Western Muslims: Not Obligated to Denounce ISIS

In the linked article entitled “Are Canadian Muslims Obliged to Denounce ISIS?” mental health counselor and social justice activist Asma Maryam Ali discusses the difficult position that she and other Western Muslims have found themselves in during recent months with regards to the rise of the Islamist political group known as ISIS. Specifically, she reflects on one particular instance in which a member of her Tae Kwon Do club asked her whether she supports ISIS. Throughout the Western World there has been pressure on Muslims to proactively denounce the political group, in order to disconnect their identity as Muslims from those such as ISIS who espouse a puritanical and violent form of Islam that many Muslims consider not to be “genuine” Islam.

In my view, Western Muslims have no obligation to denounce ISIS and similar groups. As a white male of European descent I am not expected to go out of my way to denounce centuries of genocidal colonialism or institutionalized misogyny. And actually, asking a white person of Western European descent to denounce imperialism would be more justified than asking a Muslim to denounce ISIS, because the worldwide destruction of non-European/non-Western cultures and peoples was not an injustice perpetrated by a few extremists; rather, it was, and sometimes still is, conducted with widespread societal complicity (see: the beginning of the Vietnam War and the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003).

However, while I believe Muslims shouldn’t be obliged to denounce extremist groups such as ISIS, they should feel free to do so if they wish. The decision of whether to speak out or not comes down to individual circumstances and shouldn’t be imposed on anyone by anyone else. People may feel the need to speak out due to being in contact with people uneducated regarding Islam and its followers, or simply out of principle, or for any other of a myriad of reasons.

As Ali points out, the best and easiest way for one to dispel one’s own prejudices is to become educated, seeking out relevant information that allows for a more nuanced and less harmful perspective. As discussed in class, worldviews are a kind of filter through which we pass new information, shaping the way we see the world around us. They can also drive us forward toward certain goals determined by our values and beliefs. Anyone who holds a worldview that includes an emphasis on the seeking of knowledge and truth must be willing to seek out and accept new information, even if it means adjusting one’s own pre-existing views. That means being willing to ask oneself such questions as: Are my views of people who espouse religious beliefs that are different from my own inaccurate or harmful in any way? Do I overgeneralize when thinking about and discussing people of religious traditions other than my own? It means being willing to adjust one’s own worldview to accept new information and to try stepping into someone else’s perspective to catch a glimpse of how they might see the world.

#RELS 349

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