My Muslim Manifesto

by Maher Hathout

Extremism is the main source of harm to Islam and Muslims worldwide. Blood is shed in the Muslim world and beyond.

Extremism brought us Islamophobia. Extremism brought us Pamela Geller, Steve Emerson, Zuhdi Jasser, and their ilk. Extremism brought us reactionary parties in Egypt as well as in other parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Extremism took the self-confidence of our youth. Extremism took the pride in religion of our youth. Extremism took our ability to speak to the hearts and minds of people.

Extremism has us teetering on the edge of the black hole of irrelevance.

Compare the damage to Islam caused by Muslim extremists versus non-Muslim extremists. Sadly, the damage to Islam by Muslim extremists far outweighs any other damage. Thus, most of our energy and resources are used to control the damage caused by Muslim extremists.

The voice of the extremist few is loud. Their voice is cloaked in religious garb. Their voice carries religious jargon. The only power this voice has is to mislead with claims of religion. This voice exploits the uneducated to burn, destroy, and kill. This voice distorts Islam while disfiguring the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The extremist minority is organized and motivated. They have caused, and will cause, harm to the majority and to Islam.

Now, enough is enough!

  • No longer will we allow fatwas contrary to reason, science, or human decency into the marketplace of ideas.
  • No longer will we allow self-proclaimed preachers to insult and condemn those they brand as sinners.
  • No longer will we allow the subjugation of women because men don’t want to lower their gaze or control their urges.
  • No longer will we allow ugliness, deliberately deformed foreheads, or beards akin to Karl Marx or Santa Claus as signs of piety.
  • No longer will we accept niqab as a farida when we know it is not.

These manifestations of extremism harm Islam and the majority of Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Amongst you are ones who are repulsive.”

Enough is enough. Now is the time to refocus and readjust our lenses. Our readjustment will avoid labels such as wahabi, salafi, jihadi, talibani. These labels are not conducive to clarity. We cannot and do not claim that all extremists fall into one of these labels nor that these labels accurately describe all extremists. Hence, we use only the term extremist without applying it to any particular group.

However, extremists do carry tell-tale signs. The following are the cardinal features of extremism:

  1. Lifestyle decisions are based on compulsion.
  2. Authority is monopolized by one or a select few claiming their authority from God.
  3. Any opposition to the authority figure is equated with opposition to God.
  4. The “will” of God is told to the people who no longer need to think.
  5. Tradition is paramount. Innovation and progress are condemned.
  6. All must conform to the status quo rather than act on their beliefs.
  7. Outward appearance matters more than personal convictions.
  8. Ethnocentric and insular attitude towards others.
  9. Self-centered and haughty thought processes.
  10. Ability to adapt or adjust is atrophied.

We offer an alternative. No one monopolizes the truth, including us. Our alternative offers happiness not misery. Our alternative offers construction not destruction. Our alternative offers benefits not harms.

We call on the silent Muslim majority. We call on those intimidated by the harsh voices of intolerance. We call on the scholars in their ivory towers. We call on the women who think they are second-class. We call on the youth who should build a better future for themselves.

Islam is to be enjoyed, not endured. We call on you to join us and to be united. We call on you to raise your voices in the unison of truth. We have nothing to lose but the lies of extremism.