Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Tweeting Against Prejudice

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’ve been through a strange week where a few people on Twitter started kind of attacking me or putting me on the spot to defend Islam and Muslims in ways that I felt, after engaging with them a little, were antagonistic and not genuinely trying to listen or understand. Many of my friends considered it trolling. I have a little more tolerance for this kind of thing.

One of them wanted me to retract my thoughts on Muslims feeling safe in today’s America… Based on the fact that some terrorists continue to exert violence in the name of Islam. For me, this kind of point is obvious. Either you are a person who is willing to entertain the idea that most Muslims are moderate and don’t have violent/terrorist tendencies (just like most people of any religion) and that those terrorists are interpreting Islam in their own ways, or you are not. If you believe that, you don’t need me to convince you. If you don’t believe it, there isn’t much I can say to convince you otherwise, because as one religion scholar once said, any person can take any religious text and interpret it for their purposes. Quran, Bible, other texts have all kinds of things in them. If you want to support the hypothesis that Islam is a violent religion you will find it. If you want to support that Islam is a peaceful religion you will find it. Only a contextual interpretation of the entire text will show the relativism and when Islam considers violence justified (mostly in defense when peaceful means aren’t available and you cannot immigrate to avoid oppression, for example) and then a rational and empathetic extrapolation onto present-day circumstances (also completely open to interpretation based on your worldview) can help. And man, those things ain’t tweetable. Although I keep thinking there are many Quranic verses that are short and eloquent, responding with those would be reductionist and would open the door for another person to respond with an equally brief verse which says something to support their perspective. And that’s not the point. 

Another person wanted to discuss gender in Islam. I explained to her that yes governments and individuals in Muslim-majority countries tend to have gender oppression and patriarchy but that it was a matter of patriarchal men interpreting Islam, rather than something inherent in Islam. And she kept going back to it being a fault in Islam. If someone repeatedly doesn’t have a willingness to entertain the concept of a religion being separate from the implementation of religion by fallible human beings, I have no idea how to respond. Again there are verses. But that’s beside the point. 

I may yet decide to make a collection of tweetable verses anyway! 

3 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this! As a Jew with a PhD in early Christian theology I find myself defending Judaism from accusations of patriarchy and that pesky violent “Old Testament” God. But I also often get defensive around “recovering” Christian atheists who tend to be virulently anti-Christian. And around lots of people with very simplistic views of Islam. But most days I get to focus on being a library director who has the pleasure of supporting amazing Open Ed work with people like Karen Cangialosi, and getting to people like you. That helps a lot!

    • Thank you SO MUCH for your comment, Celia. Two of the best things your comment does is to remind me how others face similar prejudice/stereotyping and how closed-mindedness takes many forms and is directed at a variety of things people know little about. And you’re also reminding me of the value of all I’ve been blessed with especially my online community and how those people help me meet many people from different cultures whom I can know deeply and how THAT defeats my own misunderstandings and doing so slowly and gently and lovingly – as opposed to antagonistic and demanding a tweet-length reply. Thank you again! And give Karen a hug for me 😉

  2. I particularly love this statement “If someone repeatedly doesn’t have a willingness to entertain the concept of a religion being separate from the implementation of religion by fallible human beings, I have no idea how to respond.” … I had not thought about the separation of the two as a lens of how to look at it – but it totally makes sense – and I love how it applies across religions. I am regularly bothered by the hypocrisy of attacking one in support of another – when both suffer the same issue of implementation bias.

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