The Radical Middle Way – Why?

Ayaan from Somalia/Kenya to the Netherlands; Aafia from Pakistan to the United States. Both were highly motivated and apparently intelligent and clinging still to their own certainties as believers. Eventually Ayaan would trade in her Salafist literalism for “Enlightenment fundamentalism.” Aafia climbed the academic ladder rapidly dreaming of a perfect Pakistani state, a rebirth of the Caliphate in the image of her Deobandi teachings before everything collapsed and she descended into a pit of rage and hatred at the United States and Israel.
By the time the tragedy of 9/11 occurred Ayaan wanted Islam to be wiped off the face of the earth and that was long before she would get married to Niall Ferguson who believes Western colonialism and modern day imperialism is a really good idea.
Aafia divorced her husband after giving birth to three children because he didn’t approve of her deviant pursuits on Al-Qaeda’s behest which eventually turned into an attempt to wage chemical and biological war against the United States.  A U.S. judge sentenced her to 86 years in jail. Strange how the judge arrived at 86 for a guilty verdict on seven counts of attempted murder of a U.S. personnel. Aafia is likely to end her life in a U.S. prison. To her Taliban and Al-Qaeda admirers she is a heroine and her life continues to be celebrated in the country of her birth.  
Although Ayaan renounced Islam, ironically it was exactly that label which catapulted her to celebrity status. Even as her family and tribe denounced her, she became an icon to the privileged elites in Europe and North America who needed this loud, belligerent and stubborn female African refugee to echo their post-modern fears of the “other.” Call it racism if you like because that’s exactly what it is.  
Aafia embraced Al-Qaeda’s ideology and won the adoration of extremists in far flung corners of the world even as she was cursed by those she allegedly wanted to annihilate. Her venomous outburst in the courtroom and her testimony to the FBI lays bare a bitter disdain of the “other” and if you wish to also call this racism, please do, because it is.
Ayaan and Aafia are the extreme ends of the same spectrum. Fuad and I have encountered Ayaans and Aafias. I can’t speak for Fuad but they scare the crap out of me. I see them in young Muslim men and women who insist, without a slight hint of doubt that is rarely ever missing from the discourse of educated people, that their version of Islam is right and everyone else has got it wrong.
I see them when they return from a trip to the Middle East or Asia insisting that their Shaykh is the final arbiter of their affairs in this world and the one who will hold their hands and lead them into paradise. I recognize them when they adamantly refuse to attend gatherings of sacred knowledge or remembrance (dhikr) at local masajid because the gap between men and women is not wide enough.
I hear them when they shout and sometimes whisper the words “haram,” “shirk” and “bid’a” as they lengthen the lists of things they wish would never exist.  Outward piety is their badge of honor; critical thinking takes too much effort and interest in its pursuit eventually dries up. They obsess over achieving a pure religious lifestyle and fail to realize how suffocating that becomes in places like Toronto and London.
They live in the West yet fail to appreciate why here and not Kabul, Karachi or Mogadishu. They observe the skylines of the modern cities in which they live but are oblivious to the dire needs of those around them.
They prefer to live in ghettos to avoid having to mingle with the impure and  insist on fiqh positions that are unreasonable and blatantly outdated.    
It terrifies me that these individuals are constantly trying to attract fresh recruits from the solid majority who struggle everyday to cling to the middle way.
The real struggle for the majority is to appreciate the grandeur of the middle way and just how much it reflects the true teachings of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.  
The divergent paths that Ayaan and Aafia took led them to the same horrible destination – insanity. They are the broken twigs from a tree of our great tradition. If you want to find out how that happened and what you can do to avoid trekking down the same crooked road they did, perhaps a quick read of Scroggins’ rich profile of these two women might be of some help.
(Nazim Baksh, Sept. 2013)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *