Some words just shouldn’t be said aloud, much less exist period. I can think of a few off the top of my head right now whose disappearance from the English lexicon might improve the situations of so many people today. “Talk is cheap,” goes the old adage. To some extent, I think the person who coined this aphorism didn’t know what the Hell he – or she – was talking about. Words DO matter; words have consequences, and I think we should be more cautious with how we used them.
Now, of the words which come to my mind, none of them foments my ire like the word “Islamic” does. Not even the word “nigger” irks me more, which, as a Black man, really says something. (I should say that I don’t believe the implications behind the “Islamic” trump those of the word “nigger” by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that the word “Islamic” gets under my skin more). That’s right, “Islamic.” I cannot STAND this word. In fact, were I in the business of banning words from the English language, I would do so with this word without a moment’s hesitation. Furthermore, were I to ever become the undisputed Caliph, I would flog any and every Muslim who used this word without question, without remorse, and with extreme prejudice of diction.
I should hope those who are reading this will not take my flogging statement seriously. It’s called a hyperbole, an exaggeration. Loosen up a bit. Relax. I’m not flogging anyone…yet.
Anyway, why do I disdain this word so much? When people, Muslims or non-Muslims, use this word, often times they are NOT referring to the tenets and mandates promulgated by the Prophet and expounded upon in the Qur’an and the Sunnah; rather, they are referencing particular geographical locations, principally the Middle East the South East Asia. This conflation makes for some asinine conclusions about Islam and Muslims.
Let me give a few examples to illustrate my point.
Think about this for a second. When you hear someone say, for example, “Islamic clothes,” what comes to your mind? I would reckon the traditional dress of the peoples from the Arab and Desi World might come to mind. Now, my question is this: what makes the traditional raiment from the Arab or Desi World – say, a thawb or a turban or a kufi or a jilbab or salwar kameez or a sari – “Islamic?” Is it because they are clothing consistent with mandate of modesty, of covering and protecting one’s awrah? Or it is because they come from Over There? Were I betting man (gambling is not permissible for Muslims, just so you know), I would wager my growing Afro that it has more to do with the fact the clothes originate from Over There, and that it has very little to do with the mandate of the Prophet.
In truth, clothing from any part of the world could be “Islamic” so long as it meets the modesty requirements. A loose fitting kimono should be “Islamic,” for example. Or even, loose fitting American clothes. But for the most part, we do NOT consider this breadth when use this term.
Okay. Let’s consider a favorite of mine among the Islamophobes. What about “Islamic terrorism?” Etymologically, this construction makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever; yet, there is a whole enterprise of ideas with this sophistry at its base. What does it imply? That Islam, which has “peace” and “submission” at its root, can be implicated with terrorism which, for all intents and purposes, is anti-peace. Peaceful, submissive terrorism? Just how the Hell does that work? Or better yet, how about Islamofascism, a concatenation of “Islamic” and “fascism”? I call bullsh*t on both these constructions. Talk about a lapse in logic…
What about this one, “Islamic food?” Is Colombian cuisine or Mexican cuisine or Cuban cuisine or Peruvian cuisine “Islamic?” Well, given that these meet Muslim dietary prescriptions, I’m assuming they should be considered “Islamic;” however, when the MSAs have their Islam Awareness Months, I highly doubt most of them ever consider serving food from Latin World, sans the pork of course and alcohol. I doubt ISNA or ICNA will ever serve American food serve, sans the pork of course and alcohol.
How about this one, “Islamic names?” Consider my first name, Anthony, a Latin derivative incorporated into English and many other languages. Is this an “Islamic” name? My understanding of the Sunnah is that the Prophet only had people change their names upon converting Islam if their name was derogatory or pejorative. So, for example, a prominent companion of the Prophet, Salman Ar-Farsi (Salman the Persian), was allowed to keep his name. It would seem then that “Anthony,” which apparently means “praiseworthy” or something like that Latin, is a legitimate Muslim name, right? Wrong! Why not, you may ask? Because it isn’t Arabic or Urdu or Farsi.
Get a load of this one. A Pakistani friend of mine told me about it. This construction relates to the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal. Are you ready? I don’t think you are, but we’ll see. “Islamic bomb.” What the f*@$!? A “peace, submissive” nuclear bomb?! Really?! Please elaborate as to how such a thing functions. As a nuclear engineering, I’m just dying to know. Whoever came up with this might have just altered the laws of physics. The notion of a “peaceful, submissive bomb” sounds like a neo-conservative’s dream come true.
What am I getting at here? If we only use Islam as a cultural or geographic indicator, then what sort of message will we be sending to non-Muslims? If we say “Islam is for everybody,” then “everybody” should be welcomed to the table and should be able to contribute elements of the their cultural practices, so long as those practices don’t conflict with the commands of the Prophet, which, in truth, aren’t that numerous to begin with. I don’t think Islam will burgeon in the States, I don’t think Islam will acquire a sense of belonging in the States, if we don’t get out of this “Back Home” or “Over There” mindset.
As the undisputed Caliph of the Muslims, I officially call for a moratorium on the word “Islamic.” This edict is binding upon ALL Muslims. Should you utter this vile word, I will have you flogged!
Just kidding. I’m not even sure a Caliph can even have an Afro. So lighten up a bit. Jeez.