Answering Muslim Traditionalists

The tone changes, but the message is the same.

BY Shireen Qudosi · @ShireenQudosi | October 3, 2016

I received a flood of inquiries and complaints from Muslim traditionalists after last week’s testimony at the House Homeland Security Committee Hearing on Radical Islam. The top complaint I hear is about my tone. To that, I say:

You’ll see my tone and rhetoric shift depending on the audience and issue, but this is the key point. We have to all become critical thinkers, and that’s a tough conversation to birth, especially with how complex and layered the national (and global) dialogue is. I understand your issue with the testimony, but a 10 or 12 page paper directed to politicians is going to be very specific to a political audience that needs to be spoken with in a certain tone. This is different from how one would speak to Muslims or another audience. The tone changes but the message is the same.

The tone changes but the message is the same, and you’ll see that here:

But You’re Harming the Community…

The uncomfortable conversations I’m pushing are small in comparison to the great chaos and conflict to come if we don’t pick up the torch and help carry the burden. There is a rift in Islam between true faith and terror. We cannot afford to keep ignoring this because it upsets the balance we think we have.

We speak of the struggle of the Prophet and early Muslims – glorifying and romanticizing it. And yet we retreat into the caves of our hearts and minds when this struggle is upon us. You can’t have it both ways. Either we realize we need to wake up and rise, or we can continue falling in the cracks of what is left after the extremists are done tearing the faith apart.

But You’re Building a Career Off of This…

Only a fool would think you can build a career off of this. This is not a career for me – it’s my purpose.

But You Don’t Have the Credentials to Speak…

Did Prophet Muhammad have credentials? Did Jesus or Moses? Do you need credentials to speak from your heart? And what does that tell the millions of Muslims who don’t have a formal education – are you then telling them their voice doesn’t matter because they don’t have a piece of paper? And if you’re against Western Imperialism, then why do you believe that a title or a label is what it takes to give someone authority? Doesn’t our authority come from God and hasn’t He given every man and woman the highest gift in intellect and the ability to think?

But for traditionalists, scholarly work is unfortunately a benchmark that has to be met before anyone can enter a space of dialogue. To answer the question, I’ve studied the faith and diverse Muslim communities for 16 years and am an ongoing student/researcher of theology and Islamic philosophy, studying independently and alongside one of the top North American sheikhs trained in both the traditional and academic tradition. I feel the right path is to never stop studying.

But You’re Not Old Enough to Speak…

During Bakra Eid we started seeing videos of children protecting goats and lambs against slaughter. They’ve tapped into a dignity of life that we’ve lost or forgotten. Would you tell that child they’re not old enough to speak, that they should wait another twenty or thirty years before they can care – that it will take another 40 years before their voice matters?

But You Ally With Islamophobes…

I will ally with you tomorrow if you’ll have it. The people I ally with is based on how I have seen them and gotten to know them. The minute I see a genuine hate for Islam, I will walk away. Instead, there is frustration with radical and political Islam, and tiredness for a fight they carry the burden for. And that is to be commended because it is us who should be carrying that burden. They’re doing our work.



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