We have all heard the news by now. The swiss voted and passed legislation that would ban the construction of minarets on Mosques. Some are calling this decision racist, some are calling it a violation of human rights, some are calling it another sign that Islamophobia is spreading throughout Europe, and I’m calling it a wake up call to Muslims as we need to accept reality, wake up, and smell the coffee.
It’s time to deal with the reality that 57% of Swiss citizens have demonstrated with their vote that which we all know, that Muslims are not welcome in Europe. Why are we acting surprised and outraged when we already know this? It’s like being surprised when the Shaitan leads you astray, he already revealed his nature, why act shocked when he acts in accordance with his nature?
Why call for dialog and understanding, when there is no need for either. Interfaith gatherings, speeches, and UN condemnations will not change the realities on the ground. Europeans and the West in general have had enough. What the Muslim world needs right now is a big can of wake the hell up and accept our role in shaping the opinions of the West. As a group we appear more and more hypocritical with our demands for tolerance when we rarely show any in return.
This is not a popular position to express and I’m certain my Muslim brethren are going to be upset with me because of my views, but we have to stop being hypocrites expecting universal tolerance of our beliefs, cultures, etc. yet show little to none when the roles are reversed.
In many Muslim majority countries tolerance is a joke. Muslim and non-Muslim minorities that face death, isolation, and bans daily. It is almost comical to express outrage for the lack of tolerance the West or in this particular case the Swiss have for Muslim minorities when in some Muslim countries you can’t even build a Church, Synagogue, or Temple. Yet, we are upset about minarets? Come on brothers and sisters, let’s just be honest for a moment, tolerance goes both ways.
Europe has had a large influx of Muslim immigrants and for the most part they are able to build Mosques, proselytize, and practice their religion freely. Thousands of Mosques dot the landscape across the Western world in majority Christian lands some so great in size that they rival those in Muslim countries. Can the same be said of Muslim countries? What Muslim country has displayed this level of tolerance toward a non-Muslim religious community? Where do similar freedoms exist?
Justified or not, Europeans feel that their entire continent is under siege. This is a common perception when you have immigration of this size. Of course it is not right when immigrants are marginalized, criticized, or even attacked in some cases due to their ethnicity, religion, or culture. But we can not pretend these emotions do not exist. We have arrived at yet another point in history where immigration has caused waves of backlash. However, our focus should not be limited to criticizing this backlash but working toward shaping, crafting, and executing solutions that prevent these reactions. Many groups have had these challenges and faced mounting opposition to their arrival in a particular host country. What can we learn from these groups? This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Immigrants have been welcomed in the West for centuries. In our young country, we found ourselves dealing with large immigration from Europe in the 20th century. Many of these groups were met with similar hostilities as Muslim communities are today. Yet, these groups persevered and became an integral part of American society and culture. But these groups did that which many Muslim communities are unwilling to do: Assimilate
Yes, I used the big, bad, evil word. No one wants to seriously take up the discussion of assimilation, what it implies, and what it means for immigrant communities. If we continue to ignore this discussion we condemn ourselves to a continued and increasingly terrifying reality where a Swiss minaret ban will be considered small compared to what is to come. Whereas immigrant communities of yesteryear felt the need to assimilate to their new country, Muslim immigrants tend to reject the notion that this need exists. Assimilation does not mean abandoning ones individuality or religious and cultural norms. What assimilation implies is the need to work within those unique attributes, ideas, customs, and values finding common ground within the existing customs in ones host country in order to produce an environment that is mutually beneficial to both parties. There is very little evidence to suggest that Muslim minorities accept assimilation as a necessity which is often one of the causes of frustration between the parties. It is unthinkable to suggest that one should expect to be able to immigrate to another country and not have to accept that country’s customs and societal norms being able to benefit from all that country has to offer without giving up anything in return. Yet, this is the attitude of many Muslim communities. We are our own worse enemy in this regard.
To add insult to injury, while many Muslim communities believe that the status quo is perfectly acceptable and that the West should accommodate our wishes while we largely ignore theirs, we would never accept this if the roles were reversed. This is where I believe most of the frustration on the ground lies and where I believe most of the support for legislation such as the minaret ban stems from. It’s really difficult to wrap ones mind around the concept that it’s completely fair to be 100% accommodating to Muslims while Muslims don’t have to reciprocate at all in their countries. This unbalanced ethos fuels and fans the flames of hate and discrimination toward Muslims and these facts are largely ignored in the media. When a religious minority such as ours feels that it’s perfectly OK to come to a majority Christian country and demand prayer spaces, public foot baths, the adhan to be called from loud speakers, and other accommodations too numerous to name, yet won’t even attempt at similar accommodations toward religious minorities in Muslim majority countries, is it really that difficult to understand the frustration?
What makes the Swiss minaret ban a tragedy is not that it was done per se, but that it was uncharacteristic of the Swiss people to behave in this way. This legislation and vote was outside the norm they have established for themselves and those of Europeans in general where tolerance, equity, and justice toward all citizens is a goal routinely sought after. The question we as Muslims should ask is what are the norms we have set for ourselves in our countries and if the shoe was on the other foot, how would we legislate, vote, and act? Better yet, how do we deal with similar situations today in Muslim countries?
Our continued protests, declarations expressing outrage, and calls of injustice when incidents like this one occur actually adds to the appearance and suggestions that we are are thin-skinned at best, or secretly carrying out an agenda at worst. In many ways, our reactions to these injustices against us and our collective silence toward injustices against others especially by Muslim hands, help fuel the paranoia that can result in unfavorable legislation.
People in our host countries wonder both in private and in the open when are the Muslims going to be just as equitable to others as they are asking for themselves? They wonder when are the Muslims going to be just as vocal about injustices in their own countries as they are about cartoons they react to in outrage. They mock our complaints as half hearted attempts to divert attention from our own inequities.
How often is the Muslim world in an uproar about Muslim women being raped and maimed throughout the Muslim world while doing simple things from going to get water in Darfur, to trying to get an education in Afghanistan? How often is the Muslim world outraged and condemn rulings that will stone a female adulterer but let the male get away with a fine or rulings were 75 year old women can get lashed for not having a male escort? How often does the Muslim world call for dialog, tolerance, and peace when Muslim and non-Muslim minorities are murdered, banned, and attacked?
These questions are routinely asked and levied against us as charges of hypocrisy. As we are openly challenged about our silence and reactions to these issues. It is stated that we only able to find our collective “voices” when cartoons are drawn, a Pope gives a ridiculous speech, or minarets are banned at which point we react swift condemnations.
For these reasons and many more, we have to understand that this ban is only the tip of the iceberg and we have to steer away from this path. We are demanding respect from others when we don’t even respect ourselves or them in return. We come to their countries and ask them to change and adapt to our views and not the other way around. We ask of these Western governments that which we are not willing to do ourselves. To them, we have a lot of nerve.
Can you really blame the Swiss?
The tragedy is not what the Swiss and others are doing, but what we as Muslims are NOT doing. What this ban and many others in the works do is expose the fractured and disunited quagmire that is the worldwide Muslim community. We are billion weak and selfish individuals who have forgotten the principles of our religion and opted in their place, isolated agendas that seek to strengthen a particular sect, culture, leader, or ideology. We have neglected the universal principles, methods, and duties demanded in Islam toward all Muslims and all of humanity. As a result of neglect, Muslim countries are some of the worst places to live where freedom in any form is a joke, tolerance is non-existent, and corruption is the order of the day. This is why Muslims are fleeing Muslim countries in droves and going to non-Muslim countries in the first place. We seek better lives and opportunities elsewhere because of our failure to provide them for ourselves.
This is why it is ironic when Muslims complain about the intolerance, lack of freedoms, or “Kufr” nature of the West. If it were not for the West, we could barely practice our religion, let alone get educations, and have “simple things” like the freedom to speak one’s mind.
Is this a case of misplaced zeal on the part of Muslims? In many ways, I believe so. While it’s perfectly rational and just to question and speak out against bans such as the Swiss minaret ban, it is also perfectly rational to ask where is the zeal the Muslims have when wanting to improve the West, located when it comes time to criticize to the East? Why aren’t the Muslim organizations, scholars, Imams, and other leaders routinely blasting Muslim governments for their disregard toward minorities and dare I say Human Rights?
If we focused most of our collective energy internally instead of externally even a quarter of the time, we would probably have a leg to stand on. Right now, we look like hypocrites, and as this ban’s outrage intensifies we will just look like loud hypocrites. Muslims, we to do better. Call me crazy, but I just couldn’t see 1 million Swiss immigrating to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc. and building Churches and demanding acceptance and tolerance. We demand of others that which we wouldn’t even do ourselves.
This is a large pill but it’s time we swallow it and move on. Either we can exist as hypocrites screaming injustice when we are offended in our host countries, yet turning a blind eye to injustices in our countries, or we can work toward improving conditions in both the East and the West. Have we become so cowardly that it’s easier to point the finger at others and never at ourselves? There’s a lot of blame being hefted around and rarely are Muslims ever willing to accept any of it. We have to first be willing to change ourselves before we could ever expect any aid from God or any change from others.
I know it’s radical for me to suggest that Muslims should do for self first by cleaning up our communities and lands prior to expecting others to change. This may sound like a novel lofty concept or dream. The problem is that change does in fact, involve work. One has to wonder if we as Muslims actually have the will, courage, and dare I say faith to do what is truly needed to produce the type of change that is mutually beneficial to all parties. Will we accept this challenge that will deal the death blow to the intolerance produced as a result of the failure to accept the views of both sides or will we reject it and condemn ourselves to more of the same. The truth is that the choice is and forever will be ours. In the end, we will be judged according to our actions not those of others. What will those actions be?