Felix Marquardt, who has lived in Paris for most of his life, is the founder of the Al-Kawakibi Foundation for Islamic Reform and the think tank Youthonomics.
Being Muslim in the West in 2016 means having your faith’s compatibility with modern, peaceful, democratic values questioned on a daily basis by at least three constituencies: non-Muslim racists and bigots of all sorts, Muslim fundamentalists and, particularly in places such as France, hysterical secularists. Facing these constant attacks can be quite disheartening.
Unfortunately, adding insult to injury, it also increasingly means being so-called defended by people and institutions that think they are being clever and constructive in arguing that there is no link between the barbaric acts of violence carried out by monsters all over the world these days in the name of Islam.
This makes the position of Muslims who argue that there is no intrinsic, indeed ontological, incompatibility between universal values and Islamic ones absolutely untenable.
Of course, anyone with even a superficial understanding of history knows that the compatibility between “Judeo-Christian” values and peaceful, democratic ones is a pretty recent development. And that until after the Second World War, what we now matter-of-factly call Judeo-Christian values were referred to as Christian values, period. Virulently anti-Semitic Western societies would tolerate none of that judeo-mumbo-jumbo before the guilt of having allowed the Holocaust to happen kicked in.
Yet the fact that most elements of the backward, phallocratic value system now associated with Islam are actually derived from pre-Islamic norms and customs that our Prophet spent his life combatting is lost on most, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
If Muslims want to be taken seriously when we argue that our religion is one of love and peace and social justice, then we must not cede to the natural inclination to say we have “nothing to do” with the authors of the ignominious crimes committed in the name of Islam.
We have one thing in common with them. We all call ourselves Muslims. Of course, their vision of Islam is perverse and completely, well, wrong. There is a common thread between despicable acts of violence committed around the world these days. And that common thread is that the people who commit them think of themselves as Muslims.
In other words, no, there is no intrinsic “problem” with Islam, but yes, hell yes, there is a contemporary degenerescence of our religion that is threatening its very existence and future. If we, as Muslims, cannot agree on this, then we must brace ourselves, for Islam will disintegrate completely before our eyes in the coming years. To address a problem, one must first admit that there is a problem.
This brings into focus another major issue that has popped up since Thursday’s attack in Nice: the dissemination of the footage of the slaughter and its aftermath.
The French authorities are asking that people refrain from sharing the gruesome pictures and videos, claiming that doing so may galvanize or trigger other would-be kamikazes. Others argue the same thing out of respect to the families of the victims.
I have news for you: In this day and age, Islamic State admirers and supporters who want to gain access to this footage will find a way to do so.
And, as far as I am concerned, is it precisely out of compassion for the victims that I want all the people in the world who share my faith to see what is being done in the name of our religion. Images of Nazi extermination camps and the picture of the naked Vietnamese girl fleeing napalm bombings shocked the world and brought change, precisely because they shocked the world.
We are encouraged to share footage of police abusing and killing black people all over the United States to make the world aware of what is going on there, but we should hide what IS is doing in southern France? Muslims all around the world must see what is being committed in the name of their religion so they can finally confront the reality of Islam in the 21st century: Medina, Cairo …we have a problem.