Unity. Most of us value it but few of us are honestly willing to work for it. With ease we claim that we want all Muslims to live together and in a peace but the moment we are faced with our differences, we lose sight of the goal. It seems ridiculous that we claim that we can peacefully coexist when we cannot even face our disparities head on. Perhaps the largest problem we face in our efforts to find unity is our inability to address our various ideologies. There is no need for heated debate or awkward subtle efforts to convert each other but there is a need for a splash of reality in our efforts to unite.
Some of us absolutely love the first few khalifas. We live by their words and we know that they brought the Muslim ummah forward to a place of strength and pride. Some of us could have seriously done without the first few khalifas. We believe they usurped the rights of the prophet and his family and therefore were not the legitimate leader of their time. Some of us are more committed to the spiritual connection with our Creator that brings us closer to him and his servants. Some of us focus on the literal translation of the Qur’an and use it as a guideline for actions in our daily lives. Some of us are certain that practice should evolve with the times because the Qur’an is a living text. Some of us couldn’t imagine re-interpreting “archaic” pieces of the holy text. All of us are different. We believe in the same God – but aside from that anything goes.
How can we imagine a world where we live together sans conflict when we are unable to simply mention our issues out loud. We can’t – so let’s talk about it. Shias do bid’a and Sunnis are kafirs. Jokes. Okay now let’s talk about it.
If we treat disparities as interesting facts instead of direct attacks on our personal beliefs we can change the tone of our conversations. The existence of an opposing or different belief system does not threaten your own beliefs. If we’re not running around wrapping abayas around bikini clad women then why are we trying to either fold or straighten the hands of our fellow Muslims as they pray? I’ll tell you why – because we fear that the existence of different sub-ideologies in Islam tarnishes the image and perception of the religion as a whole.
But in our fear to protect Islam’s image we inadvertently harm it further. By bickering over particulars within the religion we paint it as petty and divisive. Despite whatever efforts we make to push our individual agendas, Fox News will always be there spinning the narrative, pitting us against one another, harming the image of Islam as a whole, and impeding progress. Without truly understanding one another – dissimilarities included – we will not be able to effectively stand up for one another. It’s time for us to put our differences on the table and escort that elephant back to his natural habitat and out of the room.
Whether we care to admit it or not, small subgroups from each of our “sects” are always trying to harm each other because of our disparities. But we are not defined by our subgroups.
Let’s just all agree right now that as long as we aren’t literally trying to kill each other then it doesn’t matter what some other individuals who share our religious label are doing. Let us agree that our beliefs either differ or contradict each other and that’s okay. Let us agree that perhaps due to our distinctions, we have the ability to learn from each other and open our minds. Let us agree that we don’t have to be best friends forever but attacking each other – either physically or vocally – is never justified. Let us agree that before mourning the civilian victims of Western foreign policy we won’t ask which sect they belonged to. Most importantly, let us agree to share our beliefs openly in safe spaces that allow us to combat false claims and provide a deeper understanding of who we are.
It is time to sit down and share our differences.