It’s a depressing reality today that far too many Muslims are driving people out of their faith, rather than welcoming them in. A sense of self-righteousness, arrogance and intolerance has pervaded Muslim communities across the world and, if anything, it seems to be getting worse. While these may seem like generalisations, they are, in fact, uncomfortable truths and Muslims, not to mention an increasing amount of non-Muslim, know this to be the case.
This sense of self-righteousness is the opposite of true religion. In fact, it’s satanic. Self-righteous behaviour in a religious person is a sign of weakness of faith. It’s also a sign that your religion has become your personal identity, so any attack on the religion becomes an attack on you.
It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that Muslims today are in a worse state, spiritually, than ever before. It’s hard to imagine Muslims of the past being as judgemental as we are now. But not all of it is necessarily the fault of Muslims. With so much negative media attention, it’s inevitably had an effect on the Muslim mind and has caused Muslims to react in all sorts of sociopathic ways. The demonisation and intense pressure on Muslims to conform to the way everyone else is, has obviously had an effect. But, there is, of course, another reason. And it’s the erosion of the deep spiritual tradition within the faith which has been replaced by a dry, outward Islam that has put less emphasis on adab, or behaviour, and on the journey of destroying the ego.
Religious people, in general, are often intolerable people to be around. So, too, I suppose, are militant atheists. But the problem seems to be particularly acute among Muslims, partially because Muslims still take their faith very seriously. And, when you combine strong faith with a lack of education and arrogance, it’s a recipe for disaster. It sometimes gets so bad that Muslim Youtube celebrities like Adam Saleh and Yousef Erakat (Fouseytube) have made videos of themselves crying because of how hurt they’ve been by the constant attacks and judgements of Muslims.
I’m aware of many people who’ve left the faith, or, have become very secular with their beliefs and practises, because, quite frankly, they’re fed up with the “Muslim community” and how they’re treated by their fellow religious adherents. I was recently told about a white, British convert who was in Egypt, praying on some prayer beads when an angry, puritanical Muslim snatched them away from her, threw them on the floor and shouted this is ‘bidah’, [an innovation in the religion]. This deeply upset her, especially as she had just entered the faith and was trying to understand it to the best of her ability; it damaged her and she never recovered.
There are, of course, tens of thousands of similar cases. One of my own family members converted to Islam in her 20s but after a host of terrible experiences with Muslims, treating her in not-so-friendly-ways, and teaching her backward, cultural practises, she no longer calls herself a Muslim.
So it becomes somewhat ironic when Muslims rejoice about a new person entering the faith but soon drive them out of it. Sadly, we hear these stories far too regularly. Some of the more judgemental and less sensitive Muslims may be saying how it’s ridiculous to leave the faith because of other people, because those people aren’t representative of their religion. While that’s true, the reality is that people are deeply affected by those of the same faith, especially when these same people are supposed to be their “brothers” and “sisters”.
I was recently speaking to a Muslim politician in Britain who, although still deeply committed to his faith, says that he has “left the Muslim community” because he can’t stand their views and attitudes. In other words, he doesn’t go to Muslim events or gatherings and he can count his Muslim friends on one hand. He says that far too many Muslim don’t read, so they have stupid, regressive views on life. And he believes there is too much anger during sermons, so he is very picky about what Mosques he goes to on Fridays.
“We, as a community, have serious problems,” says Waleed, a friend of mine. “We prefer to squabble about stupid, petty issues and in doing so, shout ‘kafir!’, [excommunicating others from the faith] rather than address important issues affecting the humanity.”
However, on a brighter note, Muslims aren’t all doom and gloom. The most luminous people I’ve ever met have been Muslims. When you find a person of deep faith, without ego and a sense of sanctimony, who has internalised the highest virtues of Islam, they are a blessing to encounter.