Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Pseudo Neo-Orientalists

I had another story lined up that will just have to wait for another day as there seems to be other more pressing matters to attend to. This one is a long time coming…

Now I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I come from a very ethnically mixed background. In fact, my extended family is so large and diverse that we encompass all races and religions. Yes that’s right. To be specific, they are what I like to call ‘thorough-bred mixed breeds’ and include Whites, Coloureds (in SA Coloureds are those mixed races), Indians, Malays…covering ancestral ground from the Irish, Scottish, Malaysian, Arabian, French, Indonesian, Indian, Pakistani and Portuguese. And even though the majority of my immediate extended family is Muslim, I do have many great aunts and second cousins who are Christian or Hindu.

So in essence, I’d like to think that I (more than most) understand most people in a cultural/religious context, having been exposed to everyone’s BS first hand. And nobody understands my concept of hating everyone equally quite the way I do, especially since I find abhorrent characteristics in EVERYONE and consider no one to be better than the other. With this pointless information on hand, I’d like to address a few issues that have been plaguing my mind of late.

Let me just clarify that the information I’m about to impart is not with the intent and purpose of being the village gossipmonger, since it is still Ramadaan and I am fasting and I don’t indulge in mindless activities during the holy month. Instead the boundaries of this information will be blurred so that nothing of an overtly personal nature is divulged to protect the not so innocent. Furthermore, the purpose of this information is to highlight the plight of people and religion everywhere.

Ok, so I don’t get these Pseudo-Neo-Orientalists and the likes of them. Let me break it down for you. A couple of years ago, I met two sisters. Lets call them Taraka and Baraka. Together with my sister, we accompanied them on various outings and built a friendship based on shared interests. Or so we thought. One day, we were conversing/disputing the merits of some or other cultural facet of Islam in our society amongst some of our Christian and Jewish friends. Up until this point, we had all agreed and expressed our disapproval of culture being allowed to dictate religious laws, when Baraka goes a step further and states that she doesn’t see the point of Islam especially since it advocates violence. At first I was perplexed, then horrified that she would express a sentiment that was completely false and baseless, to a crowd that could have easily mis-interpreted this information.

It wasn’t long before Baraka and my sister got into a HUGE argument over this and while I tried to remain diplomatic, it was very difficult not to punch Baraka's lights out. I tried to explain to her that she could not make a statement like that because as a Muslim (and having attended Madressa) she should know the code of morals and ethics that govern Islamic practices, the first being Peace…which refuted her claim that Islam advocated violence. Secondly I explained to her that there are fanatics in every faction of every religion, not only Islam and that fundametalists do not represent Muslims because their activities contradict and go against everything Islam stands for. I also reminded her that a lot of the information she quotes were from biased mediums, and therefore not correct or necessarily true.

I won’t go into the details of the argument, or the arguments subsequent to that but I will say this: I truly believe that people are free to choose how they want to live. They are free to decide whether or not they want to practice their religion. They are free to live in debauchery if they choose to, or in sanctimonious devotion to the Lord. They are free to frown upon how others perceive or interpret their religion. They are free to criticize, attack or question their so-called leaders; the intentions of the clergy in their churches, mosques, synagogues and temples; their societies; their cultures; the political agendas of some; corrupt officials etc. etc.

But I do NOT think that it is ok to attack a Religion. ANY RELIGION. There have to be some boundaries when it comes to Freedom of Speech, especially when people have NO IDEA about what the religion entails nor do they have any insight/information into the details of the religious laws and practices governing that religion. It is not ok for people to take things out of context and use them to manipulate the truth to advance their objectives. It is not ok to ardently argue over laws and issues of which they have no knowledge of. There she was insulting her own religion...a religion I hold dear...a religion she surprisingly knows very little about... amongst others who don't know any better. All I could think of was that she sits in their company and the Lord only knows what they think, what false impressions they take home with them, perpetuating and reinforcing negative perceptions based on her ignorance. And worst still was that she wouldn't listen to reason and was adamant in her sentiments.

I eventually gave up trying to talk to her and advised her to look into the matter, to read up on various sources, to go back and re-learn what she had been taught before expressing her opinions drenched in ignorance, so openly. Imagine if I argued the laws of Quantum Physics with a Professor when the only thing related to anything scientific (that I can vaguely recall) is a Bunsen Burner and I’m not even sure how it’s utilised in Scientific research. The whole situation was beyond ludicrous.

Reminds me of those Neo-Orientalists…

Orientalism arose waaaay back, when Westerners wrote books about how terrible and primal the occupants of the East and Mid East was. In these contemporary times, these Westerners have been replaced by new-age natives from these Eastern and Middle Eastern countries that have become known as the ‘New Orientalists’. Westerners regard them as authorities on the subject, and give them credit because they are deemed to have escaped unspeakable ‘horrible and oppressive’ regimes. Most of the information made available however, is distorted and severely biased.

In other news…

With regard to this whole ‘women in mosques’ debate that’s been going on. I find the whole ‘issue’ utterly ridiculous and absurd. If I’m not mistaken, the issue stems mostly from those following the Hanafi way (for non-muslims, think of it as similar to the difference amongst the factions in Christianity eg. Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Methodists etc.)

Again, I won’t go into all the gory details. All I know is that I’ve been going to mosque since I was a little girl, thankfully because Mother was brought up Shafi and it’s completely normal for them. I've always questioned and debated this issue as I don't see how women are allowed to attend the mosque in almost every other Muslim nation including Islam's holiest places, but they aren't allowed to go to the mosque in their own home towns. I see it as nothing more than cultural aspects influencing Islamic jurisprudence…so-called authority figures manipulating the system to drive their own agendas. I still can’t believe it lasted this long. Its about time people are speaking up.


  1. Ignorance is bliss and that is why I try not to get into debates regarding religion, on the topic of women at Mosque, like you said it is widely practiced in the Shafi mathab and is something I am accustomed to but one Eid namaaz I attended it was in open air, the women were allowed to stand next to the men and that was here in Crosby Jhb, now that confused the shyte out of me :) Some people frowned upon it and some even left without reading their Eid Namaaz.
    For me personally - if your intentions are for prayer then nothing is going to distract you and you will not even notice who is next to you until the prayers are done.
    Always nice reading you various topics, keep it up.

  2. When was this whole women in the mosque debate? I seemed to have missed it.

  3. Well, this all just makes you a very well rounded and diverse person!

  4. If there was a friendly way to resolve differences in religion, the world would be a much better place.

  5. oooh you are so lucky to have a mixed family.

    i've always wanted to be a very mixed breed. sigh...don't think i will ever achieve that though! lol...

  6. Since when did Ignorance become a point of view.

    I have this same argument, upholding values of Islam to my family, not immediate family, other members. I usually end by telling them to read the Quran before talking crap about Islam. It makes me so angry.

  7. Your family is so diverse Ms'a!

    Ditto Waseem.

    It's the same here, and I often find myself at loggerheads with extended family elders.

    I don't sweat the smaller issues, but blatant disregard, and spouting off unchecked half-truths wind me up.

    We need to sort out our own houses first. Dawah begins at home.

  8. Azra :)

    Well in the Quraan you are told something to the effect that when you come across and ignorant person like the Baracka or Taracka you have come across then it is better for you to be silent and walk away.(As opposed to trying to convince that person and potentially getting into an argument and possibly uttering something that could alter your own faith for the worse)

    I had a smilar discussion with a learned person and that is what he advised me.I think there is goodness in being silent on certain issues.

  9. ok I had some time today and managed to catch up with this whole woman in the mosque debate. I'm not sure where I stand on it though. I guess it all comes down to intention and allah knows best.

  10. Toyer - I do believe that intention is key with regard to women in mosques. And I also believe that if people really feared Allah SWT, they wouldn't have time for such frivolous activities. As a society, we need to step back and re-evaluate some of our ethics because I tell you, the number of people out there that play this 'victim' to their Nafs is staggerring. Whatever happened to self-control? We are not animals, we have choices.

    Edge - I was going to send you the links but I guess now I don't have to.

    OrganicM - Yeah I guess it does :)

    LL - I find it interesting that there is more fighting WITHIN religions that amongst them. Its sad actually.

    Prixie - lol, well when I was younger, I wasn't Coloured enough for the Coloureds and I wasn't Indian enough for the Indians. Now I don't care :P

    Waseem - I think thats what riles me the most. That they can talk shit about Islam when they know nothing about it. It's not like they studied it and are offering a critique...everything that comes out of their mouths is absolute bullshit.

    Honestwaffle - I do agree that Dawah begins at home. But people like Baraka irk me because they go around spreading lies and half truths with no intention of finding out the truth. She does it for attention.

    Mini - lol, thats what we've done. We're not friends anymore :P