A letter to a young Muslim on the future of Western Islam


Source: Quartz

By Haroon Moghul

Senior Correspondent, Religion Dispatches

We have failed you.
While jihadist movements continue to expand their reach, anti-Muslim bigotry is becoming more and more mainstream. Both narratives mean to deny the possibility of meaningful coexistence. Which is the identity and the reality of thirty million of us.
Thirty million Western Muslims, spread out across Europe (excluding Russia), the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. But though we had every reason to speak out, we have barely begun to come together.
When we are talked about, it’s either as a problem (terrorism) to be solved, or as the solution (counter-terrorism) to the problem we’re held responsible for. We have little to no relevance outside national security.

And because we do not seem to matter, we might begin to feel as if we do not exist.
I will not excuse myself by saying that we could not have known how bad it would have gotten, or that the forces arrayed against our narratives were too entrenched. I will not soften the blow, either, by hoping it is always darkest before dawn. Because it may get darker.
God does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves. I ask myself how we have gotten to this juncture. I reflect on what I could have done differently. If my life’s experiences can be of any benefit, even as a cautionary tale, then I offer them.
What follows is neither exhaustive nor conclusive, but an outline for what you can do, and what I think you must do, to reverse this state of affairs, to help build the kinds of communities our history and heritage promises we can.

Part I covers our relations to the wider world; Part II concerns our own communities and identities.
Part I: All allies, foreign and domestic

1. First and foremost
People will ask you, “Are you Muslim or are you American?” (Or some other such question.) You will answer, “Yes.”

People will also ask you, “Do you condemn terrorism?” And you must not say “Islam is a religion of peace.”
You will do more than condemn, too. You will show that you are actively involved in building narratives that compete with the dangerous ones. I know you won’t do this because powerful people are asking the questions, but because you, like me, want better for your communities.

People will also ask you, “Do you condemn terrorism?” And you must not say “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Long before ISIL became the watchword on everyone’s lips, before Islamophobia had become the platform of too many Western political parties, I attended a gathering of Muslim leaders in the Middle East. The reason I recall this to you is because the point of this gathering was to bring top minds together to discuss our common challenges.
Very quickly, however, we became split.

Not out of hostility or apathy, but because our experiences and our priorities were so different that our conversations proved frustratingly unproductive when held in unison. Whether we were Pakistani Britons, Crimean Tatars or African Americans, it was clear Western Muslims had more in common than with each other than Muslims from the so-called Muslim world.

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