By Shireen Qudosi
September 2, 2018
The answer to Islamophobia is more Muslim
scholars, for the chief reason that honest and informed conversations about
Islam will dispel many of the myths surrounding Islam. Those myths are usually
rooted in the belief that Islam is inherently fundamentalist.
Not coincidentally, it is usually orthodox
Muslims and anti-Islam personalities who underscore this narrative despite
their animosity toward each other. No matter how much they disagree, they agree
that Islam is a rigid monolith — and that’s where our problem starts.
Within Muslim circles, orthodox
personalities and organizations embed themselves within Leftist narratives that
often sincerely seek to aid oppressed groups of people. Due to a lack of
education about authentic Islam, a pigeon-holed monolithic interpretation
becomes the only visible representation of Islam in the public sphere — and
often, too, in the media.
While this version of Islamic “Puritanism”
is guarded by one sector of society, it is vehemently opposed by another
sector. The political right, seeing no other visible narrative or discourse is
led to believe that an often alienating, identity-driven version of Islam is a
true representation of the faith. Essentially, both sides fail the
conversation, and they fail themselves.
The fault here isn’t so much that people on
either side of the political spectrum often have a limited understanding of
Islam. The fault doesn’t even necessarily lie with Muslims, who are now very much
in the same boat in having to wade through the reeds in search of their faith.
At large, folks are doing the best they can
with the information presented to them. In all fairness, Islam is such a broad
subject that it is not reasonable to expect everyone to be so well-studied in
the subject. It takes at least one generation to have a significant and complex
understanding of Islam. Most people, Muslims included, simply do not have that
time or luxury.
This is where Muslim leadership comes in.
Unfortunately, that leadership is nested within often sensationalist activists
who scream the loudest, or with imams who are not scholars or experts in field.
To be very clear, activists who represent a
Muslim identity are often not informed sufficiently on the faith they’re
advocating for. Similarly, imams are also not well-studied theologians; yet
they are expected to serve as scholars. We have to start driving this point
home: Imams Are Not Scholars.
What’s actually missing from our
conversation is actual Muslim scholars — authentic Muslim scholars who aren’t
influenced by Islamist organizations.
The Answer to Islamophobia Is More
If we had proper Muslim scholars trained in
Islamic sciences, and if those scholars were given the same platform freely
given to propagandist activists and imams, three questions would immediately be
addressed and solved:
Public Prayers – Public Muslim prayers that sprawl onto streets and block traffic
are not allowed in Islam. Communities who say that opposition to obstructive
public prayer is anti-Islamic need a better education in Islam.
Hijab Debates – The debate over hijabs would end tomorrow. Islam lends a lot of
flexibility to this subject and the choice to wear a hijab is a woman’s alone.
The Quran, which has given detailed instruction on military and civilian life,
does not give detailed instruction on this issue. If hijab was mandated, it
would have been clearly and plainly stated in the Quran. However, scholars
would frown on the need for some Muslims to use a hijab to mark themselves as
visibly Muslims. Signs, symbols, and other demarcations are not required in
Ethics plays a significant role in Islam from everything to jihad, Hadiths and
integration with new cultures. Ethics have always informed the conversation as
the faith unfolded in the first 700 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death.
Now that we understand the unique value of
Muslim scholars, the next question is: How do we produce more Muslim scholars?