June 18, 2006

Opposites Explain

I often get the question why young people who once had no religion, or very little of it could go from that to an extreme interpretation of religion like we see across the world more and more these days. It is seldom youth who are brought up in a balanced home in terms of religious identity who fall for extremism. It is often young men and women who have no reference at home in terms of religious identity (besides the five pillar talk they got when they were 8 in Quran school) who fall for the simplistic and twisted interpretations of religion.

How one could go from being "Mo" who hadn't prayed his whole life and would do everything to fit into the host culture he was born into but parents did not come from, to suddenly one day being Mohamad, shunning all non-Muslim company, quoting hadith to every question he gets, whether it had any relevance or not. A world that suddenly went from one black and white, to another.

An Arabic proverb comes to mind and it in my opinion explains today's "extremist" phenomena:

Al shayy min al Dodd yofham
Roughly meaning, through the opposite a thing is understood (explained).


H87T19A said...


Nice topic to discuss

although if i commented some might disagree with me

anyway i would like to read what others might say about this topic :)

opinionatedinjerzee said...

god, i always think that.. i see it more in girls.. like girls back in school who were known partier suddenly see the light and turn into ninjas.. all wrapped up? what for, the whole world has seen you party!! i think its because doing this might somehow make them feel like they are washing away their sins... thats my opinion!!! i hate them!!!

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

h87t19a geeeees what a name to re-type lol Welcome. Feel free to voice your opinion. It's a subject I think everyone feels something about.

I understand what you mean jerzee. You know for me, I don't mind someone changing their lifestyle a bit, here or there, however what bothers me is when they change and start pointing fingers at other people (totally forgetting about their own past) who might not feel the same way.´I mean cover up by all means or take it off by all means, but don't judge other people, nor point fingers. Instead let people be seen based on more important values than clothing or how much is covered or not.

Kyaroko said...

In my opinion and experience...

I think that people who are taught from childhood to believe in the supernatural (god, faries, whatever) are easily manipulated into believing more fervently. It's exciting when somebody comes along and reinforces what you already believed to be true and offers you new information to further cement your beliefs.

People who were raised not believing in the supernatural are more questioning and skeptical, not as easily manipulated. They want proof.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Well thats the interesting thing here, we see people who come from a belief in nothing or a lack of interest in what they were taught to believe into a belief that is manipulated by other than religious aims.

If one was at one point taught to believe in God, that belief is not reinforced by turning to the extremes. Saying that implies that belief in general would be something extreme (condoning extreme ideas), thus reinforced by another extreme. It wold also imply, especially if one says "reinforces what you already believed to be true", that one was taught at some point such extreme ideologies and now hearing them again or reinforced, one welcomes them.

That is not the case here, for they did not believe that one should not make friends with non muslims, nor did they believe that one should kill innocent people. So it is not somehting they used to believe and that is now being reinforced with the mantle of religion to mask it.

It is something added. If you talk to the parents of kids who have gone extreme they are speechless and do not understand, very often, what went wrong.

It is a matter of identity as well, especially if you are an immigrant kid growing up in another culture where u feel like ur not truly accepted. A search for an idenity and a search for somewhere to "belong" can lead a young person with no stable background from home (religious or non religious), into extreme situations. How many ideologies that do not have a single basis in religion per se or the supernatural have brought people to commit evil acts and feel emotions that go beyond what can be concidered humanity? (Nazi germany, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin...religion is opium etc etc)

It is however important that when one is given a religious upbringing (if one should have religious parents), that one is allowed questioning, and thinking for oneself, and that ones ideas not be suffocated with religious application.

A majority of religious people do not turn to the extremes yet they are taught to believe.

It is not religion itself that makes a person void of critical thinking or questioning, it is the manner of education. For we see ignorance and narrowmindedness in people, because of their common denominator; humanity.

many atheists have said; no I have never read so and so author because I have been told by people whom I trust that his views are not really accurate.

Where is the critical thinking? Did his not being raised to believe plant some sort of natural predisposition to always question and not take other people's word for it?

Is not atheism a form of -ism at the end of the day as well? Is not an active choice of not believing in anything, a belief in itself? and thus can one not use that -ism, to promote ones own evil agenda, by preaching to a crowd of fellow non believers and gaining the same effect?

People who are inspired by Marx? he was no prophet or God but is followed often in the same manner as a people would follow their prophet. And he would be the first to agree with ideas such as people of religion can not think for themselves.

yet there is nothing supernatural about him or any other leader of different forms of communism/atheism, and yet so many deaths have been the result of applied communism (with a hidden agenda as such can be the case with applied religion in a government form).

The point to all of this is, humans are humans, in whatever -ism they choose to follow or not follow. And social structures play the biggest part in determining what the person in question will do with his or her ism, not the ism itself.

Arabized said...


how about those who were religious and then have ventured away from religion? what then?

that is the newest thing lately, the ones who were, just drop it and begin doing the things they know is wrong, and when you ask why, they have no answer, they just do it. Its killing them inside and the guilt just builds up, but they cant stop.

knicq said...

I would like to comment at length on the topic, unfortunately, am too hard pressed for time just now...but in the nauseatingly cliched words of a certain Governor of a US State...I'll be back.

For now, however, I would like to say that I am always careful to make a distinction between a fundamentalist and an extremist. A fundamentalist does nothing more than revert to the fundamentals of his/her beliefs. At what point in life anyone chooses to do that is a function of at what point one 'sees light'.

Specifically, the fundamentals of Islam teach niether co-ercion nor terrorism, niether bullyism (aka US-ism) nor extremism, and nor any other ism. Islamic fundamentals do lay down how one conducts one's own life, and a fraction of that is also the dresscode; and I see nothing wrong with some-one working towards those fundamentals.

Extremism, specifically what is oxymoronically called Islamic extremism, is almost always born out of ignorance and mis-information. A lot of what you have spoken about, and most of the commentators have pointed towards is extremism.

Yet again, there can be no generalizing of who sets out on the quest of fundamentals and who goes down the path of extremism. Lots of my friends who have found solace and blessing in seeking and following the fundamentals of Islam came from affluent families that had little religious focus, and a lot many from apparently completely religious families have taken the fundamentalist route to dissociate themselves from bida'at prevalent in their families. There are of course those who came from religious families and became fundamentalists because that seems to be the only way to hold on to our belief in an increasingly alienating world.

An extremist could have come from any of the three kinds of families also. The extremists blowing up other humans come just as easily from well-to-do 'modernistic' families as they do from the 'madrassa' families.

This throws open another completely new discussion on the role of Madrassas that shape fundamentalists as against those that breed extremists.

The point of it all being, generalizing as most people seem to do in this discussion is wrong and misleading.

More later...hopefully...

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

knicq I appreciate your ideas and you are right, one must make a distinction between fundamentalism and extremism. My concern is not in the covering up or not covering up, more in the way the person later on conducts him or herself against other people who do not see things the way he or she does.

You are correct in saying that one cannot make a generalisation in all cases. However, in this case I speak about sweden and the increase in youth choosing the path of wahabism or in its other form/name, Salafism. (Of course even within salafism there are milder forms and there are extreme forms, not all are extreme).

I am speaking from a swedish context where I know a lot of the youth who start behaving like this, where people I know, know other youth who do the same and we all notice this very same phenomena...they were party animals before and now the girls wear niqaab and say haram every five seconds. They belong to families that were more cultural than religious, or they converted to islam.

In a swedish context (which I should have mentioned in my post, I am sorry about that), I am convinced, that whatever I have written in my post applies to the group of young people who turn to extremism, not fundamentalism, in Sweden.

Just because a person chooses to wear hijab doesnt mean she has become extreme. Nor does it mean that just because a guy chooses to grow a long beard that he has become extreme. I agree we must not equate the two. The extremity is in saying "wear hijab or else you are so and so", which I'm afraid is the case with a lot of people these days.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Biz, I see what you mean. But there is one difference between that group of people and people who turn extremist in manipulated religion.

The first group "harms/affects" no one but themselves. The second group "harms/affects" everyone around them with their views and perhaps actions.

BuJ said...

very interesting! seems i have caught the storm in the end , or perhaps the middle...

i find it interesting this kind of behaviour with young people. i guess it's more prevalent in the west.. say in the the uk or sweden.. however from my experience in the uae things are a bit different..

we tend not to have such black and white situations.. people are generally culturally religious.. they will pray and fast.. but if u ask them to list the kaba2ir they will falter..

these people generally stay like that.. and it's a half way point.. but you rarely find a uae family that's totally detached from religion.. so this quick extremist-breeding ground just doesn't exist.. on the other hand like biz said.. there are people who are brought up in an islamic family but ditch it all as they grow older.

interesting post shaira

MJ said...

What I see around me is more like, people raised as typical Muslims (like buj said) but they leave to study abroad and they come back as these extremists, it's like being away from Islam and around all these Islamists group change them one way or another. Many of them would chill few years after they come back though.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Buj of course, because here in the west Muslims often from other cultures are not in majority thus the strive for an identity and a place of belonging is much greater here for these youth.

MJ, how do they become extreme (in a UAE context)? It would be interesting to know in what way they become extreme after coming back from abroad.

Arabized said...

yea well my comment was towards really my view of the youth in the US,its been a growing trend, and i find it scary that the moderate muslims, have just given it up, and whats left? those 2 extremes.

well at least there are less uptight muslims. (haha).

Samawel said...

I've yet to read all those interesting-seeming comments, but that's later. Not much time this evening.

But! This post couldn't be any more relevant to a personal event I've gone through today. Some people will never understand many issues until they're smacked in the face by it. My only worry is that some people might just collapse and blame me (though it's no fault of my own) for their own collapse. And then there's my egotism, will I be dragged down?

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

hala bizzz we are online same time it seems :)

How's the states treating ya? I bet you're chlling big time.

Thing is, there is room for everyone, and there is not one way to be muslim alone...however I feel you on that one...it seems that we live in an age of extremes...in all aspects. Extreme home make-over, Extreme sports, extreme religion... It's a worldwide phenomena, and thus al shayy min al dodd yofham. Moo?

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Well I don't know Samawel, will you? When you have time do elaborate more on the incident you went through today. I'm all bloggears. :)

Kyaroko said...

Nothing fuels extremism like persecution. As soon as somebody defines you and your people as being "other", it will unite you in defense.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

I'm not quite sure what you mean.
Do you mean that if Muslims are persecuted, and seen as "other", Muslims will unite thus leading to extremism?

In that case Jews have been persecuted for ages, and have as a result been a close-knit people who have often been defined by people or groups as "being other". They have had to unite in "defense". However, this has not lead the Jews to in general become an extreme people as such.

No reason why Muslims in general should.

Exceptions exist everywhere in all courts.

Perhaps I mis-understood what you said, I'm not sure Kyaroko :)

Kyaroko said...

Muslims, for example, in France, where they are persecuted. They result has been to unite them together to fight for their civil rights. This has led to unfortunate violence, though it's true that it shouldn't necessarily lead to violence.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Youth in France (of all religion and non religion) recently when I went to Paris in April, were on the streets demonstrating (some violently) against the french law that was about to be passed making it possible to fire any employed, under the age of 25 If i'm not mistaken, without a reason.

Persecution creates extremism? Define extremism in this case where the French youth went out to demonstrate for their rights. It got out of hand and that is of course not acceptable.

At the end of the day, persecution leading to "extremism" has nothing to do with religion. Rather I would say persecution leads to reaction, however how we react should always be within propriety and legality.

How humans act when they are cornered and when their rights and integrity are transgressed, is what happens when someone is persecuted (religion or no religion).

I'm not sure what violence regarding muslims in France you are speaking of?

Concerning the ban on the headscarf there have been nothing but peaceful reactions from the general Muslim public in France, and Muslim leaders have urged Muslims to follow the law. And that is what they have been doing and girls are going to school and those who can are doing whatever they can within legality to change the law and the extremely unappropriate ban on religious symbols in public spaces.

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