“We should use gender neutral pronouns to refer to God instead of “He,”” demands an increasingly loud group of Muslims. My conundrum is not with the issue itself because it’s a non-issue — impersonal gendered pronouns are grammatical and do not connote an actual gender for the antecedent. Obviously this is the case with Arabic, Spanish, and other languages. But even in English, pronouns are used in a variety of grammatical constructs that belie this literalistic understanding of pronoun usage. For example, “it’s raining” — what does “it” refer to? Or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” — “you” is impersonal and doesn’t refer to a specific person, etc.
My problem is I feel so tempted to mock and disrespect people making claims like this. I just can’t take them seriously. Like, what is so offensive to you that you can’t bear to hear a gendered pronoun? How insecure do you have to be for my use of the impersonal “he” instead of “he/she” to trigger you and make you feel unsafe or harmed? Why do I have to be sensitive to your paranoia?
Now some may think that this is bad adab, that I should be more understanding and show respect even in disagreement, that kindness and gentleness are the order of the day. But I disagree in this case because to be kind and sensitive is to play right into the paranoia and faux victim hood that characterizes and precipitates these discussions. You are not a victim! You are not being oppressed or marginalized by God being referred to as He! Get over it!
Sometimes mockery and derision of bad ideas is an appropriate response. You can call it satire. I understand that from the perspective of political correctness, this makes me a monster. And I am also aware that the modern purveyors of mockery and derision give the whole thing a bad name: Fox News, over zealous Muslim idiots, etc. But from a larger historical perspective, you will see many of the great Muslim scholars ripping up ideas they found stupid and/or dangerous. Even Allah derides disbelief in the Quran, saying “give glad tidings (to the disbelievers) of a painful punishment.” And of course there is the sunnah of Ibrahim (as) who had a very interesting approach to showing people how stupid their idolatry was.
The other irony is that satire and mockery of religious idea and traditional positions are seen as acceptable and enlightened even in this day and age. But show the slightest irreverence toward this or that “victimized” group, even when your fundamental beliefs deny precisely that victim hood, and suddenly you’re the insensitive bigot. Frankly, people don’t show the slightest sensitivity to me when they talk about referring to Allah as a “she” or “it” etc. Doesn’t it occur to them that these suggestions are deeply offensive? Why should I just “get over it” but your sensitivity is the object of utmost concern and civility? No, I will not be civil and shame on you for trying to use an overblown sense of victim hood and entitlement to hold me down as you spit in my face.