Populist causes

These days I find myself puzzled by so many issues which animate my brethren. The truth is, I am too much detached from the populist causes which many raised in a Muslim culture imbibe as essentially religious matters. To me, such issues are often overwhelmingly political — and the legacy of the politics of past empires at that. Caliphs in the dim and distant past legitimised political decisions by coopting the sanctity of region, and so here we are hundreds of years later championing the same cause as a measure of piety and belief.

Most of us don’t have any inkling of Muslim history further back than the European colonial period, except for a very whitewashed version of it. If we adopted the same moral stance that we take towards our enemies today, we would condemn most of the actions of the Muslim imperial forces of old. If we had to adopt the same moral stance, might we have to reconsider the actions of our own conquerors, whom we conveniently call “liberators”? At some point would we need to reconsider the 9th century dogma that makes our position exactly the same as the enemy we decry?

How is it that when our people transgress boundaries, we pass over it, whereas when our enemy does the same thing, we are suddenly animated in the cause of law, justice and morality? Isn’t it simply about whose side you are on? We champion what is sacred to us, just as our enemies do. We may have the moral high ground today, but it is built of the shaky foundations of the past — and who dares reexamine such foundations, when popularism has transmogrified politics into deeply held faith?

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