Stop the Hate, Evolution, & Why We Care about Issues

Haters never Prosper

In Orange County, California (remind me to strike that off my places to visit other than to show my support for the Muslims there), the worst and the lowest of anti-Islam protestors showed up to a fundraiser organized by a Muslim organization to raise funds for women’s shelters and to aid in the general fight against hunger and homelessness here in America. They were greeted by politicians, tea party activists, and a group of protestors akin to the repugnant Westboro Baptist Church members who protest at the funerals of dead military personnel.

Now, I’m a big free speech advocate even if that speech is offensive and it may reflexively feel good to prevent it. I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday protecting the right of expression and don’t agree at all with the implementation of so-called blasphemy laws in some Muslim countries, which are largely used as tools of injustice to persecute minorities or political opponents, which even if there is some basis in the religion, was never the intent of law.

Here’s the video, not for the faint of heart, of the protestors harrassing the Muslim attendees at the fundraiser. I hope and pray each elected official that spoke at the rally is voted out of office or recalled by the people and for understanding and civility to enter the hearts of the protestors.

The Theory of Evolution

I made some comments on Muslim Matters in response to a comment indicating that Muslims find the theory of evolution to be a heresy. Among other comments on that post about the assassination of Salman Taseer in Pakistan, I said the following, “I neither think that parts of the theory of evolution are a heresy nor blasphemy laws as we see implemented today for a plethora of reasons should be considered a part of religion.”

I didn’t make those comments lightly or flippantly. However, some critics, reading in their own biases then interpreted those comments to mean that I have given full and unconditional support to Darwinian (where did I say Darwinian?) evolution. Did we miss the word “parts” used as a limited qualifier?  Many conservative Muslims find Darwin’s theory of evolution to be incompatible with Islamic theology and the story of the creation of human beings. To what extent one accepts or rejects evolution is controversial. However, for me, learning and working as I do in the healthcare field, parts of the theory of evolution, Darwinian or otherwise, is simply incontrovertible, that some organisms do evolve and there seems to be a form of natural selection at play.

One can always disagree about anything, pseudoscience is there for the taking but real science confirms (as it can in its limited way) the existence of newer strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria for example common in TB patients and of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). I’m currently doing a unit in maternal nursing and women’s health. Have you ever seen a child born with genetic mutations incompatible with life? It’s heartbreaking for the family and for the providers, not only will the child not survive for long, he or she won’t be able to reproduce but their siblings born with the “normal” set of genes and chromosomes will have an advantage in survival and reproduction. Is that blasphemy, is that a heresy incompatible with Islamic theology? I don’t think so. Is the commonly termed human-ape connection problematic from an orthodox viewpoint, probably.

Why We Care About Issues

One common complaint I hear raised by detractors against a person who has taken on an issue, for example, women’s inclusion and prayer space issues, is that “it’s not that important” or “there are bigger issues to worry about.” I reject this line of thinking outright for we can never accurately judge the physical or psychological pain, anguish or harm experienced by another individual. One of my sisters, jokingly dismissed Janet Jackson’s recent interview on the Today Show, where she lamented how some experiences in her childhood have continued to affect her throughout her life. I’ll refrain from that because I don’t her and can’t know her pain.

I do know that certain situations and interactions in my life have harmed me spiritually and among them is the issue of how women are routinely treated poorly in some (or perhaps most, if you ask Bill Maher) Muslim communities. The examples of this are diverse from murder to sexual and physical violence to diminished educational opportunities to poor prayer space accommodation to outright exclusion from communal life and spaces and so on. Is one more important that the other, sure, but it depends on who’s doing the classifying and by what measures are utilized. If we use the higher aims of the shariah, protection of life and faith are paramount in addition to wealth and property, lineage, honor and so on. I can say it harms my faith to be consistently reminded of the in incongruency, inequality, inequity, and downright lie between how we as Muslims like to present our faith to outsiders and how we really practice it in our mosques and community spaces.

We will happily say how Islam honors women and how covering honors, beautifies and protects them, ad nauseam but we aren’t ashamed by how women are really treated within our communities. We may say there is some basis for this in our tradition ignoring the higher objectives of the shariah, which includes the protection of religion and faith. I’ve seen people leave Islam or decline to enter it, and of course Allah is the one who guides the hearts, because of how poorly women are treated women. Not important to you, well it’s important to me.  And of course, I’ve been told to convert out of Islam if I refuse to accept the inferior penalty boxes, basements, balconies, broom closets and other shabbily arranged spaces reserved (with love?) for us.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t or don’t want to see an issue as important or even as the most important. But don’t use your own bias, weakness, inaction, or lack of concern to deter people who would like to use their energies to contribute in whatever way they can to the betterment of a specific situation. If I had to choose, I’d choose the human healthcare field over the animal healthcare field but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about animal welfare nor will I dis and denigrate veterinarians or other animal service workers and tell them their efforts are not as important as others.

If we each do our part, in whatever way we can, together we can effect change in some many areas.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

10 thoughts on “Stop the Hate, Evolution, & Why We Care about Issues”

  1. among a plethora of other reasons I am happy to know you, the issue of women’s rights within Islam is big one. I hadn’t ever met a Muslim woman who fought the ‘establishment’. Who was educated, and saw something wrong and instead of just turning her back and getting farther from Islam (me) actually stayed and tried to change it. I can only imagine how hard this has been for you. People can be very petty, very judgemental, and very ignorant. Fight for what you love.
    On the topic of morons united up there…I hate that the constitution protects those morons, but I am deathly afraid of what it would turn into if it didn’t. Sometimes freedom isn’t a good thing.
    Evolution…I believe in it, always have and I never got people that didn’t. I have a hard time taking any written text literally, so I am floored when people take a blanket acceptance to EVERYTHING, without a thought to potential flaws. I like your rational btw…very well put.

  2. Eileen, good knowing you as well. That’s a beautiful line, “fight for what you love” that I hope to keep with me. Thank you! I listened to a story on NPR today about John Galliano and how he may be tried for his hate speech and also how some European countries have tried to balance free speech with restrictions on hate speech. It’s tough.

    I know I invoke my First Amendment rights all the time to exercise my religion and love that I have a protected right to do so, hate to see others using those rights to discriminate against minorities and vulnerable populations.

  3. After countless arguments with friends who thought that evolution was somehow inherently atheist, I hit on a good analogy: Marbled paper. If you’ve never done it, you make marbled paper by putting special floating dyes on the surface of some water, swirling them around, and then place a piece of paper on the surface of the water to soak up the dye. When I make marbled paper, I’m using the physics of fluid dynamics to create the pattern that I’m looking for. There’s no conflict between the statement that the finished product looks the way it does because of the laws of physics and the statement that I made a piece of marbled paper. They’re both true at the same time and they’re completely compatible. Marbled paper has been a respected artform for hundreds of years without anyone suggesting that you had to disbelieve in physics in order to respect the skills of master craftsmen.

    Besides, there’s more evidence for evolution in the Qur’an than any other religious text I’ve run across. We’re the last religion that should be joining the anti-science bandwagon ^_^

  4. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    What Muslims reject about Darwin’s theory is that the human species evolved from apes and that our ancestors were not human. That’s it — that the genetic make-up of species change over time to become more resistant to this disease or that, or to lose this specific physical trait or that, is not controversial (particularly when it comes to micro-organisms, but it’s true of mammals, including people, as well).

  5. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I wrote about the UK evolution controversy as well. The guy involved is associated with the Quilliam foundation, whose leaders have a history of making out that they are under threat and pretending to be brave, lone voices against reactionary Islam to the mass media (particularly the gullible liberal broadsheets). The guy explicitly stated that he thought Adam (peace be upon him) had parents that were less than human. That’s kufr.

    Perhaps some people did say he should be killed, but the main issue was whether he should remain in his position of imam at a major east London mosque. He has made numerous problematic statements to the mainstream press over the past three years, and it seems that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back with the local Muslim community.

  6. Sister Ify

    Regarding Evolution as heresy (my opriginal comment at MM), it referred to Man from Apes theory. I too agree with you that things evolve over time and adapt to surroundings. But to say that Adam was the product of two apes mating would be Kufr as yusuf Smith points out.

    1. Aly, thanks for stopping by to clarify. That section of my post was not generated so much by your comments as by the comments of others who mis-characterized my words.

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