I have been referring to myself as Muslim. That might sound sort of weird to some who know me. I have been a leftist in the past, Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist variety. I am a strong proponent of the fight against the Islamic states and Islamist trends. So what gives, why am I calling myself a Muslim?
The first question that I have received is "What kind of Muslim are you?" My answer has been "I am a Muslim like no other Muslim". This question usually is a pretext to label you as non-Muslim. The questioner will succeed if you try to define yourself in terms of his view of Islam. Basically my answer is that my Muslimness is not open to investigation by the questioner or anyone else. It is an undetachable part of me. It is not an ideological acquisition as today's Islamist ideologues, Shiite or Sunni. It is what I have been born into, innumerable factors of my life that have shaped my existence. It is a combination of sounds, smells, tastes, feelings that do not leave a person as one matures. Actually leaving my leftist ideological straight jacket behind awakened my senses. I have been awakened to the fact that I do not need to ignore the experiences that form my Muslimness. At the same time I am quite aware how these underlying senses have been augmented through science and human progress, cultural and political, that I have experienced in the West. I am a Muslim who is unequivocally for openness, democracy, freedom of thought and expression. At the same time I am keenly aware that all these values, in today's world, lose their meanings without the existence of women's rights. The rights of women to independence and individual self-determination and their rights to political and social equality with men.
My Muslimness does not define Islam and that is fortunate. If it did then I would be like many other Muslims if not the most. At the same time Islam is what Muslims are. Today's Islam is not a collection of individual Muslims. The majority of Muslims are first beholden inseparably to their leaders. They cower at the radicals among themselves. They pour into the streets in Kabul at the instigation of their leaders to burn a young woman who dares to challenge their leader – the case of the 27 year old Farkhunda. A few thousand extremists many of them coming from other parts of the world can conquer large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq with their banner of suppression and enslavement of women – the case of ISIS. Or establish the first fully formed Islamic State under the same banner of women's suppression. And for the last four decades has prompted other Muslim sects, either by aspiration or competition, to push in the direction of their own version of the Islamic state - the case of Islamic Republic in Iran. These extremists are dominating the world of Islam because the Muslims of the world in their majority share their views. The views of the suppression of women, jihad with "infidels", wanting death for those who are considered disaffiliated from Islam, or suppression of open debate and discussion of ideas. Holding any of those views is adequate to put the Muslim beyond the bounds of modern civilization. These are the views that are boldly upheld by the majority Muslims around the world and the fanatical Jihadists are carrying it out with impunity.
Those who appear on the television talk shows and try to draw parallels between today's Islam and other religions or pretend that today's Islam is like any other religion. These protagonists while disassociating themselves from the front runners of today's Islam, in practice are merely apologists of the majority Muslims. A majority who holds the same views as ISIS and the leaders of the Islamic Republic – the case of Reza Aslan, Majid Nawaz or Tariq Ramadan and echoed by many of my friends who think of themselves as secularists.
We are a long way from Islam being defined by "Muslims who are like no other Muslims" and until then we will be struggling with the Islamists in the battle field and their apologists on the ideological front.