We hear this term a lot, “Progressive” Muslim. These days, it really seems to be quite the buzz word on social media, with Muslims eagerly describing themselves as being “progressive,” or “liberal,” and now, apparently, “inclusive.”
“Inclusive” Muslim is a new term to me. I had to Google it to see what, exactly, is an “inclusive” Muslim. I wish to first start by talking about what a “progressive” Muslim is, and then I will segue into this new (and very confusing) term, “inclusive.”
I’ll start with providing some background information on me, to give everyone an idea of where I am coming from. I am a moderate, mainstream Sunni Muslim, with love and respect for Sufism. I typically follow the Hanafi madhab (Islamic school of thought), and equally respect the (minor) differences of the other madhabs. I see none as being superior to the others, and feel that when it comes to fiqh (jurisprudence, generally handled by the interpretations of scholars who follow particular madhabs), it’s really up to the individual which one best suits them.
One important thing to note: the core teachings of Islam do not differ among the four Sunni schools of thought. Also, as I am Sunni, I cannot, nor will I attempt, to speak for the Shia schools of thought. I would assume, though, that they must be very similar to the Sunni madhabs, with very little differences among them.
I also do not view Sunni Islam as being superior to Shia Islam. I have Shia friends, and I love and respect them as my equals (because they are my equals). To view anyone as being inferior, would actually be counter to the teachings of Islam. Similarly, to think one’s self as being superior to anyone, is against Islam. Only Allah knows who is better than whom, and it’s really not our place at all to even try to guess.
I think that I am a fairly open-minded individual. I don’t judge people based on how they live their lives, and I am teaching my children to love and respect all, without exception. Personal beliefs, lifestyles, practices, etc, are not what makes a person good or bad. I try to look at all for what’s inside them. Do they have a good heart? Then they are a good person.
Now, with a bit of information about my own beliefs, let’s take a good, hard look at these “progressive” Muslims.
“Progressive” Muslims are those who feel that they are somehow more “enlightened” than moderate, mainstream Muslims. They see themselves as being more “integrated” and “accepted” into society at large (however, what what cost, I am not sure). Alternatively, they see Muslims like me, as being “regressive,” “backwards,” “old fashioned,” and blame us for all that is wrong in the world today. We are singlehandedly responsible for Islamophobia, mainly because we “refuse” to “integrate.”
Whatever I have to say here, is based on my own interactions with such individuals, both in person, and online. Surprisingly, I have found interactions in person to be more aggressive than online. I have been told to my face that my headscarf serves as a barrier, and that as long as I “insist” on wearing it, no non-Muslim will ever wish to befriend me (which is incorrect, I might add, as I have made many friends with non-muslims through the years!). I’ve even been told that celebrating Christmas will make my Christian neighbors love me (not celebrating will apparently make them hate me).
I really do have to laugh at this one, as I am a revert (convert) from Christianity, and I remember seeing non-Christians trying to act and look like Christians. People just laughed at them, and saw them as cultural and religious sell-outs. I never saw anyone “accepting” or “loving” them because they had muddled their religious customs with those of Christianity.
“Progressive” Muslims are extremists, on the opposite end of the scale from Wahabbis. Due to this, a lot of non-Muslims mistakenly believe that “Progressives” are the “right kind” of Muslims for them to befriend. They don’t do a lot of things that make them feel “uncomfortable,” and some are even willing to imbibe in an alcoholic beverage. There are even “progressive” Muslims who will very proudly advertise who they voted for, hoping that will save them the discrimination and lynch mobs later (it doesn’t, of course).
So, why are they called “progressive” Muslims? Well, that would be because they feel that they have “progressed,” they are “modern,” “up-to-date,” etc. Anything that seems to “archaic” about Islam, they simply throw it out. Don’t want to fast? “Progressives” say you don’t have to! Don’t want to pray? “Progressives” say it’s not necessary!
I would like to point out that you cannot tell that someone is “progressive” by their manner of clothing. The fact that “progressive” women reject hijab does not mean that all Muslim women who choose not to cover are “progressive.” In fact, I can give examples of women who follow Islam exactly to the letter, and yet, they do not cover. Go to the Indian subcontinent, visit Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and you will see thousands of Muslim women who don’t cover, but are not “progressive” in their interpretation and implementation of Islam. Quite simply put, hijab (head covering) does not an “orthodox” Muslim make.
Now, on to this new term, “inclusive” Muslim. What is this, exactly? Well, it’s just a “progressive,” but they are trying on a new look, so to speak. They are attempting to repackage themselves, by claiming that they are the ones who accept all, reject none, include all (that is, all except for mainstream Muslims like myself). They are now also using a term, “self-identifying Muslim” (I also had to look this one up).
What is a “self-identifying” Muslim? On the surface, you’d think that would be any Muslim, as Islam doesn’t require any sort of public declaration or ceremony in order to be considered Muslim. Literally, all it takes is someone saying, “I’m a Muslim,” and the whole community will consider them Muslim. So, why coin a term that makes no sense at all, in the traditional sense?
A “self-identifying” Muslims is (apparently) someone who tells people that they are a Muslim, despite whether or not that is true. Now, go back and re-read the previous paragraph. As long as someone says they are Muslim, the tradition goes that they are to be considered Muslim. No one is allowed to question, and certainly no one can declare them to not be Muslim (this is called “takfir,” which is a favorite pastime of the Wahabbis). Again, why the need to call one’s self a “self-identifying” Muslim, if Islam is quite clear about what makes a person a Muslim (they said they are Muslim, therefor, they are Muslim).
(I’m starting the third paragraph on this strange term, and I don’t know if I’m, any closer to an explanation)
They use this term as a means of saying that they are “inclusive” of all walks of life, no matter what religion they really practice. In other words, they don’t ask (for the record, mainstream Muslims don’t ask, either!), they don’t tell. A ‘self-identifying” Muslim can literally do whatever they want in the masjid (mosque), or wherever it is that they gather for worship (or not!). They don’t have to pray, they don’t have to make wudhu (ablution performed before prayer), they don’t have to cover their hair while praying (if they are a woman, and if they actually pray). In short, they don’t have to do any of the things that Muslims typically do in their day to day life. They “self-identify” and that’s that.
Sort of reminds me of the term “spiritual Muslim,” that was being used by some members of the African-American community some years ago, but this seems to be different. “Spiritual Muslim” was a term being used by people who were trying to figure out their spiritual background. They may have discovered that some of their ancestors had been Muslims, and they were feeling a longing to reconnect with something that was stolen from their ancestors (complements of the ignorant slave traders). Men were even growing what came to be known as a “Sunnah beard,” and I even had pregnant ladies asking me to suggest Arabic names for their babies.
While the “spiritual” Muslim movement is clearly an attempt to regain stolen traditions, this “self-identifying” Muslim phenomenon just seems more and more confusing, the more I try to understand it. Perhaps that’s the whole point…