Independent insight

Here is a website which claims to be an independent academic entity, dedicated to studies of a religious movement, apparently delineating fresh insights and critical thought. Here is an article on the website, written by an old friend, who presents himself as an objective observer, cut off from the topic he describes. He is no advocate for the movement, he claims, nor does he defend it, at the start of a very long article defending it.

As it happens, I largely agree with the author and the arguments he sets out in his article. My gripe is with him claiming to be independent when he is not. He is and has been for a years a leading actor in that very religious movement he claims not to speak on behalf of, and a propagandist for it to boot. Academics and religious leaders may not care who their interlocutors are when they are coopted into participating in public relations activities for the movement — no doubt there is mutual benefit for all in these symposiums, as new papers on sociology, theology and anthropology are added to their curriculum vitae line by line. Well, whatever it takes, but I grow weary of the circus.

This particular movement is by no means unique. Everyone is playing the game these days it seems, bestowing themselves titles they did not earn, exaggerating past experience, creating foundations and think-tanks, and gaining credibility by association alone. Add this to the made-up associations, fake lawyers, ghostwritten articles, faux journalism, fraudulent theses, false witnesses. Sometimes people says to us, in all seriousness, “you have to play the game” or game the system, as if our Book never warned us about any of that. Instantly, great scholars and leaders are born, made real by their allies seeking an ascendency of their own.

No, that old friend of mine is not unique. At least his degrees and charitable enterprises are real. I believe he is sincere in his striving for the ends he believes in. Undoubtedly he is a better man than I am, much more grounded in faith and a life of service. Though that would not be hard. I pray he is rewarded in full for whatever good he does, and is forgiven for his mistakes and forgetfulness. But I wish too, that he would stop playing these games, pretending to be neutral when he is highly invested. No, but more than that I wish others would take a step back, to probe more deeply, to ask who they are interfacing with and why.

I detest these public relations exercises founded on deception. I detest the righteous propaganda we excel in. I wish we could be a people of truth, guided by truth, living truthfully, acting in the name of truth, embodying truth. I wish we were just, even against ourselves, and truthful even if to expose our own deceit. I wish we were of the salihun.

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