How Muslim Segregation Can Be A Pull to Radicalization

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Muslims pray the eve of the Islamic month of Ramadan at a Chicago mosque. (Photo: Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Muslims pray the eve of the Islamic month of Ramadan at a Chicago mosque. (Photo: Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In the following interview on Islamic ethics, Muslim scholar Sheikh Uthman Khan discusses Muslim segregation and how a self-driven portrait of Muslim identity drives segregation in Islam.

Khan is the Academic Dean of Critical Loyalty, an online Islamic school in North America. Speaking with interviewer Scott Jacobsen of The Good Men Project, Khan candidly addresses how and why Muslims promote segregation based on their own identity constructs. 

The more isolated individuals become based on faith-based segregation, the easier it becomes for them to be pulled into radicalization efforts that see non-Muslims as inferior to their own identity group. 

Jacobsen: How do Muslims advocate for segregation when Islam is meant to make all Muslims equal within the faith? 

Khan: Muslims, I find, have segregated themselves a lot from others, from everyone else that’s not a Muslim. So, it’s like, “I’m a Muslim and you’re a non-Muslim.”

Jacobsen: You noted that this segregated approach is promoted in Islam and hasn’t found this to be the case in other religions. The dichotomy becomes Muslim vs. non-Muslim — and that’s something that’s happening even within intra-Muslim relations. Can you explain that?

Khan: Let’s look at Shireen Qudosi, for example. She’s a Muslim but doesn’t wear a hijab, for instance. She is called a slur, which is, “I consider you a kafir. Kafir means a non-Muslim. The reason for the epithet is because she is not wearing the hijab. But the same happens to me. I’m considered, by some, a kafir or a non-Muslim because of disagreements I have with others on Islam. This is a big problem in the development of pluralism.

Jacobsen: How does this drive segregationist attitudes? 

Khan: There was a dialogue course in seminary, which is a course where discussion and dialogue are encouraged. As an exercise, the people came from outside and put sticky notes on the wall. The notes had different identities on them: religion, age, education and so on, in the myriad self-identifications of people. Believe it or not, 99 percent of the Muslims went and stood by the religion part. Religion becomes a primary way that Muslims identify themselves—more than education, age or other descriptors.

There are explicit and implicit rules within Islam surrounding the community of Muslims. However, people are forgetting that Islam and ethics create a barrier in between because ethics are universal. You can be ethical and not be a Muslim, right?

Jacobsen: How can there be balance between ethics and faith? 

Khan: Ethics will bring people together because ethics are universal. This is where the discussion on beliefs—those that comprise Islam—can then become part of the discussion. But if the religion becomes translated into ethics, then the ethics becomes subjective, so people have to worry about how do they urinate, how do they dress, how do they eat and so on. Those failing to meet those subjective ethics become non-Muslim or the outsiders.



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