Muslim communities in non-Muslim societies face an endless stream of decisions to either adopt or abstain, engage or oppose, compromise or stay firm. Whether it comes to national politics, internal community policies, raising Muslim kids, working with the security state, and so on, there are so many decisions to be made. Typically, we describe the tension between these two opposing sides as “being more liberal” or “conservative.”
A balanced approach is needed. It is contrary to the sunnah and hence unhealthy to always oppose and abstain. But to always adopt and compromise is also problematic, even more so. The bottom line is we have to engage or abstain on our own terms, but this is not what has been happening in recent times.
Nowadays, any Muslim community member who takes an oppositional stance is ostracized and excluded by the mainstream and their institutions and branded as an “extremist.” Increasingly, Muslim leadership and national orgs in America have little or no patience for what they consider “subversive” or “politically incorrect.” Rather, the raison d’être of Muslim activism is engagement, i.e., plugging into the mainstream discourses, most notably liberalism, secularism, nationalism, feminism, even when those discourses implicitly and explicitly contradict Islamic principles and values.
In the past, these compromises were made self consciously — Muslim orgs were aware of the problematic nature of some of the deals they were making, but they would at least try to justify it, cite Hudaybiyyah and call it a day. But not anymore. Now no such justification is even offered and to expect one is met with indignation, like, “How dare you question our work, you nobody, you immature simpleton.” That’s become the tenor of these interactions.
The problem with an unprincipled policy of engagement and accommodation of greater societal and political dictates is that as things shift, you have to shift with them. As the greater society moves in one direction, those Muslims who reflexively choose engagement are forced to move as well, step by step, because they don’t want to suddenly seem out of touch and inconsistent by abstaining. This is why we see so many leaders in the Muslim community and orgs these days capitulating on issues that are islamically, morally black and white. Balance has been lost.