Socect’s Weblog

Unsettled Thoughts/Works in Progress

Devout Muslims

I haven’t posted anything for a long time. So here is a little rant, just to prove I’m alive…

I recently read something about the Nigerian twit who tried to blow-up his underwear, and apparently along with it a plane flying into Detriot. In the newspaper, he was described as a ‘devout Muslim’. This made my blood boil.

Just a few weeks before, I spent a few days with a dear friend of mine – Aji – on a four day holiday. He and some other friends from Malaysia came to the Netherlands on a holiday, and I happened to be there at the same time. We had a great time, touring cheese factories, windmills and generally having a great time. I shared a hotel room with Aji. Every day, he prayed five times a day without fail.

Aji has two wives and seven kids (I think it is seven, I lose count). He does all he can to provide for them. He is the kindest soul I know. He teaches primary school in a rural town in Malaysia to Tamil-Hindu kids. When they ask to say prayers to their gods before exams, he has no problem with it. He is not so weak in his own faith that he has to be afraid of the faith of others. I don’t believe everything Aji believes. But I admire him for who he is and for who he tries to be – a devout Muslim.

When I read about the idiot on that flight to Detriot, when I read the news calling him a “devout Muslim” I want to scream: All you stupid journalists, next time you call someone a “devout Muslim” don’t use that term to refer to some pathetic inept twit who thinks killing a bunch of innocent people will be a great political statement and a fast track to heaven. A devout Muslim is someone like my friend Aji. Or the hundreds of millions of other Muslims, who are simply trying to be the best men and women they can be in this world and guided by their faith on that path.

So that is my rant for the day. I don’t have the faith of my friend Aji. But I pray to God that all of us of good will, devout or not, can come together to overcome the evils of the world. To non-Muslims, I can tell you, devout Muslims are not idiots trying to blow up planes. Devout Muslims are kind and generous people, who wish nothing more than to make this a better world.



January 22, 2010 - Posted by | Random Walks


  1. Hi. A few comments.

    According to you, a devout believer is not he who does ‘A’ (blow people up, say) but he who does ‘B’ (do stuff that you can reconcile yourself with).
    Why? If we just focus on the two words, ‘devout’ and ‘believer’, it seems sensible to think that as long as they believe, and believe with passion, they are indeed devout believers. Does it really depend on whether you find their actions or their beliefs repulsive?

    Or maybe that’s not what you meant? Maybe you mean that the person who tries to blow up self and others may believe in something, and believe devotedly, but sure as hell is not a devout believer of THAT religion (the particular religion which your friend belongs to).
    Now my confusion here is: How do we come up with that conclusion? How do we decide to accredit a religion to certain people, and not others, when both profess to follow that religion?

    It is indeed a thorny issue. After all, in all religions, believers, and devout ones at that, have done unspeakable acts (unspeakable only in today’s world, mind you—and oh, is it really unspeakable in all parts—hmm, I wonder); in all religions, those in authority have issued diktats in the past that hold these actions holy and pleasing to God. It is only recently that these acts have paled in their worthiness: previously they used to be acts that lifted people to the highest honor in their God’s eyes. So were those people of the past, whole armies who fought, pillaged, rioted and plundered, raped and decimated populations in the name of God, not devout believers? Did those religions die out? Are the religions that bear the same names today different religions, populated by people who believe in different things?

    Maybe, maybe true. But then a few difficulties arise.

    First, do today’s people repudiate yesterday’s happenings that were unspeakable? At first blush, it seems so. After all, ask any person about their religion, and they all claim it to be a religion of peace. But as soon as you start to ask them about yesterdays, we see a regular trend: they start rationalizing their own, and only their own, religion’s past mistakes. They do not rationalize or make excuses for other religions—in fact, they go out and judge others based on it. Since there is a differential treatment of ‘us’ and ‘them’, we can safely say that they do identify with their religion’s history, and its past ‘heroes’.

    Second, do they repudiate these devout believers of the present who do ‘unspeakable’ acts, and so who are not really devout believers? Again, we see a common trend: at first they say “how can we be sure this was done by so and so”, then they say” hey, what about the others who do the same things”, then at last when all excuses, and finger-pointing have been laid to rest, then they aver that these people are not really part of their religion.

    All this rant of mine boils down to one thing: when do we assign blame to a community, any community, and when not? By pointing to one member who does not do action A, can we prove that an entire community’s sympathies are not with those who do action A? For instance: to prove the West was racist, what should be done? If someone points to one non-racist Westerner at a certain time-period, does he/she prove that the West was non-racist during that time? Obviously not. In my opinion, we assume the West was racist because enough westerners were racist to make it a social phenomenon with consequences for them and others. That is why we say: the West was racist. (There is another untold reason why we think the West was racist—they admitted they were racist, and thus ‘racism’ was born; individual whites attacked their own community structures that upheld racism, denounced their hypocritical values, and fought for the rights of non-whites: in other words, they were racist because they admitted they were wrong, a brave decision by a materialistic western world, unlike all those spiritual worlds that went before, and are still in the world today.) Similarly, to say a particular religion fosters a particular action or tendency, all we need to do is to see if it is a social reality in areas populated by that community. I think it is safe to say that, judging by these standards, all religions have fostered the kind of acts that are today labeled repulsive. So why not apportion blame to them, like we do to the West for their racism?

    In short, slotting actions YOU find desirable into religion, and actions YOU find undesirable into ‘something else’, belies the true history of acts committed by religious groups in the past; it belies the group-mentality shown by religious people today in their excuses and arguments—which clearly show that they do think of certain fanatics as ‘our own’ and certain others as ‘the others’; and it definitely belies the reality of religion as a social entity with real consequences—consequences that brings with it responsibility not just for the ‘good’, but also for the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’.

    Bye, take care.

    Comment by Heretic | November 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Heretic leaves a very detailed comment.
      In response, I would say simply that in English-language media produced in America and other places, I see too strong an association made between faith in Islam and horrific acts, such as suicide bombing. The media can choose the adjectives they use (or don’t use) to portray people or groups. I would rather they did not use the term “devout Muslim” to describe people like this. Not because it is not true, but because it paints a certain kind of picture – one that creates an image in the mind of (mostly non-Muslim) readers that associates religious devoution with horrorific acts.

      I agree with Heretic that most if not all religious traditions have a lot of historical baggage to account for; but so do secular nationalism and global capitalism (e.g. Dickensonian England, pollution, etc.). No one – no tradition – is innocent.

      At the moment, we need to build bridges and struggle against the terrorists on all sides, not sling accussations and recriminations. In particular, “devoution” (faith) is especially important in the Islamic tradition. It is for that reason I took particular umbrage at its use in the context mentioned.

      Comment by socect | November 10, 2010 | Reply

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