- Published on Tuesday, 08 December 2009 00:45
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2600
On December 4, 2009, an article was published in the NY Times and later in the International Herald Tribune titled "The Price of Being Born Muslim". Tariq Ahmad, a doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told the story of how he was born as a Muslim by "accident of birth" then gradually learned what was expected of him.
He says: "It was not until the fourth grade that I even knew I was Muslim. I was in grade school in Karachi, Pakistan, checking out a library book - an illustrated Bible - when my friend pointed out to me that I had picked the 'wrong' book. He appeared to be a little upset by my choice, as did some of the other kids. Any deviations from the norm, I concluded, would raise unnecessary alarm."
After an episode in 8th grade when another friend caused him to discover the difference between Sunnis and Shiites he continued on: "...many more years of peaceful indifference toward religious matters passed and I ended up a freshman at New York University. It was then that the conflicts associated with being Muslim came to light.
"The few Islamic Center meetings I attended at college would invariably extend into speeches about the Palestinian conflict, the Kashmir conflict, the Chechnya conflict, the Bosnian conflict. Somewhat dispassionate about such issues, I chose to define myself as an undefined creature with no real place in society - the secular Muslim."
"Then 9/11 changed things and he experienced the strong backlash against Muslims. Everyone is more aware of the fact that I have a Muslim name. The more cultured among them show a genuine curiosity about 'our kind'.
"But with this increased awareness of the Muslim, there is a lack of appreciation of the nuances within our group. The reality is that many Muslims are secular. We do not pray five times a day, do not read the Koran and have not spent much time inside a mosque. We only turn to Islam when a child is born, someone gets married or someone dies. [Just like most people in many western and nominally Christian countries - Ed].
"We certainly have no interest in participating in civilizational battles. We are, in fact, loathed by the religious minority. And yet we have no clear voice, no representation and no one in the Western world appears to be aware of our existence. Every time a terrorist attack occurs, we suffer the most."
Tariq concludes with: "To defeat the threat of radical Islam, I suggest that the answer lies among the people who are the least Muslim.
"It is only the secular forces within Islam that can subdue the screams of radicalism. We are united by a lack of indoctrination, a belief in personal freedom and a similar accident of birth and we must unite to properly forge a positive and progressive future for Muslims worldwide."
I would paraphrase his comments as: "Muslims who are Muslim in name and culture only, must unite to influence and educate the radical, extremist, literal Muslims plus other Muslims who are 'on the fence'." This is very like what's mostly happened in earlier centuries to tame the radical Christians.
Tariq also points to the virtue of being secular. We need more like him in this world.