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In Search of a Muslim Identity

In Search of a Muslim Identity -

By Shirin Zarqa-Lederman 

If I asked you what a Muslim was, you’d probably say something like, “someone who follows Islam.” And, if I asked you what an atheist was, you’d probably say something like, “someone who doesn’t follow religion.” But if I asked you what a Muslim-Atheist was . . .Yes, that is quite an oxymoron.

The term throws me back to a euphoric recall of George Carlin – an equal opportunity comedic offender. He was not afraid to say, “religion is bullshit,” yet had fans from all walks of life. He understood the power of words and had a fascination with the English language.

“I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms ‘cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation” –George Carlin

The other day I overheard a conversation. Yes, I was eavesdropping. You know you do it, too. Two women were arguing about Muslim Atheism. I was so intrigued – one, because they were talking about Muslim Atheists; and, two, I didn’t know the term Muslim Atheist was even a thing. It sounded so politically orchestrated. It sounded as if it was the “Message of the Day” from the State Department, or some other Scandal episode. That conversation got me thinking: Where did the term “Muslim-Atheist” come from?

Personally, I think it’s a rip off of “Jewish-Atheist,” which is used to describe one who was born Jewish, perhaps identifies being Jewish, and practices traditions of the Jewish faith, but does not believe in God. It is based on the notion of birth right – if you are born Jewish from a Jewish mother, you are always Jewish.

In Islam, there is no birthright. In Islam, being born into the religion doesn’t really qualify you for life. Islam is not an ethnicity, while being Jewish is one. It refers to the Jews of the Russian Wars.

Where did the term come from? The term “Muslim-Atheist” probably gained its traction from Majid Nawaz, author of Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism, (and the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome). Written in 2012, the book chronicles the author’s journey from one end of the Muslim pendulum to the other. Since then, the term has been used to describe Muslims who hold onto the traditions, their name, or whatever they consider is part of their Muslim identity, but do not believe in God/Allah, and do not follow the religion.

To me, it sounds like an attempt to distance oneself from extremism, and this is not the first time, nor the first term (“secular,” or “cultural”) introduced to us.

Allow me to usher in our latest “I’m not a terrorist” term; the “Muslim-Atheist.” Most of us don’t feel the need to have a label with Islam because we are able to, for example, separate Islam from ISIS and recognize that ISIS is NOT a form of Islam. Rather, ISIS is a terrorist organization that has hijacked the religion to undermine the peaceful existence of the majority of the world’s Muslims.

ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Pamela Geller, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, etc. have led many on a search to redefine themselves as Muslims in a way that separates them from the barbarians and bigots who have distorted Islam by cherry-picking the Quran and Hadith to justify their political agenda.

“If you read history, you realize that God is one of the leading causes of death and has been for thousands of years. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, all taking turns killing each other because God told them it was a good idea. The sword of God, the blood of the lamb, vengeance is mine, millions of dead motherfuckers, all because they gave the wrong answer to the God question:… “Do you believe in my God?” “No.” Boom! Dead.” –George Carlin

Let me simplify this for us all. The essence of Islam is submission to a high order based on the teachings of Islam. It seems that you can call yourself whatever kind of Muslim you like, but there will always be varying degrees of devotion.

So I’ll give you a term we often forget to use – Human: Those of us who just try to get to work on time; and our kids to school on time; and, use the red light that we just cursed at as a prayer of gratitude for a universal reminder to stop. Those are the majority of Muslims. That really drains out that “violent” paint can that people like to use to broadly brush Islam with today.

When ignorance festers, it becomes hate. Let’s just cut the bullshit and admit to other people’s ignorance when it comes to Islam. Let’s also admit that it is not my job to do their homework by defining those broadly brushed terms. Let them google that for themselves.

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In Search of a Muslim Identity -

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