Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by Saadia Faruqi. Saadia is an interfaith activist, blogger for Tikkun Daily and The Islamic Monthly, and a speaker on American Muslim issues. She lives in Houston, Texas and is currently writing a collection of short stories set in Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter @saadiafaruqi
The Boko Haram incident has been on every news station and in every news publication since the day Nigerian girls were kidnapped. Much has been written condemning the militant group and speaking out about how Islam values women, education, peace, etc. So much has been written and said in the last month that I sometimes think we write articles just for the sake of writing, for the sake of getting published. Does protesting via our keyboards really serve any purpose? Why do we need to continue protecting and defending Islam from the acts of so-called Muslims themselves? Will the West ever change their minds, or are we forever to be judged by the actions of madmen who scream “Allahu Akbar” before blowing up buildings or beheading innocents?
I personally think we need to do much more than what we are doing today. First and foremost, writing articles protesting that Islam is not the problem, doesn’t seem to be working. Let’s face it, when Muslims do things that are against the teachings of Islam, it seems naïve at best, or treacherous at worst, to continue to say we have nothing to do with it. We are Muslims, an Ummah that was called a brotherhood by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). As such, we do have a connection to all other Muslims, whether good or bad. Saying Boko Haram aren’t Muslim makes us lose our otherwise valid argument that anyone who professes to be a Muslim must be accepted as such.
So how to defeat organizations such as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and others who put Islam in such a bad light? I think the best way to do is to actually practice the teachings of our beloved Prophet (pbuh). Instead of protesting that Islam encourages girls to get an education, make sure all Muslims girls are really educated. We could do this by starting within our own homes and communities, spending our wealth on charities that work in Muslim countries in the fields of education, for instance. We could make sure we instill the value of independence and a love of learning in our own daughters. Those of us who live in Muslim countries could become teachers in their own homes, inviting poor girls to study basics of reading writing and mathematics from us in safety and security.
Similarly, instead of writing articles praising Islam’s award of women’s rights fifteen hundred years ago, we could assess how much of those rights we actually give to our Muslim sisters and daughters today. Within our own homes we can try to present a picture of equality, respect and love. In our communities we can work towards helping women achieve their due rights from society, whether they are Muslim or not. We can volunteer for women’s charities, spend our donations on such causes and work towards giving women the rights Allah has always wanted them to have.
There are a countless ways we can all work towards actually establishing Islam in the world, instead of complaining that others place our religion, and therefore us, in a bad light. Those of us who are good writers, should be writing articles addressing Muslims, instead of using our skills for a public relations campaign that Islam is perfect. Yes, Islam is perfect, but we are not. We have a long way to go before we can reach the ideals Islam prescribes for us, and we need to be trying harder to improve ourselves instead of protesting about media bias, unfair politicians and pretend-Muslims putting us all in a bad light. We can defeat militant, extremist Muslims best by practicing and spreading the true teachings of Islam within ourselves as well as in our communities. May Allah give us strength to do. Ameen.