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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Quest for identity: What does it mean to be a Muslim?

In the last few weeks when you opened the newspaper or turned on the television, you could see Muslims on the streets protesting with anger and disappointment against the so called anti-Islamic film, “Innocence of Muslims”. In several countries all over the world protests occurred; some ended with violence some remained as peaceful demonstrations. At the center of this was the portrayal of Muslims as a raving crowd destroying everything on their way in the name of their religion. Nowadays it is difficult to see both sides of the coin when innocent people get killed and the respect for religious diversity crushed under the brutality of a singular identity. An identity that projected upon Muslim goes hand in hand with violence. This identity is creating a heavy burden to carry for Muslims who believe these violent acts are undeniably immoral and cannot be justified by religious beliefs or teachings. Nevertheless, Muslims are put on a trial as a scoundrel group containing single identity of fundamentalists. Can we trust a religious based analysis of people to understand the humanity behind 2,1 billion Muslims living in the world today?

In Pakistan, during the Day of Love for the Prophet demonstrations against “Innocence of Muslims” escalated into violent acts. Mardan, known as the city of hospitality, experienced a horrific incident on 21th of September. A group of Muslim men attacked a 80 years old church compound and burned it to the ground. Eye witnesses said the angry mob event tried to prevent fire fighters to enter the church compound. Another incident happened in Bangladesh, where Buddhist villages and temples were attacked by Muslims after a member of the Buddhist community placed an offensive post on Facebook about the Quran. In the end the scene was similar; the houses were torched, shops were vandalized, and temples were burnt down. International media emphasized the role of Muslims as being the destroyers of religious tolerance to the detriment of those with different beliefs.

According to Samuel P. Huntington the violence in contemporary global society ignites from a “clash of civilizations” connected to the antagonisms between collective identities. Among the collective identities, Muslim identity has become synonymous with words like terrorism, intolerance, inequality and violence. However any presumption based on this singular identity when attempting to understand the political opinions and social judgment of people who happen to be a Muslim cannot be accurate. This singular identity has a commanding voice therefore it does not leave any room for plural identities, who display different social behaviors and have different values, to exist. Using religion to justify violent acts should be condemned but also being a Muslim should not come with a baggage when people believe and say: “Yeah, that’s how the Muslims are”.

Photo by: The Express Tribune

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