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retread| Should We be Liberal or Conservative? 1 September 2007

Posted by EDITOR in Culture, History, MOZAFFAR, Philosophy, Politics.
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Retreads are quality posts from yesterweeks that are given a second run on Saturdays. This piece was originally posted by MOZAFFAR on 21 Sep 2006.

Another area where I think too many Muslims make too many mistakes.

As the story goes, the Muslim masses are supposedly “conservative,” and those who are “liberal” tend to identify themselves as “liberal.” In some cases, we use this latter term to mean “intellectually enlightened” and in other cases, we use this term to mean “loose with certain rules of social conduct.”

And, commonly we use such terms — either term — in pejorative commentary against the other.

So, what is our reality, and what should our ideal be?

First, we must distinguish between the basic facets of life where we apply these terms: thinking, conduct, and politics.

Now, let us correct some misconceptions. The common, stereotypical Muslim immigrant, whom we commonly stereotype as “conservative” is commonly, stereotypically conservative in thinking. But, this same person is not consistently conservative in social conduct. The same person who commonly, stereotypically exercises gender segregation in the mosque and dinner parties and attempts to dictate the marriage choices of his/her children commonly watches hours upon hours upon hours of Bollywood or Egyptian movies. Those films are somehow ok.

Politically, however, it is a different type of inconsistency, but the spectrum of liberal/moderate/conservative does not apply. Rather, the politics of such a person are best labelled as “reactionary.”

On the flip side, the stereotypical “liberal” Muslim, who may be known for liberal social conduct tends to be no less intellectually closed-minded than the stereotypical person mentioned above. The content of the closed-mindedness may differ, but such persons are usually no less closed-minded than anyone else.

So, what is our ideal:

Intellectually: we should be liberal. Meaning, we should be willing to entertain and consider almost (almost) any idea, any possibility. There should be no shame in matters of learning, especially learning religion.

Socially: we should be conservative. We should be conservative in our conduct. The focus here is on modesty, privacy, humility, and manners.

Politically: we should be moderates.

Now, in between our liberal intellect and our social conservativeness sits one organ: the tongue. Which way should it go? The rules that govern the tongue are the rules of manners. Further, the manners implemented upon the tongue should vary according to the recipients. Some recipients need to hear liberal thinking, while others need to hear conservative social conduct.

That is my opinion. And, the emphasis here is on us judging ourselves. A person who outwardly appears to be contradicting any of the above only appears to be contradicting any of the above, and should be given his/her due: 70 excuses to justify his/her conduct.

May Allah bless you.

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