Its quite normal for people to whoop and cheer when something that is clearly in their interest occurs. What worries me is that sometimes, what is in our best interest RIGHT NOW, may have consequences down the line that are very harmful - and this is where I would like to introduce the concept of: "then what?".
I am sure there are many thinkers, philosophers and sociologists who have already come up with theories and clever terminologies to describe what I am trying to say - but reading on London Muslim's blog that London University is set to Ban Alcohol because of a 20% Muslim student population filled me with worry.
Whilst 20% of a University population will whoop and cheer because something has happened that serves their interest - 80% will be irritated and alienated. That's not exactly a good ratio there.
We have to ask the question: "then what?" and follow the trail and accept that everyone is different. Lets swap it around:
London University Set to Ban Halal Meat from University because of Animal Rights concerns from 20% of the population who are Animal Rights activists
Muslims get pee'd off
News starts to get involved
Muslims vanish from university....
yada yada yada - and so on and so forth the chain goes. And this is just a small circle to consider - muslims and non-muslims. What about all the other issues, customs, cultures, colours and creeds that we share an environment with?
What about all of the ages, and ability levels, and dietary requirements?
What about all of the political philosophies, economics?
Yeah, its great that in the short term something has happened for "us" - but in the long term are we not set to lose? Is getting our way in the short term really the win that we regard it as or is it just another stepping stone towards total alienation?
This happens a lot - this shortsightedness.
There is the overly strict father who locks his daughter in the house and doesn't let her go out and socialise. In the short term - he wins. His daughter is home, out of trouble safe in her room. In the long term though, his daughter lacks social skills, decision making skills, confidence, self esteem, character assessment skills and life experience. Short term he has averted an immediate danger - but long term he has disabled her (in a certain way) for life.
There is also the overprotective mother of the crying child who is always screaming for another kid's toy. So in the short term, she may plead with the other child to "share the toy" or give up the toy. In the short term, her child is happy and will stop crying. But in the long term, the other kid will eventually stop playing, will get fed up, her child will never learn to share and get on with other kids and when the day comes that she cannot soothe him by feeding his wants - she will lose him as well.
This is what worries me - that as a community, we risk becoming so focused on getting our way in the short term, that we don't see the long term impact of our actions and the long term loss and gain of those actions.
We don't like hijab bans, and prayer bans. We don't like not being allowed to pray or fast. We don't like it when any part of our culture or religion is adopted by policy and changed and amended to suit others rather than us.
Why then do we whoop and cheer when we do this to others?
If we are concerned about the dangers of alcohol - then we should campaign for the principle of non-alcohol with studies, and statistics. If we are worried about the decline of social morality, we should argue for it in much the same way. We should not need to come from a religious standing: what's right is right and what is wrong is wrong and by arguing from a neutral place - we stand to gain more supporters in the process, and we stand to enrol many more people into a philosophy. I mean, there is a major difference between:
Argument A: we would like all people to quit alcohol because Islam says so
Argument B: we would like all people to quit alcohol because 90% of people who drink early in life will go on to die, be single mothers, fail exams, develop heart conditions, make bad decisions, etc etc
Argument A wins you support from one group and one group only: your own group. Piece of piss if you ask me. But the skill of life is to win more than that - to get people who are not on your side, on your side. Is that not the sunna? Is that not what the whole concept is - to gain as much support for a principle as possible and that that principle is so true and so powerful that it is difficult to argue against it? Did Islam not come to the people, slowly over a long period of time, one or two principles at a time?
Now we are throwing the whole book at people like a punch, all in one go. Losing the idea, losing the point, losing the purpose and failing miserably.
Principles cannot be achieved through pressure, force, threats and intimidation: principles are internal mechanisms built up and developed over a period of time and experience. Short term, if you grab your neighbour by the throat and threaten him with death if he keeps parking his car in your space - he may stop parking there. Long term, he will get tired of your threats, maybe get a few of his mates round - and eventually, start a war with you. He may complain of your aggression, he may get you arrested - who knows where this story will end? Better to ask yourself these questions before you start the fight, rather than have to get defensive and reactive after you have happily invited the damage into your life in the first place.
The people we live with in England are our neighbours. They are just as essential to our daily lives as the person in the house to the left of yours and the house to the right of yours. We must find a way to argue our case in a way that doesn't leave a win-lose mentality in the mouth, and that doesn't put a label on that win - one point for the muslims and one point for the others. Because this win lose mentality will eventually create a massive and major conflict - and we will lose in the long term.
Because our neighbours are our neighbours, next door. Then you go out into the street. Then stretch to your town - and slowly, slowly expand and broaden the circle of who you regard as our neighbours until you recognise that outside of your town is your city, outside of your city is your district, outside of your district is your country...your continent, your world.
You are fighting a case with a great deal of people in it - and scoring points and working in pure self interest & short term gain is only going to leave you stranded in this picture.
If we want to argue for something - we should argue about it as a lone principle. The principle of alcohol, the principle of morality, the principle of modesty and so on and so forth. By doing so, we invite non-Muslims to participate, to lobby, to argue and to join. We should not seek the credit for these actions and we should be happy to let the principle do all of the work, take all of the credit for the work and be assigned the rewards of the work.
If, when you argue your case the only people applauding and nodding are your own - you have failed. An idiot can do that. When a dog howls, do the other dogs not join in? A skillful dog will have a cat howling - now that would be amazing! If, when you argue your case, you see a shift in people who are not of your own - then you have accomplished something really wonderful: you have connected. You have made sense. You have achieved communication. You have won a supporter. You have made a link. You have created a team.
It is, after all, the principle that is the most important....isn't it?
I say yes, the principle is the most important. Because it is the principle leads to the outcome en masse. The principle is the infallible part of any mission and its the principle that has the most longevity and is the hardest to change, and the principle that is absorbed gradually and gently into behaviour, culture and being.
Whether you agree or not is up to you, but for me I would say: "hey reader, I invite you to think about a particular principle and question yourself deeply on whether or not this makes sense to you or not. I will not try to change you, amend you or force you into one point or another, I just ask you to ask yourself and come to your own conclusion"
Secretly, deep down - I believe there is enough truth in what I have said to cause that shift in you. Not because a book tells me so - but because the principle is so powerful and real to me, that I can't really see how it couldn't.