In a radio interview I heard last Thursday, an intellectual Pakistani man living in Britain spoke about his transformation from a Muslim belonging to a Salafist family (according to his own description), asking after science and knowledge, into a militant fighter, fighting in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda against the communists. When he returned to Islam, he understood that the requirements of the times were unable to accommodate so much of what was considered the rulings and judgements for the management of a strict Islamic State. Upon this realization, he authored a number of books rejecting the foundations of al-Qaeda, as well as the principles and practices that lead to the even more extreme Daesh.
The man, in talking about Islam, said that according to his understanding, there is nothing in Islam which prevents peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims, both inside Muslim communities and outside of them. This coexistence is not in contradiction with the essence of Islam as a religion that calls for peace and harmony. Given that, al-Qaeda, Daesh, and other similar organizations do not represent Islam or speak on behalf of Muslims.
These ideas were put forth, by way of discussion, in the context of talking about the campaign which has mobilized British Muslims under the slogan: “Not in My Name.” The campaign, #NotInMyName, reflects the repudiation of Muslims there to the ideas of Daesh and any criminal terrorist act. The idea of the campaign is, in short: This is not Islam, these are not Muslims, and we reject that their actions are paired with us and our names.
I have carried the remarks of this man, variable in their concepts, which offer more than one meaning for anyone who wishes to return to the works of great thinkers, alongside their private reading and study of the Qur’an, and the positioning of the Hadith in situational contexts.
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These statements are important, but the campaign slogan was even more effective in evoking a response. “Not in my Name.” Yet, when we look at the structure of that sentence, the composition of those words, we are reminded of another long history, the events of which dictated our fates and the future of our homelands--the history of which we have lived and continue to live today. In that sense, it was in our name. These days, however, nothing is in our name. It has not resulted from any form of referendum or the opinion of the majority. It has simply not been our choice.
As long as our power is manifested through modern civil states, institutions devoid of any real connotations, and freedom of choice with reference to the law is not available to individuals, then whatever results from these institutions shall not be attributed to us. We are individuals within what should be considered modern civil society based on the provisions of the constitution. Prior to that, we are represented by texts which are interpreted to benefit the legislators and those working in service to the authorities accordingly.
Not in our name is all of what comes as a result of the decisions of the House of Representatives: their jurisprudence, legislations, projects and any other outputs which occur when representatives of the people are absent from the meetings and the council makes crucial decisions on vital matters related to us.
Not in our name are the sets of economic policy, for industry and both private and public institutions, which have not stopped the escalation of the income gap, or addressed the difference between what an individual earns on the one hand and the unmanageable cost of providing for his family and for his children on the other hand.
Not in our name are government allotments and handouts which are distributed according to regional, geographic and tribal “quotas” without regard to balance of need, thus fragmenting further the same society it is meant to be devoted to.
Not in our name is the foreign policy which involves our country in regional and international alliances and ambiguous situations (both operational and diplomatic) which bring fire upon us and, without question, incur a cost paid higher than the benefits received.
The series of that which is “not in our name” has no end. What has happened to us and is currently happening to us as a result of the decisions of authorities is able to occur because we are labeled mere “citizens,” which is to say that we are labeled as people who lack the ability to think critically about the matters which affect our lives and the decisions which affect our futures. Indifference and distraction are seen as our reality at the moment.
Is this how we are?
A community of minors in need of people to handle our affairs on our behalf, speak on our behalf, sign the dotted line on our behalf, yet never free of the consequences which result from the decisions that the authorities have made on our behalf?
We cannot, after all, think only of that campaign in Britain, or even think of it first and foremost, when we come across the motto: “Not in My Name”
Elias Farkouh is a writer and a novelist. He has received numerous awards for his many novels and short stories.
*The Arabic of this op-ed article appeared on June 20, 2015. The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of AmmanNet.
Translated by Julia Norris