When we are asked by non-Muslims why all the “Islamic states” on earth are dictatorships that trample on human rights, most of us simply say: “they are not real Islam.”
By Mustafa Akyol
Eid Mubarak! Or, in English, may your feast be blessed. That is what we Muslims say to each other during these days. We share desserts, we visit relatives, and we wish, Eid Mubarak.
However, deep down in my heart, I know this Eid (or Bayram, as we say in Turkish) is not much of a blessed one for the global Muslim community. The reason is that, first, the horrible injustices done to our co-religionists. Secondly, there are horrible injustices done by our co-religionists.
On the first front, there is of course the nearest tragedy in Gaza. As I was writing this piece, more than a thousand of Palestinians, most of them civilians, including hundreds of children, were killed by the Israeli military. Israel’s staggering ruthlessness and self-righteousness while killing so many innocent people, is undoubtedly sickening. And the poor people of Gaza (and West Bank, and the refugee camps in Lebanon and elsewhere) deserved nothing but support and sympathy.
However, do we Muslims really think that we will help liberate Palestine by merely condemning Israel’s occupation and militarism? Israel is intoxicated with its might, but what have we done to counter this in the right way? For decades, what have Arab and other Muslim governments done to find a rational, feasible solution that will take Palestinians to statehood? Haven’t we rather weakened or de-legitimatized this right cause by devolving into sensationalism and anti-Semitism, and even the exploitation of Palestine for domestic politics?
Beyond Palestine, the Ummah, the global Muslim community, is burning, too. But more so by the confrontationalism among Muslims themselves, rather than the conspiracies of “infidels” that we often see as the root of all evil. In the horrible civil wars in Syria and Iraq, Muslim groups which all proclaim “Allahu Akbar,” are killing each other due to differences in sect or even faction. All across the Muslim world, we have plenty of heavy-handed dictators and militant opponents, but very few democracies. In even democracies such as Turkey, Islamic sentiments generate authoritarianism when they assume full power (as seen in the case of Erdogan), and/or initiate bitter intra-Islamic conflicts (as seen in the case of Erdogan vs. Gülen).
When we are asked by non-Muslims why all the “Islamic states” on earth are dictatorships that trample on human rights, most of us simply say: “they are not real Islam.” But isn’t this a bit like an apologetic socialist saying that all experiments based on his ideology were just “not real socialism?” If you keep getting horrible results from the application of a theory, shouldn’t you begin questioning the theory itself?
But mind you: By “theory,” I don’t mean the divine core of Islam, to which I am undoubtedly loyal. But I mean “historical Islam” that has evolved over the centuries with the commentaries of past scholars, and stagnated for quite a while. I specifically mean “Shariah,” or Islamic law, which often reflects the social norms of medieval societies rather than the eternal tenets of our religion. I also mean “Islamism,” which is modern political ideology that aims at imposing this Shariah either at the barrel of a gun or, more moderately, with the dictates of a ballot.
What I mean, basically, is that we should revisit Islam’s relation to power, especially state power. We should agree that God’s authority over men cannot be the basis of men’s authority over men — and over women, for that matter. Only then, I believe, we will have the mental tools to build a world of much more blessed, joyful and peaceful Eids.