In the Muslim society, religion is more than just a belief system. It is inextricably embedded in every aspect of their lives. It is the core around which family and society are built. In other words, Islam is intractably intertwined with Muslims’ very sense of THE IDENTITY.
Childhood Islamic indoctrination in family, maqtab and madrasa is commonplace in Islamic society. In adulthood, Friday ‘Khutba’ helps in reiterating all types of religious directives, dos and don’ts about ‘haram-halal’, ‘Sunnah’ of prophet and Islamic politics of the locality, as well as, whole of Islamic world. Imam of local mosque plays a very crucial part in such activities.
A strong peer pressure also exists in Muslim society to maintain religious conformity, observance and practices. All the above mentioned forces put the Muslim psyche, at individual and collective level, inside an airtight iron box for the life. The ‘Imams’ and ‘Ulema’ also keep a strict vigil on the community to negate any effort of modification or deviation, intentional or accidental, from the laid down path of Islam.
Fear of Allah and ‘Jahannam’, which is ingrained in childhood, not only helps in developing a ‘Master-Slave relationship’ between Allah and Muslims, but also keeps Muslims perpetually anxious about any deviation from the laid down Islamic line. They remain skeptical about people of other religions and suffer from a sense of unreasonable alien-feeling and subtle animosity towards them.
The religion-based conviction of Islam being the only true religion and all other religions to be false, coupled with teaching of scriptural hatred towards non-Muslim, makes Muslims an arrogant and exclusive community. They can never integrate with people of other religions. They suffer from a false sense of ‘superiority complex’. In non-Muslim majority areas, they live like an enclosed community within larger community.
Thus when all the religious beliefs are so deeply ingrained in one’s IDENTITY, a shattered faith almost invariably results in a SHATTERED IDENTITY. This is why Muslims hold into Islam so dearly. This is why any attack on Islam – which is not a personal but simply a set of ideas like any other – is like a personal attack on them.
So it is natural that when you are putting their beliefs under scrutiny, you are actually prodding at their entire SENSE OF BEING. You are rocking the boat. You are criticizing and satirizing that one thing which they need to cling to in order to keep their lives undisturbed and intact, their families together, and – in some cases – their heads attached to their necks.
In comparison to Muslims, followers of other religions, in general, like Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs etc. are more liberal, secular, easy-going, inclusive, accommodative and with fewer religious scruples.
Does this mean that we should not criticize or satirize Islam? No, quite the opposite – it’s the only way to ‘break the spell’ and we must be up and doing to achieve that. We should not be cowed by the oft repeated and stereotype lame excuse called ‘Islamophobia’.
However, it should not be forgotten that a small proportion but ever increasing group of Muslims escapes from the dogmatic Islam at different stages of life due to a variety of reasons and becomes secular, humble and inclusive in outlook and humanist in practice.
Further there is a steadily growing group of Ex-Muslims across the world. This is not only evident in Western world but also in Africa, South Asia and even in Arab world. In West they have organized into groups also. Some of them are articulating the futility of Islam (and by extension religion) through books, social media and conferences at the cost of threat for their lives.
[This article has been developed with some inputs from the book “The Atheist Muslim” written by Ali A Rizvi]