cut evidence to dismiss it as such. Puritanical Muslims have been at pains to find a verse or hadith to vindicate their outcry.[6]

As noted earlier, Adam’s call for evidence contradicts his confidence that there isn’t any. However, what is most problematic with this argument is his gross misinterpretation of his detractors’ positions as well as what he constitutes as “evidence” in Islamic law. Adam assumes, without any credible argument, that those that are primarily opposed to his view are coming from a perspective that restricts behaviors based on there being no positive evidence in favor. On the contrary, many who have disagreed have been convinced by evidences suggesting that such actions, such as dancing or listening to music, have mostly been seen as unfavorable within the Islamic tradition. Adam takes the common question, “where is the evidence during the Prophet’s [sallallahu alayhi wasallam] time, of the women of Medina dancing publicly?” as indicative of this sort of unsupported reasoning, but this is simply presumptuous. The question is merely a challenge to Adam to prove the normative opinion wrong — not to validate some imagined “puritanical” view that everything is haram by default. Perhaps some may in fact hold this view, but Adam’s rant hasn’t shown any examples of this being the mainstream trend of disagreement, no matter how many times he complains about “puritanicals” coming to rain on his parade. The second issue with this argument is how Adam wishes to be proven wrong. He wants evidence that shows a “clear cut” condemnation directly from the Qur’an or ahadith (narrated reports). The problem is that while this is certainly a method propounded today by hardcore Salafis (presumably the very same puritanicals he wishes to denounce), it has never been the normative method of traditional Islamic jurisprudence. Many issues dealt with by fiqh have neither “clear cut evidence” from the Qur’an or ahadith, nor were such things ever necessary. There are other forms of evidence that play an important role in determining rulings on controversial matters — as Adam should be well aware of — such as ijma (consensus) and qiyas (deduction by analogy). Within the Maliki madhab (school of thought) an additional criterion of the “living Sunnah”, or the amal  (behavior) of the Medinan community, even supersedes the hadith. Perhaps Adam did not realize the possibility of his questioner being Maliki?  In any case, such a demand for “clear cut evidence” from mostly lay Muslims is completely out of line. As the celebrated Tunisian Maliki scholar Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani stated in his Kitab al-Jami’ fi al-Sunan:

Ibn `Uyayna said: “Hadith is liable to misguide all except the jurists” (al-hadithu mudillatun illa li al-fuqaha’).

Ibn Wahb said: “Every memorizer of hadith that does not have an Imam in fiqh is misguided (dall), and if Allah had not rescued us with Malik and al-Layth (ibn Sa`d), we would have been misguided.”[7]

Given the above, an appeal to scholars on the issue would be a far more Islamically appropriate demand. Adam (including The Honesty Policy) recognized the numerous responses citing scholarly consensus on the issues of music, permitted and non-permitted types, as well as dancing — not to mention the proper attire for men and women, which was not displayed by many individuals in the video. What was the response? Simply put, both appealed to a minority view from a group of scholars they have yet to name (aside from Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad), and rather than  explaining why  the minority view is valid, they seem to advocate the perspective that disagreement itself justifies the opinion in question. Adam cannot possibly make this more clear when he says:

[G]iven that the discussion is within the remit of fiqh exploration, if one wants to be charitable, one might allow the claim that some may deem the video ‘haram’. And yet, even this merely suggests a difference of opinion. What’s the consequence of this in terms of fiqh, responsibility and judgment? It means it can only be ‘haram’ for those who deem it ‘haram’, and not for those who differ with that interpretation! To see it any other way would be a form of authoritarian fiqh tyranny, a problem Puritanical Muslims suffer from quite regularly, wanting to impose puritanical ‘Islamic opinions’ on everyone else![8]

While this certainly may be the case with many controversial issues, it is not always the case that one can simply agree to disagree in matters of fiqh. Sometimes the minority opinion is simply wrong. Even when this is not the case, the safest opinion to accept for the sake of not causing fitna (conflict) in the community, is that of the majority. Regardless, Adam and The Honesty Policy have repeatedly placed the burden of proof on those who disagree — despite the fact that the evidence against their position is quite strong — and rather than engage that majority view on the same footing, both parties have simply evaded the responsibility, citing “differences of opinion” whilst calling everyone else who disagrees pejorative labels who are out to “tyrannize” them. What this clearly shows is that if you truly wish to be proven wrong, this is not the method to be adopting for beneficial discourse.

However, the question remains as to whether or not the video is halal or haram. I leave the reader to seek out the proper authorities and to judge based on whom they believe holds the most knowledge on the matter. I am not an authority in fiqh. If there is anything I could say,however, is that my Shaykh once said of haya (modesty) that those who truly understand this principle in our faith are not people who merely cover themselves appropriately, but speak, act, and think with haya. For shame is not simply a passive thing, nor is its primary focus on repelling sexual desire, but it is the best of manners in which attention is not drawn to oneself unnecessarily — and this applies to both men and women. Perhaps this is why the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) once said: “For every religion there are morals and the [essence] of Islamic morality is modesty (khuluq al-islam al-haya’).”[9] The question of whether an action is halal or haram is perhaps not the right question in this situation, but whether or not the attention was a necessity, and who exactly it was for.

THE REAL ISSUE

Contrary to popular belief among most Muslims today, we and our religion are not only perceived as violent and intolerant. There is in fact another image being imposed on us: the idea of a “moderate, liberal, pacifistic ” Muslim that submits fully to the standards of secular society and law. These “moderates” are also seen as being obligated to control the more extreme elements in their communities. If a Muslim does not openly speak out against extremism 24/7, dedicating their every waking moment to showing how peaceful and loyal they are to king constitution and country, with a megaphone on every street corner, then they are by default an extremist. Indeed, while  many non-Muslims may not buy into this narrative,  those of us trying to combat Islamophobia in society should at least try to recognize that it has two faces. For instance, the infamous American Islamophobic blogger, Pamela Geller, does not actually demonize all Muslims as terrorists and extremists. Rather, she sees Muslims as being in two camps, one of which she seeks to defend and champion above the rest. In an interview with The Times of Israel, when asked if she was opposed to Islam and Muslims as a whole, she answered with the following:

Of course not. I’m a human rights activist. I fight for all people who yearn for freedom…I am opposed to jihad and to the most brutal and oppressive ideology on the face of the earth: the Sharia [Islamic religious law]…Who speaks for the Muslims who flee jihadi wars, Sharia, honor killings and misogyny? I do.[10]

For her, the extremists believe in jihad and Sharia Law, but ask most Muslims today and they will tell you that they too believe in jihad and Sharia Law, just that their understanding and application of it is entirely different from those who commit atrocious acts. So for Geller, rejecting jihad and the Sharia (the entire corpus of Islamic belief) and becoming a secularist is the sign of a “good Muslim” as opposed to a “bad” one. This is made even more obvious as the interview continues. When Geller is asked if she seeks to liberalize the Muslim world, she answers in the affirmative: “Yes”. 

Geller “defending moderate Muslims”…

On the other side of the pond in the United Kingdom, UKIP politician Gerard Batten recently suggested to parliament that Muslims be forced “to sign a declaration rejecting violence and accepting the need to modify the Qur’an.” He too affirmed the existence of “moderate” Muslims when he said: “I would expect the fundamentalists to agree with me that democracy is incompatible with fundamentalist Islam. Moderate Muslims have to decide which side of the argument they are on.”[11] These are just but a few examples. The label of “moderate”, contrary to the unsubstantiated position that it means wasatiyyah (“moderation” understood by the limits of Sharia, the very thing Islamophobes want to do away with), should be understood as a loaded term defined completely by secular, non-religious principles. The same goes for terms like “fundamentalist”, which when uttered implies some form of extremism, while simultaneously meaning “one who follows the fundamentals of their religion”. The very fact that many Muslims don’t seem to have a problem utilizing both terms is indicative of a lack of awareness of the narrative in question, which seeks to pigeon hole us into one of these two camps. That lack of awareness is also apparent in Adam and The Honesty Policy’s actions and statements. Uses of the terms “puritanicals” and “haram squad” give in to this false dichotomy of the narrative, further dividing us based on the goals and desires of those who despise our religion; our way of life. The term “puritanical” became a popular pejorative for Muslims a few years ago by a self-proclaimed “moderate” Muslim by the name of Khaled Abou el Fadl. His book, The Great Theft, while not necessarily arguing for this strict dichotomy, did provide a term that could further be used to divide us based on this narrative:

Those I am calling puritans have been described by various writers as fundamentalists, militants, extremists, radicals, fanatics, jihadists, and even simply Islamists. I prefer the label puritans, because the distinguishing characteristic of this group is the absolutist and uncompromising nature of its beliefs. In many ways, this orientation tends to be purist, in the sense that it is intolerant of competing points of view and considers pluralist realities to be a form of contamination of the unadulterated truth.[12]

Notice any distinction between a puritanical and a non-puritanical? There isn’t one. The nature of human beings in general is uncompromising when it comes to our most cherished beliefs. Of course, one can only realize this if they are not utilizing the term to pressure others into conformity. Who wants to be a “puritanical” anyway? It’s something frowned upon by those of the establishment, of which many people want to be a part of. Let me clarify that I am in no way condemning the labeling of extremists, but that I am condemning how and by what means those extremists are being labeled.

But the use of these terms by both Adam and The Honesty Policy wasn’t their most grievous error. Their intentions, and the very nature of the video itself, was all that was necessary to justify the narrative of Islamophobes. Giving into the fear of being seen as extremists, Adam and The Honesty Policy chose to be branded with the polar opposite term, by showing the self-proclaimed world of “diversity and pluralism” that they are the same as everyone else. Through this superficial act of secular pop culture antics, neither parties have expressed anything authentic about Islam or Muslims, nor have they destroyed stereotypes. This act is even more surprising for Adam, given that the institute he heads claims to raise awareness about the sound use of critical thinking and intellectual thought.”[13] If that were the case, you would think that dancing on camera would have been the last thing on his mind. You would also think that the last thing Muslims would do is dance and sing to an artist that has repeatedly been called out for his sexist and misogynistic music and videos[14] — some of the very stereotypes that #HappyMuslims was intended to combat. Irony never felt so embarrassingly shameless. More importantly, if not more damaging, by justifying this narrative they have made the rest of us who disagree with this video look like extremists by default, thereby marginalizing us further and silencing our voices through the implicit slander of the Islamophobes’ false dichotomy. While I believe this was not their intention, perhaps all those involved should consider that the anger towards them has more to do with the fact that the rest of us have been humiliated by their actions, and not so much by what those actions were.

A CHANCE TO REFLECT

A few year ago I ran a semi-popular YouTube channel that focused on providing answers to non-Muslims about Islam. At one point, a well known bigot had released a video basically condoning genocide of the Muslim world, prompting me to respond quickly to this horrific outburst. In my response, I was angry, but I made absolutely sure I was careful with my language so that others would know what I stood for. Near the end of my response, I warned the gentlemen that if he or anyone else were to ever try to manifest those genocidal fantasies, that they would be met with real, physical force from the Muslim and non-Muslim world alike. My response was balanced, despite its harshness.  I was clear and concise. I presented myself as rational and in line with the moral principles of self defense and justice. I thought that there was absolutely no way that my video could be misinterpreted or misquoted. I thought wrong. Within hours, this individual took a short clip of my video and spun it around. He accused me of making death threats because of his “free speech” and went on to show me as an example of how Muslims really are: extremists, terrorists, and the like. For three years after, I endured constant harassment, death threats, and even people calling The FBI and Homeland Security on me. No matter how many times I contacted YouTube to ask them to take down the video because of its slanderous nature, they refused to take me seriously. It became so bad I attempted to get legal counsel to file a lawsuit for slander/libel, but I couldn’t afford it. Even the numerous videos I made over that three year period, attempting to clear my name of these accusations, were met with the same hostility and disdain. It didn’t matter that I never supported terrorism or extremism. It didn’t matter that my words were taken out of context. None of this mattered, because most of those hating me didn’t want it to. The narrative of the “Islamic threat” had to be preserved. Someone had to be made an example of, no matter what they truly said and stood for. How does this relate to the issue at hand? Because I know the intentions behind #HappyMuslims quite well. In fact, I beat them to the idea several years ago. Yes, I’ve danced on camera for all to see; to show everyone how normal I was. As a part of my public relations campaign, I wanted to prove that I was a moderate Muslim, and that I was just like everyone else. So, I decided to show all these non-Muslims that were harassing me that I could dance. Prior to my conversion to Islam, I was a very avid breakdancer and still knew how to do it pretty well. The difference was that I did it now in private for myself as I knew it was wrong to display to others. However, I was so desperate to be accepted that I decided to forgo that feeling and just let go. I just wanted to stop being hated. I just wanted respect.

This is not me…obviously…

When the video was eventually released, I received a wave of positive responses, most of which echoed the very same sentiments shown towards the #HappyMuslims project: “See! Muslims are normal too!” , “Great job! This is a surprise!”, “Look, Ali is a moderate!!!”, ad naseum. At first, I was elated; I finally felt some measure of humanity. However, something still felt unsettling. Something still felt wrong. I wouldn’t find out exactly what that was till a few years later when I decided to finally remove the video. In that moment, I had given in to a narrative that not only destroyed the image of Islam, but destroyed the image of my brothers and sisters. I had not regained my dignity, but I had given it up to serve the interests of my desires to be accepted by those that didn’t want to see me as me, but as them. I only ask that others reflect and to not make the same mistakes as myself. If we truly wish to counter Islamophobia, we should first stop letting it define who we are.

_____________
ENDNOTES
[1] http://thehonestypolicy786.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/pharrell-happy-british-muslims/ [2] http://adamdeen.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/happy-muslims-angry-puritanical-muslims/ [3] https://asadullahali.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/honestypolicy1.jpg [4] http://islamicate.co.uk/happy-between-the-puritanical-and-militant-left/ [5] https://asadullahali.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/adam41.jpg [6] http://adamdeen.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/happy-muslims-angry-puritanical-muslims/ [7] Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, Kitab al-Jami’ fi al-Sunan, 42 [8] http://adamdeen.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/happy-muslims-angry-puritanical-muslims/ [9] Imam Malik, Muwatta, 1628/9 [10] http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-ever-controversial-pamela-geller-as-self-appointed-spokesperson-for-moderate-muslims/ [11] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/05/tory-mp-ukip-muslim-code-conduct-frightening-halfon-batten [12] Khaled Abou el Fadl, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From Extremists (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 18. [13] http://www.thedeeninstitute.com/about-us/our-vision [14] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alanna-vagianos/pharrell-williams-girl-feminist_b_4854124.html
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7 thoughts on “The Narrative Behind #HappyMuslims

  1. I completely see your point brother, I am glad that you made this detailed response, it put many things to light and it’s a lot easier to understand and even agree with your angle on this topic. We should do our best to not bend over backwards to please others so they can reject us for us, and accept us for being “them”- it goes against the fabric of basic humanity.

  2. Look, this is clearly the product of an intelligent and articulate individual. But at the same time it is obvious that you would like us to a) show the type of Hyah that you deem appropriate, even if we do not have to and b) blackmail us with the idea that Islam is ‘Under Siege’ from people like Geller etc so we need some kind of ideological hygiene and to change the whole discourse and practise of Islam to fell into line against this enemy.

    Geller is an inarticulate and untalented enemy: the fact that ‘Islam’ is even threatened by the likes of her, Shamoun, Wood etc shows our weakness more than anything else.

    The bottom line is that

    1) you have no Islamic definition of what is and is not ‘dancing’. The girls in the video were not exactly pole dancing, some were doing ‘the robot’ or just clicking their fingers and stuff. If the antics of women in that video seemd immodest to you I wonder what you make of women undertaking sports?

    There is a whole fiqh around what movements a woman can and cannot do at work and in public. A girl working in a supermarket may have to bend over; some guys might get turned on, this is not her problem and we will not make this an issue if it is deemed licit by the fuqaha, and their differences will be tolerated and we will not give preference to the harshest nor the easiest opinion but follow taqleed or try to understand some of the proofs. Some people like you might start talking about ‘hyat’ (it is fine to take you up on this because you were a bit dishonest and said you did not want to get into the fiqh of it and then nonetheless gave us the opinion of a Sheikh who was clearly towards your preferred over-cautious side: the spiritual prescriptions of such learned men are for our benefit – they are not however to be enforced or even defended).

    If you have not studied the fiqh of what girls can and cannot do, do not label what is or is not ‘dancing’ or what is dancing in Islam versus what is dancing in the West, such as doing the robot or even break-dancing as automatically ‘provocative dancing’, which is indeed prohibited for men and women. Labelling women clicking their finger and moving side to side as they walk as provaocative dancing is a pretty good definition of puritanism – lust, caution.

    In fact, the Quran commands ‘respect the customs’ and Hanafis have whole books dedicated to the role of custom in delineating what is modesty, social customs etc. In Hanafi madhab, which Deen most likely follows, custom is a valid source of Islamic law.

    2) Differences of opinion mean, whether it meets your definition of ‘hyah’ or not, you have to tolerate it. Respecting the different madhabs and views does not mean ‘only unless we find it uncomfortable’, but rather especially if we find it uncomfortable. Music is not a ‘haraam’ issue: that requires clear proof from a big number of Mashoor or even mutawatir narrations. it can only be ‘makruh’ if established on the basis of ahad narrations, even if Shahih, at least in Hanafi Usool of Hadith (which again, you will just have to tolerate), and again tolerate means that they will not only HOLD an opinion about Music and even dancing but EXPRESS it as well.

    Your point about using and popularising music from a noxious individual such as Pharrell who likes to have topless women in his videos (as in his video with Robin Thicke ‘Blurred Lines’) as well as your point about Hadith being used to establish things were excellent and sorely needed. You would have done better to focus on these well needed analyses.

    Further, it is true that Adam Deen has been most foolish in deploying terms such as ‘puritan’, which can indeed be used in an inappropriate way by critics such as Geller etc. He would have been better off, as Al Fadl did, to clarify that he was in fact speaking about the Salafist and Wahhabi movements from which most of his critics came from, And he is indeed free to criticise these movements, for being under attack from un-intellectual buffooons such as Geller does not mean that we accept that every utterance of a Muslim or group is correct and we must rally behind it.

    Also, Geller does not define Islam and does not stop us from sorting it out when people ARE extremists. We are Muslims: we are distinguished by justice: when we are wrong, we admit it openly, even before our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity. We are not swayed frokm the path of justice by such trivialities as Spencer and Geller, who do not even have the knowledge of an entry level Academic orientalist.

    One of the main reasons that people such as Geller DO enjoy such widespread access and ‘respect’ is due to talented, able and articulate people like yourself leaving the field to them (I saw your break-dancing video, it was brilliant and had a great effect. You are a fool to take it down and then complain that the media is full of people like Geller – it could be full of people like you – look at the service done for Islam by people like Mos Def and Lupe Fiasco for example. But you would start worrying about the girl in his last video having slightly too tight pants). Muslims cannot get into the media, a necessity nowadays, because people like you are making them paranoid about stuff such as even your completely licit video with the break-dancing. How on earth are people with such hangups ever going to break Hollywood or whatever?

    Further, people like Geller do very well off of the actions of those ‘puritans’ who give her plenty of fodder, and on channels paid for by Muslims (like Fox News, which has a Saudi prince as the largest non-Murdoch share holder).

    Representing the truth and curtailing the actions of our brothers who promote things such as FGM openly is not going to harm but to help Islam, by showing non-Muslims how to differentiate between the ‘proper’ and ‘extremist’ Muslims (yes, these groups do exist in ALL groups of people): http://asharisassemble.com/2014/01/24/the-truth-about-islam-and-female-circumcisionfgm/

    Not ‘giving in to the narrative about Islam’ Is not going to help in the least when you have clowns like the Imam of Mecca mosque saying that we should celebrate suicide bombngs: http://asharisassemble.com/2013/05/30/with-imams-like-these-who-needs-enemies-sudais-shames-muslims-by-celebrating-suicide-bombing/

    And you’re worried about a bit of break-dancing.

    Here’s a good idea, if you are truly worried about people like Geller, lets have Muslims in the media as Jews are and lets stop these idiots who give people like Spencer, Harris etc fodder to bash Muslims.

    And newsflash: there ARE such things as extremists and puritans in EVERY group, from science through philosophy to religion, Speaking put against Sudais publicly or ‘puritans’ who insist on FGM despite the Ijma of ALL of the madhabs (who say it is haraam) is not some kind of ‘selling out’: it is sensible and shows people that we are fair and balanced.

    I don’t like Adam Deen’s vague and vacillating approach, and a correction was necessary, but when you have large numbers of people in the Islamic world thinking Bin Laden is a ‘Martyr’ (and that includes SE Asia) and the Imam of the most Holy place on Earth saying that a suicide bombing is grounds to be ‘Happy’ lets not act like there are not widespread extremists and puritans.

    The narrative about Muslims being extreme is like anything: not 100% false. We need to fix it from within the community and by media representation.

    And you should also do an article telling all those people who insulted the crap out of Adam and his wife for being in that video to sort out THEIR hyah and adhab. Your choice of Deen was…unfortunate.

    • Asalaamualaikum mmmclmru,

      Thank you for your response. However, I’m afraid much of what you wrote is not representative of my actual position on the matter, which I clearly stated in the above article. Allow me to reiterate. .

      Your first “bottom line” argument chastises me for not having a definition of “dancing” (and I presume music, singing etc.), when this was never the point to begin with. I never focused on the behaviors of the individuals in question. Most of what I wrote regrading said behaviors had more to do with Adam and The Honesty Policies shoddy reasoning in matters of fiqh. My supposed “dishonesty” in wishing not to relate a position on the matter was not dishonesty at all, but a case of misreading on your part.

      I stated very clearly the following: “However, the question remains as to whether or not the video is halal or haram. I leave the reader to seek out the proper authorities and to judge based on whom they believe holds the most knowledge on the matter. I am not an authority in fiqh”

      So I left the issue of whether its “halal or haram” to the reader to decide upon based on their scholars. I am certainly not an authority on fiqh, so my personal opinion is of no benefit here.I then went on to say:

      “If there is anything I could say,however, is that my Shaykh once said of haya (modesty) that those who truly understand this principle in our faith are not people who merely cover themselves appropriately, but speak, act, and think with haya. For shame is not simply a passive thing, nor is its primary focus on repelling sexual desire, but it is the best of manners in which attention is not drawn to oneself unnecessarily…The question of whether an action is halal or haram is perhaps not the right question in this situation, but whether or not the attention was a necessity, and who exactly it was for.”

      I merely stated the opinion of my shaykh, while attempting to distinguish (once again) between the issue of halal and haram, and a much broader view of what haya actually means. You appear to have escaped this point as well, since you go on (on numerous occasions) to focus on the supposed “provocative nature” of movements etc., which I was neither interested in, nor expressed anything about.

      You go on to inform me in your second point that differences of opinion are differences of opinion and to tolerate them. Naturally, I have no problem with this, though I do take issue with how Adam and The Honesty Policy defended said positions. I also took issue with the reasoning behind the actions, and not so much what those actions were. As you should have understood by my article, I was more concerned with the reason behind the video than anything else.

      And, if I may say, if I am to tolerate the opinions of others etc., then they should also be willing to tolerate the other supposedly valid opinions that disagree with their view, without getting into fits about “puritans coming to get them” — or does tolerance only apply to one group and not the other? Are disagreements in fiqh never to be entertained, or should they only be entertained when its convenient?

      The third major point you made can be summed up by what you said here:

      “Also, Geller does not define Islam and does not stop us from sorting it out when people ARE extremists. We are Muslims: we are distinguished by justice: when we are wrong, we admit it openly, even before our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity. We are not swayed frokm the path of justice by such trivialities as Spencer and Geller, who do not even have the knowledge of an entry level Academic orientalist.”

      Geller was just one example of many, though I agree that she nor anyone else defines who we are, much less should they be the reasons for us dealing with extremism.

      Which is precisely why I was shocked that Adam and The Honesty Policy made a video like this to “dispel stereotypes” defined by such Islamophobes. If these people and their views were so insignificant and not worth the time to address, then what’s the point of such expressions of “normalcy”? Are you suggesting that the “puritans/extremists” are responsible for our bad image, despite the fact that they make up a very small portion of our population? I disagree that they are as prominent as the media portrays them as. And I agree we should speak out against extremists and point them out — though I would not agree that your point was raised in the right context of this discussion, as my lack of focus on them in this article is not indicative of the rightness of #HappyMuslims. Remember when I said: “Let me clarify that I am in no way condemning the labeling of extremists, but that I am condemning how and by what means those extremists are being labeled.”

      I wish to end by looking at one last point you made:

      “One of the main reasons that people such as Geller DO enjoy such widespread access and ‘respect’ is due to talented, able and articulate people like yourself leaving the field to them (I saw your break-dancing video, it was brilliant and had a great effect. You are a fool to take it down and then complain that the media is full of people like Geller – it could be full of people like you – look at the service done for Islam by people like Mos Def and Lupe Fiasco for example. But you would start worrying about the girl in his last video having slightly too tight pants). Muslims cannot get into the media, a necessity nowadays, because people like you are making them paranoid about stuff such as even your completely licit video with the break-dancing. How on earth are people with such hangups ever going to break Hollywood or whatever?”

      Mash’Allah, I do appreciate your compliment, but there are many better people out there already doing just that, by writing and speaking intelligently in the right forums: not dancing. Being a hollywood star and making ourselves look no different than everyone else is not going to make this ummah any better. If anything, if we truly want to dispel these myths, we are better doing so by appealing to the masses with intelligent, intellectual, and appropriate responses, rather than becoming circus acts or carbon copies of everyone else.

      Rather than being concerned with breaking into Hollywood, we should be concerned with disseminating knowledge and trying to get our voices heard in a meaningful way, such as this:

      • Looks, thanks a lot for your clarification, but I re-iterate that your concerns are misplaced: I am sorry if I mis-read or mis-understood you, but the point is very simple – you are not ‘living in the real world’, as evidenced by your comment in your second last paragraph that there are ‘already people out there doing this’. Where are they dear? Have I missed these people taking care of our business in the media?

        And then you show me a video of Mehdi Hassan, who has to make WAY bigger compromises that Adam Deen to get is point across (such as supporting gay marriage and ‘secularism’ openly and not criticising the kind of liberal tripe that outlets like the ‘New Statesman’ which he helped edit insist on) and gets takfired to death for his trouble (and Shiism). Further, as you well know, his knowledge of current affairs is far superior to that of Islam. I know him, he’s a nice guy. Hardly anyone in the UK has heard of him though.

        If you seriously think that the mass of people are interested in ‘intellectual dialogue’ or whatever you called it, you seriously need to take a look around you: the things which have the most penetration are the tabloid papers (not even the broadsheets) and yes, stuff like Hollywood. It has much more impact when someone like Cat Stevens converts than the numerous academics frequenting dusty university libraries all around the world who do so. That is the real world, our Jewish brothers realised this and took control (or tried to) of the RELEVANT institutions, making sure they were equally represented in movies, government and academia. In our case, we are in none of the above and won’t be with the kind of backlash one gets for being in a mere music video. The sad fact is, it has a lot more influence if Tom Cruise starts complimenting Islam than if Noam Chomsky converts to Maturidism or whatever. C’est La Vie.

        Penetrating things like the media, Hollywood of government takes GENERATIONS, if the Jewish example is anything to go by. And penetrate them we must. It is not ‘waajib’ to lose your identity while doing so: that is an easy and defeatist excuse and shows how weak out Islam is ion the first place and like arguing, as puritans do, that if I go for a coffee with a girl, sex is inevitable, because ‘that’s what people do’. People like you, who ARE well placed to try this penetration, take down their videos for something as mild as break-dancing. We’ll never get anywhere at this rate.

        Guess what gets through to people who like break-dancing? Not Mehdi Hassan but BREAK-DANCING, big surprise, just like historical stuff appeals to history buffs, scientific stuff appeals to science geeks and so on. A lot of people (a lot more than engage in the kinds of ‘intellectual’ activities you seem to think are influential or important) read comics. The guy who made that ‘Islamic’ comic ‘The 99’ is a real smart guy. He ‘gets it’. You communicate with people in the way THEY want (as long as it is halal), not the way YOU want them to. That is adhab. And that is ‘respecting the customs’, as the Quran says. Before you can get people to change you need them to listen to you. If that means engaging with them on their level a bit, so what?

        You don’t get it: you think by not doing the kind of videos you used to you are ‘;breaking the set’ and not letting Islam be defined by people like Geller. In fact you are doing just that – you are letting them pigeon-hole you into this ‘holier than thou’ realm of intellectual discourse (sans break-dancing) and letting them dominate the mass media: exactly what they want – take the talented guys who can appeal to the youth and the wider community out of the equation and leave the field to them. Fair enough: if you took down your videos because YOU felt you were being weak and ‘sucking up’ to the image portrayed by the media, then OK: but you are still being dictated to by them, and now anyone who DOES want to break dance and is still self confident and NOT doing it because of the media is going to think ‘I had better not, it’s not acceptable, I have to be in the realm of intellectual discourse’. Either way, the media defined you, you let them.

        It is obvious from your dismissal of Hollywood (which influences far more hearts and minds than any intellectual pursuit: a lot more people saw Hollywood movies than read the Vedas or investigated the history of Islamic Spain). Of course it’s haraam and shows haraam liberal stuff: what do you expect? That’s because we have allowed the movie industry to be dominated by these kinds of people: there is no rule that that has to be so – go back to the fifties and even the swinging sixties and things were different. There is no reason we cannot penetrate and Islamicise the entertainment industries to SOME extent. in any case, that is far more likely than to tell the aficionados of these industries to come into ‘our’ realms’ (which as you define them, cannot even include entirely halal pursuits such as brake-dancing).

        Your statement that we should not be concerned to break into Hollywood but rather be heard and disseminate our knowledge in a meaningful way is incredibly naive and at the same time elitist.

        Also, your articulate chastisement is misplaced: Adam Deen made the reply you object to after a week of hideous treatment at the hands of so – called ‘puritans’ on line and on Facebook: like I say, I don’t care for Deens approach but it was a RESPONSE to everything from attacks on his family to crypto-takfir. I think you would have better to have addressed the outcry than his understandably robust response to it, since both sides had a rubbish approach to fiqh. And my point stands, there was no need to bring in the issue of hyah, stay neutral, as a reading of your article will make it seem to most that you are trying to make a point about the kinds of ostentatious displays that are shown in that video. Thus it is a judgement, fiqh or not.

        The real story here is NOT that Adam Deen has a harsh or not usooli approach to people who disagree with him but that you, me, anyone can get ABSOLUTELY CRUCIFIED for something as mild as that video. Takfir for that crap? Are you kidding me?! And then the guy responds and gets a hard time for standing up for himself. Sheesh.

        As for who is responsible for our ‘bad image’, as we all know it takes two hands to clap: Islamophobes are keen to blame it all on Muslims and Muslims are keen to blame it on everyone else. The fact is that this ‘tiny minority’ is highly visible and enjoys serious influence and penetration in the Islamic community. Go live in Pakistan and see what this ‘tiny minority’ is doing. When the Imam of Mecca, who people pray behind on Hajj for God’s sake, condones a suicide bombing where 50 people die in a mosque of all places, then it’s pretty hard to pin that on ‘Islamophobia’.

        I grew up in the 80’s: people were indifferent to Islam: who painted a target on our backs by flying planes into New York skyscrapers? And what was his approval rating in countries like Indonesia? Close to 70% in some Muslim lands. It ain’t just a ‘tiny minority’. And it is a lot easier to get your own house in order than to sort out the ‘kuffaar’. It just takes away all those ‘feel good’ persecution complexes Muslims have evolved (sometimes justifiably).

        I live in London: I was left alone more or less until some jackass blew up the London Underground in 7/7. They let that one slide and then another attack takes place last year. Yeah, the media milked it for all it was worth, but who let the media have no Muslim representation? And who did the attack? It is just like Sufism which is attacked nowadays by Muslims: since it requires you to honestly look at yourself, it is painful. Muslims can’t take it, they want easy, feel good, ‘Them vs Us’ solutions, like feminists: ‘you are the victim because of your gender, they are out to get you!’ Perhaps.

        Is there some randomised control trial where we can prove that the media have it in for us? Let’s do this: lets get some community, say, Chinese people, make it so that they have next to zero media or academic and political influence (not to mention not represented in the Armed services) and then lets get them to do something epically dumb like 9-11 and then see what happens: I’m guessing they will get the same kind of crap that Muslims do now. Same with McCarthyism or Japanese Americans in WWII. But you know why we cannot do a comparison: because no other community has been dumb enough to act like that (at least in the West).

        Granted, there is the massive historical animosity to Islam from the West, but you get my point.

      • Asalaamualaikum mmmclmru,

        Thank you again for your interest in discussion. I will do my best to address your concerns, though I must admit this will most likely be my last response to you on the issue, as I feel I’ve exhausted enough time and reasons for my opinion.

        Allow me to get three minor points out of the way. Firstly, regarding my focus on Br. Adam. I understand quite well that his blog article was a response to many of the attacks he has endured for his participation in the video in question, however, as you are aware, I addressed these individuals and rebuked their behavior in the original article:

        The other side of the debate has also not been so forgiving in their judgments. Many Muslims have outright condemned both The Honesty Policy and Adam in a very hostile manner, playing into the pejorative labels being applied to them. This has not helped matters, though it does help that among all those that disagree, this appears to be a minority of angry individuals, who despite their harassing comments, are still not “extremists”, “radicals”, “terrorists”, etc., just as The Honesty Policy and Adam, are not necessarily “deviants”.

        If your principle concern was that I did not address these individuals enough, then I apologize, but they left me with very little material to deal with, not to mention that my article should have been read as criticism towards them as well, as you pointed out earlier regarding my argument about hadith and fiqh reasoning.

        Secondly, my use of Mehdi Hassan’s debate was to exemplify the method of approach, not necessarily his views. I am well aware of many of his opinions, which I am in in disagreement with, but his performance did well to spread a positive message of Islam as opposed to the Islamophobic narrative. It also reached a wide audience of not only students, but YouTube viewers as well. If I may say, I truly believe that his short speech did more for Islam and the image of Muslims than dancing ever would. Now, those who attended the debate will not be affected by negative media portrayals and they will also be more informed about what our faith actually teaches. That knowledge will also assist them in telling others about what we really stand for.

        Thirdly, you continue to harp on my breakdancing video and are now insisting that by me taking it down, I am giving in to the Islamophobic narrative especially portrayed by the media. You also believe this to be a display of a “holier than thou” attitude, chastising me again and implying that I did so because I thought it was “haram”. None of this is the case.

        As I stated earlier in my article, my reasons for doing it had more to do with being accepted based on the narrative in question. Given this, it is quite impossible for my taking down of the video to be interpreted as an act that gives in to the same narrative. My choice to not even bother with the narrative — to ignore it and to not be coerced into it — is an obvious declaration of my opposition, not my conformity.

        And if I may, that specific video was never any reason by any non-Muslim to ask me about Islam. In fact, if you’ve ever followed my YouTube channel, you’d know that my dawah videos detailing historical or rational reasons for my faith were far more popular. Take for instance my “KungFu Jihad” video (my most popular), which explained the historical realities of the Chinese Muslim minority community and tried to tie in some principles of martial arts with Islam and the concept of Jihad.

        That video did more to dispel myths and misconceptions than breakdancing, the latter of which only gave me a sweat and some superficial acceptance from people with a very shallow understanding of what it means to be dignified and respected.

        Now, lets get to the meat of the subject. You accuse me of not being realistic to the issues of our time:

        “If you seriously think that the mass of people are interested in ‘intellectual dialogue’ or whatever you called it, you seriously need to take a look around you: the things which have the most penetration are the tabloid papers (not even the broadsheets) and yes, stuff like Hollywood. It has much more impact when someone like Cat Stevens converts than the numerous academics frequenting dusty university libraries all around the world who do so. That is the real world, our Jewish brothers realised this and took control (or tried to) of the RELEVANT institutions, making sure they were equally represented in movies, government and academia. In our case, we are in none of the above and won’t be with the kind of backlash one gets for being in a mere music video. The sad fact is, it has a lot more influence if Tom Cruise starts complimenting Islam than if Noam Chomsky converts to Maturidism or whatever. C’est La Vie.”

        Firstly, we should not lower our standards for the sake of others, but try to raise their standards. Appealing to tabloids and movie stars is not indicative of the type of individuals that we really want joining our religion. Besides, if you’ve ever witnessed a conversion story in your life (whether personally or on YouTube, etc.) you’d be aware of the fact that no one cites either of these as influences. I have never heard anyone converting because Mike Tyson was a Muslim, much less because Lupe Fiasco released a hit single. I have never heard of anyone coming closer to Islam or appealing to it as a result of fame and conformity — on the contrary you have people converting because of the beauty of our differences to secular culture. Neither have Jews nor Scientologists been seen as appealing because of their superficial Hollywood presence, unless of course you can show me mass conversions or general acceptance based on Adam Sandlers performance in “Big Daddy” or Tom Cruise sofa jumping on Opra. Last time I checked, Jews are still one of the most persecuted minorities in the Western world and Scientology is considered a major joke, aside from a few boy-crush obsessed acolytes of Top Gun (cue Katy Holmes).

        In fact, the fastest growing ideologies, which happen to have the least media presence, are Atheism, Islam, and New Age. Perhaps you’d like to explain why this is the case, despite all of the above being negatively portrayed or underrepresented by the mainstream?

        And perhaps you’d also like to explain how any sort of “down to earth” conformity to non-Muslim standards –especially those from secular countries — has been effective, given that the very terrorists you chastise, did just that? Were not the 9/11 hijackers clean shaven, slack wearing conformists who attended strip clubs, drank alcohol, and had very little Islamic education? — unless you count pediatric surgery and engineering as relevant fields of Islamic indoctrination. Was not the murderer of Theo van Goh an acid tripping junky who lived with his girlfriend out of wedlock? Was not the recently deceased Osama bin Laden (also untrained in very basic Islamic principles) caught with a huge box of pornography under his bed? — generally an acceptable form of media within secular society. Given the above, do you honestly think then that Non-Muslims (especially Islamophobes) are so elated with and accepting of Islam because of how “normal” we are perceived? Please.

        And do note that I do not think the above is comparable in any way to dancing or singing. I just wanted to make a general point. If the sort of people you want to bring to the religion are those who are so superficial, then be by guest, but I thought we already had enough of those sort of Muslims.

        Perhaps we should raise the bar a little higher. If those within these superficial industries (music, movies, etc.) can convert for spiritual and intellectual reasons, then maybe we should believe that the same can happen for those who idolize them. Maybe handing out a biography of Malcom X or an article by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad will get to their hearts more than any of these combined. Or maybe it’s not maybe— because evidence proves it already does.

        Speaking of evidence, you asked if there is proof that the media (and government policy) “has it in for us”. Indeed, there is quite a bit. Here are three books you can get started on that are of academic quality:

        1) The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims

        2) The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror

        3) Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims

        You can also check out the report by the Center for American Progress called: “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America”

        Finally, as for your point regarding the so-called “puritans” being a major influence towards our image; I still think this is an unsubstantiated claim. Even many of the terrorists are opposed to Saudi Arabia (Al-Qaeda for example), So talking about the head mufti of Mecca isn’t really evidence of anything. Traditionalists, liberals, and even many salafis oppose the regime. This isn’t new information. Citing other political issues across the Muslim world — most of which is secular– does nothing but feed into the narrative that “sharia” and “Islam” have something to do with these problems.

        Dancing won’t save that image; education will.

        And no matter how “puritanical” this may appear, I stand by my points, because I refuse to buy into these labels that do nothing but purify the discussion of a more nuanced approach.

  3. If you are pressed for time, a good way to save some is to not make obscure and convoluted justifications for your entrenched positions.

    For example, claiming that the opinion and statement of the Imam of Mecca supporting terrorism is of no import. This is simply bizarre. It is even more unrealistic to expect either Muslims or non-Muslims to realise that this has ‘nothing’ to do with Sharia or Islam – a non-Muslim hearing that Mecca is the holiest sanctuary of Islam and that Hajj is a pillar will then think ‘the guy who ‘runs’ that place and leads them in their prayers on pilgrimage is supporting mass murder. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt but…’ then when he or she sees the relative lack of response by many, do you REALLY expect them to do really deep research and see that some are against Saudi or whatever? Come off it, ’tis not even plausible dear boy!

    Your method is seemingly one of utter fantastical denial: Osama Bin Laden was not a scholar so non-Muslims should immediately understand that he does not represent Islam. Are you serious?

    Then what are they to make of the widespread support for him in the Muslim world: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-bin-laden-out-of-favor-among-muslims/. Dude, until 2011, 26% of the worlds most populous Muslim country thought that Bin Laden would do ‘the right thing’ in world affairs! And that’s down from much higher on previous polls. Wake up man!

    (And if you don’t like non-Muslim news sources, remember, you were happy to believe the CIA or whoever that there was a stash of Porn under Bin Laden’s bed)!

    What are they further to make of the support and protection offered to him by the ‘Islamic government’ (self appointed) of Afghanistan, not after 9-11 only but after he admitted to the Kenyan Embassy bombings years before? Are they supposed to still know that he does not represent Islam or Muslims? Get real bro. How about the Taliban having an embassy in Qatar? What will onlookers make of that?

    It is very simple indeed: you could have

    a) Focused on how people like Adam Deen respond to criticism by inappropriately labelling people puritans

    or

    b) Shown how people like Adam’s opposition deal with things they see as ‘not allowed’ by labelling the practitioners thereof as modernists (or even kaafirs or enemies of the Sunnah – the same thing).

    Or c), both.

    You chose the first option, as any reader can see, no stress, but then expect criticism for that choice (which has no Islamic imperative behind it vis-a-vis the others) and I don’t for one minute think that including a short paragraph mentioning the other side is enough to make your piece adequately balanced. You seem to think that because Adam articulated his ideas then he is more deserving of a response. You would have done much better to address both sides.

    Likewise, you tell us you are preferring ‘education’ to dancing, but how precisely do you intend to educate the people if you don’t address them in a way they can relate to? Or give others a guilt trip about halal stuff like break-dancing or whatever by saying stuff like this:

    ‘And perhaps you’d also like to explain how any sort of “down to earth” conformity to non-Muslim standards –especially those from secular countries — has been effective, given that the very terrorists you chastise, did just that? Were not the 9/11 hijackers clean shaven…’

    First of all, you keep telling us that you aren’t making a statement about fiqh but keep dropping gems like these: who said shaving is a problem in Islam? Who said wearing slacks is a problem? Can you show me from the madhabs where is says having beard is anything more than Sunnah? The harshest opinion is that of the Hanafis (like me) and even they do not say it is sinful but ‘Is’aa’ (blameworthy, it is only sinful if done to imitate women).

    Then why is it worth mentioning that the 9-11 bombers were unshaven and wore slacks, since neither of these acts makes one any less of a Muslim, nor sinful, nor lacking except in that sunnah, which is not necessary anyway? It is not licit to condemn people for omitting meritorious acts or even sunnats. The visit to the strip club is where you should have started, but as I said before, you are showing us your own puritanical streak, with your choice of Deen as recipient of your corrections as well as statements such as these (and your inclusion of your Sheikhs, admittedly sensible advice).

    Secondly, who on Earth told you ‘conform to non-Muslim standards or those from secular countries’ (secular countries are the only kind that exist dear boy, hardly worth you pointing that out other than to be pejorative). I merely said that if something was allowed in Islam, like break-dancing most certainly is, then people should be free to do it without fear of guilt or being told they are falling into Pamela Geller’s trap or whatever (newsflash: she doesn’t have one), and likewise with political participation etc, within the bounds of Islam. I don’t know who said anything about kowtowing to secularism or whatever. Maybe you got a set of Hizb ut Tahrir books for Christmas or something, but don’t try and accuse me of ‘selling out’, or if you want to, have the courage to say it openly instead of hiding behind facile statements such as the above.

    But the fact is clear: you have a most dangerous method: Beards are must, slacks are bad. Of course you are going to guilt trip Deen for a music video. I already told you to tolerate differences in opinion, but you are willing to condemn people as un-Islamic for optional things such as beard and trousers. That is the definition of puritanism that Deen lacked in his piece. You have furnished it for him by your strange defence.

    Perhaps the answer is found in your elitist and frankly abhorrent statement

    ‘Firstly, we should not lower our standards for the sake of others, but try to raise their standards. Appealing to tabloids and movie stars is not indicative of the type of individuals that we really want joining our religion.’

    So film stars are not worthy of our religion are they? And I thought Islam was for everyone, including child killing idol worshippers who were out to kill the Prophet (SAW), like Umar RA. Guess you know better. Don’t remember the last time Tom Cruise tried to kill a baby girl, but you’re right, he just doesn’t DESERVE Islam. Wow. And I was taking you for a deep thinker. You are in fact in serious danger of being a bigot by your own admission, who wants to ‘elevate’ Islam with only the finest candidates.

    Guess what, I want everyone in our religion because I believe that the religion elevates the people, not vice versa only (though people can elevate the standing of a religion also). You would do well to think on this.

    Telling people to read a set of books is no argument at all: it would be better if you told us what you wish to illustrate by them rather than giving us an extensive reading assignment: as a Brit and a Pakistani, I have has enough experience of both Islamophobia (only in the media thank God) and terrorism. What of it?. What purpose does it serve to give me a set of books like I am some kind of Islamophobia denialist?

    The fact is very simple we, I already told you, Islamophobia is real and Muslims (including whole governments that claim to act in the name of Islam such as Saudi, Taliban, Iran) doing stupid things in the name of Islam is real. We need to deal with both. We need to tackle Islamophobes (not only by the frankly pie in the sky means you are advocating) and Muslims who ‘feed’ them, by doing stuff like giving stupid fatwas in the name of Islam and terrorism etc. Both things need to be done. You just want to feel good that it is is all due to Islamophobes. You and others will soon be disabused of this notion by external reality.

    Now as for what does and does not produce converts, this is actually an evidence free zone with no studies and no reliable statistics, beyond populist articles that make both Muslims and Islamophobes feel good by telling us of the increase in Muslims: we are constantly reminded that Islam is the ‘fastest growing religion’, but is it an absolute or relative growth, due to birth rates, conversions, immigrations or intermarriages? There is little hard evidence here (try this, since you like to hand out reading assignments:http://mohamedghilan.com/2013/01/02/alienation-of-islam-rise-of-atheism/)

    We are also constantly being told that there are converts and why they convert, but it is mostly anecdotal – you have no idea apart from your own experiences and anecdotal observations, not only why people convert, but you don’t even know how many convert, let alone how many did so due to Mike Tyson, Lupe Fiasco or Dave Chapelle (the obvious truth is that you look down on these kinds of people as you made clear above) or not and what percentage is due to marriage etc. Jeffrey Lang opines that many or perhaps most conversions in the States are due to NOI members becoming orthodox.

    And you somewhat deceptively used the example of Tyson and not Ali. In any case, bring your evidence, apart from your experiences and say so of what causes conversions and why greater participation in the media or indeed break-dancing will not help.

    It is as strange for us to take the opinions of Muslims such as us as to why people become Muslims as to take that of apostates as to why people leave. We take both under consideration and await the hard evidence (which as the above article shows, is possibly not favourable to you).

    You have no evidence that Tom Cruise converting would be worse or better for Islam than handing out essays by Tim Winter (who wrote a more balanced piece on this whole débâcle, as someone of your abilities should have done:http://bloggingtheology.org/2014/05/02/clarification-on-the-boundaries-of-dawa/)

    Though you made the bizarre statement that Jews are still one of the most persecuted minorities in the West (?) and that Atheism is negatively portrayed in the media. I guess you don’t watch much – atheism is both a media and specifically a publishing phenomenon now. There are way more films made promoting secularism and even specifically atheism than Islam in any case.

    I would be amiss if I did not also mention, self-importantly, that I too have exhausted enough time and reasons for my opinions and the educated reader is more than capable of judging for themselves. Though it is better not to remind people of how precious ones time is, if you catch my drift.

    • “The Monoculture’s complaint about Islam amounts to only one demand: Be like us!”
      – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

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