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Fuelling islamophobia?

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By Sophia Javed

(source: News24 – Response to Prof. Hussein Solomon)

Professor Hussein Solomons, resurfaced this week with another open editorial exposing his warped sentiments on the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the rise of political Islam in Tunisia, Egypt and even Turkey. This has been a hypothesis frequently deployed by the Free State University professor exemplifying his neo-conservative, pro-Zionist views that Muslims are terrorists and that anything Islamic is a threat to security, stability and democracy. The op-ed in question not only expands on his theories but also capitalises on his distorted analysis of the Arab Spring on both a factual and theoretical basis, displaying the flawed nature of the Professor’s theories as well as his suggested academic excellence.

On a factual basis, Professor Solomons has used incorrect statistics in his article when referring to the electoral results for both the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Nour in the recent Egyptian elections. But this can be easily overlooked and forgiven. His theoretical misjudgement, however, cannot.

Firstly, the Professor assumes that support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia was based on voter sympathy. In his view Egyptians and Tunisians voted for these parties because they were previously repressed under the fallen autocratic regimes and also because of their charitable work in the community. In this instance Professor Solomons assumes that people voted out of sympathy and not toward change, a naive assumption to say the least. Surely Egyptian and Tunisian societies, after suffering decades of repression and persecution would not simply use their first democratic elections to vote into power a political party simply because, that party itself was a subject of such repression? These societies are indeed victims of totalitarian regimes but are not stupid; they are people wanting change and improvement.

Secondly, as a Muslim and an intellect, I take objection to the label “Islamist” that Professor uses so liberally and undeserving. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda in Tunisia and even the AKP in Turkey are all “Islamists” according to the Professor even though these are distinct parties, from different countries, governing disparate peoples.But because the majority of these party members are Muslim and refer toIslamic codes on morality and ethics as guidelines in governing, they have suddenly been branded by the Professor as similar and “Islamist” innature. For good measure, the Professor throws in random examples of their Islamic nature to highlight his theory that secularism and Islam can never be combined, even though these examples are unrelated and isolated. He compares Ennahda’s objection to mixed-sex classes at universities with the AKP’s crackdown on Kurdish minorities, failing to appreciate the fact that the Turkish-Kurdish conflict has spanned centuries with plural causes that need to be appreciated.

Furthermore the Professor boldly claims that Islam and politics should not be mixed and secularism should be used to govern. Well of course, Shariah cannot now be applied as Islamic law, however Islam provides an excellent foundation to build the morality of a nation and acts as a befitting value system for any society to install values and beliefs therein. Just because Islamic parties rely on this value system to dictate their own ethical principles does not make these parties a threat to the stability or democracy of any society. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia have both reiterated this point and are firm believers in democracy and its principles when governing. Professor Solomons has distorted this message despite the fact that Islamic parties have habitually professed it, and instead has associated their chosen system of beliefs as their system of governing. Not only is this factually erroneous but is misleading to those analysing the Middle East and the Arab World and only strengthens the Eurocentric viewpoint that Islam and democracy are incompatible. The Professor has regularly supported Israel in its method of governing, butnot once has he ever referred to the “Jewishness” of Israel or associated its obscene human rights violations as “Jewish” even though, Israel declares itself as a Jewish state. Evidently the Professor’s theories are biased and one-sided.

What further astounds me is that Professor Solomons as a self-proclaimedMuslim scholar uses text from the Qur’an to reinforce his view as though it is in line with the religious teachings of the Islamic faith. This does very little or even nothing for conscientious Muslims such as myself who can identify the flaws in his argument and nonsense in his theory.

What he fails to understand despite being a Muslim is that Islam is a way of life. It is a belief system that adapts to every time and generation. Just as any belief system can be used in a destructive manner, Islam too, is susceptible to being used in the wrong manner. This does not make it any less compatible with democracy, as it still provides us with a moral guideline essential to the success and democracy of any society and if used correctly upholds the dignities of the oppressed. It is people like Professor Hussein Solomons who reinforce negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims, perpetuating globalconflict and ethnic tensions and are themselves a threat to the safety and stability of our world. It is only inevitable that the Professor andhis ilk will have to accept defeat on this front as new generation Muslims are no longer open to his line of argument and the misinformation he represents which has only bred 42as a global evil.