Fighting only extremism – to what end?
Posted By Hilath
I know some Maldivian bloggers who anonymously and not so anonymously like to directly attack Islam per se.
I personally believe that it is unfair to single out a certain religion for criticism because it will serve no purpose and it will only serve to aggravate the believers of that certain religion.
Because I am still a skeptic when it comes to the question of how this Universe came out of nothing (what I mean is that I don’t think in my short life I will ever find the Eternal Answers I am seeking), I feel a kind of sympathy for believers of all religions because I believe that they are also trying to find the truth in their own way.
So, perhaps, this is the right time to put things into perspective again: distinguish between Organized Religion and Personal Religion.
Organized Religion (whether it’s Judaism, Christianity or Islam) is a corrupted form of these great religions. Organized Religion tries to claim that it is an absolute truth above “all other truths” and tries to narrow down the way you can live your life fully on this earth and tries to “silence” (even through murder and genocide) believers of faiths they see as “inferior” to them. In contrast, Personal Religion is always open to your interpretation and skepticism is encouraged so that you can put your God-given brains to good use (rather than parroting after Ilyas) and figure out for yourself how you can live your own personal life to the full without harming other humans, living things and the environment.
All religions, when they came about, were Personal Religions, and therefore, personal in nature, as MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi once pointed out. Religion, therefore, was originally meant to be only a matter between you and God, with no interference or dictation by the state, government or even the self-proclaimed religious “scholars”.
It is only later that a class of Rabbi began to monopolize Moses’ religion. It is only later that a class of Priests began to monopolize Jesus’ religion. Likewise, it is only later that a class of Sheikhs began to monopolize Mohamed’s great religion, and the result? Now you are only allowed to even cut your fingernails according to the way dictated by a rising class of Maldivian sheikhs who include Fareed et al.
The issue, therefore, is not really about fighting extremism.
Britain’s most famous atheist Richard Dawkins once pointed out that there is really no “moderate” path in religion, and that any religion’s basis, due to the nature of theology, can give rise to extremism.
Hence, when you talk about fighting only extremism, it does not really make much sense.
Rather, our aim should actually be about changing the mindset of the large majority of Maldivians who identify themselves as “moderates” who, in reality, are actually fence-sitters and only claim to believe in religion hypocritically — the large majority of Maldivians I personally love to call Kasauti Maldivians.
Let me elaborate that. Do you actually see these so-called Kasauti Maldivians sympathizing with the Liberal Cause although they should if they claim to be moderates? Except for a few freaks like me, do you see most other Maldivians supporting Liberal Democracy in its full form which means, even if you are not gay for example, you still have to support gay rights – in a similar vein that you don’t have to be necessarily a woman or a child to fight for women’s and children’s rights! I guess this is also where I am largely misunderstood by the Maldivian society: because I seem to be one of the few Maldivians who openly support gay rights, people automatically and narrowly categorize me as strictly “gay” though, as I said earlier, I don’t necessarily feel that way.
The Kasauti Maldivians are, as in the words of a Maldivian diplomat friend of mine, a “large mass who have chosen to remain silent.” Why?
By rights, moderates should be able to tolerate Maldivians of other religions and other sexualities. But do they really do? If they do, why hasn’t secularism (freedom of religion) already come to Maldives? Why aren’t they as vocal as me in supporting a full Liberal Democracy?
This is where I feel more comfortable in being friends with my Wahhabi friends rather than the large majority of Kasauti Maldivians.
Dawkins himself said that he hates the so-called “agnostics”, the “fence-sitters” who chose “not to take sides” because they are really sissies and cowards who haven’t really thought about how this Universe came into being and is only “performing outwardly” the “accepted norm” which is the “moderate” or “bourgeois” path which is of course the path considered by the larger Kasauti society as safe and shields you from criticism from your (hypocritical) families and the (hypocritical) society.
These are the Kasauti Maldivians who practice religion only superficially while inside they don’t really give a damn about finding the truth and answers for themselves. They perform religious duties and rites just for show, just to be “accepted” by their hypocritical families, peers and society, because after all, who wants to be lonely for the rest of his/her life, huh?
They may wear buruga on the head but on the body below, they wear clothes that will leave nothing to the imagination. Perhaps, Demi Moore, when she appeared totally nude on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with only her body painted as “wearing” a tuxedo and trousers, should have worn a headscarf too and she will have looked no different from the average buruga-wearing female teenager you come across in thousands on Male’s main street Majeedee Magu. These are the people who actually bring shame to the buruga and Islam in general.
Hence, it was only later that I realized that the Maldivians who really make an attempt to use their brains are the “extremists” or Wahhabis who have really thought about existential and philosophical issues and are not afraid to show their conviction for it. Therefore, rather than treating Wahhabis as our enemies I think we should treat them as our friends and if right now they hate us enough to kill us, then we should really sit down with them and communicate with them and remind them once again that Islam has and will always be a Personal Religion tolerant of other religions and lifestyles.
In this regard, I now hate all these unthinking majority Kasauti Maldivians. They don’t really give a damn.
Rather, the only two groups of people in Maldives I now really love and respect and matter to me are the openly atheist Maldivians and the openly Wahhabi Maldivian community.
Just think about it. In a way Maldivian atheists and Maldivian Wahhabis are so alike, in that these are the only two groups of people who really think and use their brains. The only difference is that the conclusions they came to were different, i.e., Wahhabis chose to really believe in God through sheer blind faith (as I pointed earlier) while Atheists chose to not believe in God because the evidence for Evolution is now irrefutable.
Hence, what Maldivian Atheists (and the LGBT community) really need to do is sit down and talk not only with the Wahhabis but most importantly, the “moderate Kasauti Maldivians” and try to ingrain in them the concept of tolerance. That Islam, in its uncorrupted form, was a highly Personal Religion, and not only tolerates but protects the rights of other minorities.
When it comes to blogging, my friends always advise me: “Hilath, while in Maldives, never directly attack Islam. You should only attack extremism. That is the strategy that will be realistic at this stage. While we can make an effort at educating the present generations, they are too brainwashed and stubborn and there is no hope to make them tolerant. It is only after generations pass that secularism will come – when the younger Internet-era generation grows up and takes over the helm of Maldives.”
What this amounts to is telling every Maldivian who is an atheist or believes in a religion other than Islam, to leave this land now in order to find a tolerable good life elsewhere. What this amounts to is saying that the LGBT community of Maldives will have to suffer for the rest of their short lives and die in Maldives, lonely and sexually deprived, unless they are lucky enough to emigrate.
I don’t accept this kind of giving up.
And I feel the issue here is really about our own cowardliness, our being scared to really communicate with our Kasauti and Wahhabi community and make them understand that Islam is a Personal Religion tolerant of other religions and lifestyles.
I was inspired to write this blogpost because yesterday, one of my openly gay Maldivian friends told me that recently, he made an effort and overcame all his inner fears, and decided to talk to a female “Kasauti” relative about his predicament – about being both gay and atheist.
“Surprisingly, she listened quietly for over an hour and after that day, they (the family) seem more nicer to me than before!” he told me.
I have so many friends on Facebook who have made secret groups and always keep on TALKING about secularism rather than ACTING on helping bring about that revolution.
I think they should seriously take into account what my gay friend has done here and start directly communicating with their own Kasauti relatives because these Kasauti “moderate” Maldivians are the real voter base and the only ones who can bring about real change to Maldives by changing the Constitution more along Islamic lines by introducing secularism (freedom of religion).
Of course, not everybody will be reasonable. Some will be so “gone”, like my own family – like how Islam describes a kind of seal or “sikka” as been set on their hearts and they will never listen to you.
So, if you do communicate, make sure you are first economically independent from your family, so that if you are psychologically pressured to leave your home (like what happened in my case), you can have the means to survive by yourself.
But I do believe that despite my misgivings about the Kasauti Maldivians, you can really knock sense into most of them, and that my family may be rare exceptions of stubbornness and brainwashedness – because I personally know a lot of young Maldivians who have come out to their families as atheists or gays or both and still are accepted, sheltered, loved and protected by their families.
Perhaps, at this point in my life, my only regret is that, Organized Religion has had such a negative and strong influence on my family that they have forgone the “kulunu” that naturally should exist between parents and children (as I said in my earlier blogpost). I guess then, the biggest regret for humanity at large, should have been the day when Personal Religion got corrupted and gave way to Organized Religion.