Islam we can all agree is a global religion. Its followers constitute one of the world’s largest religious communities. Islam resides within every ethnic group and inhabits every type of geographical region. The religion’s historical success as a universal religion arises in part from the simplicity of its message and its ability to make itself relevant to different times and people.
Before I continue this opinion piece please familiarize yourself with these two terms of Islam that form the basis of my discussion:
- Bid’ah (Arabic: بدعة ; English: innovation) refers to innovation in religious matters
- Ijtihad (Arabic: اجتهاد ijtihād, “diligence”) is an Islamic legal term that means “independent reasoning” or “the utmost effort an individual can put forth in an activity.”
Islam constitutes a “mobile idea” because it can be easily understood anywhere and is flexible enough to come together “in intriguing ways to produce un-anticipated new configurations.”
In traditional Islamic thought, the concepts of bid‘a and ijtihad both have shades of meaning are not always well understood by many today.
The allegation that something is bid‘a is often made rashly. For some, the term has become a rhetorical sledgehammer to vindicate their own agenda. Some restrict its use so severely that it ceases to be functional; and that is what I believe of the Native VML ‘#IAmMuslim campaign.’
The original campaign built upon the attacks in Europe, shook the soul of every person across the world was repackaged by Native VML in an attempt to romanticize and feed on the sympathetic ideal of Islamists being weak & victimized, primarily on the focus of the Muslim woman, wearing a traditional Islamic hijab, fashioned after the flag of their home country.
The campaign has been applied so freely that it has become arbitrary and undermines any semblance of authenticity with any correct message of Islam and those associated with it.
A feel for the true conceptions of bid‘a and ijtihad is necessary for anyone today and I am using Ijtihad to tear up this whitened concept of Islam that is being used to a means that is ‘good for business’.
There is a directive that emphasizes the necessity of promoting the intellectual health of the Muslim community by spreading “Islamic literacy” in order to instill critical consciousness in the Muslim rank and file. This form of idea is what is central to proper messages about Islam and the situation of Islamophobia.
The consciousness of the agency Native VML, to engage such a campaign should be honest and reflect both what afflicts the nation of Islam and what is good. Not just pussyfoot around what I can regard as cafeteria faith selection of what is just good for the image of Native VML’s reputation. Common business sense lost out to a blind approach of let’s pick on Muslim sympathy, it would be good for business. It’s not aligned politically just yet but it just might help with a new account.
Counter-balancing Bid‘a with Ijtihad
Those who misunderstand bid‘a are liable to take it too far and silence critical discourse. Though bid‘a has positive nuances and is not intended to rule out new ideas, it serves as a regulatory mechanism to put new ideas on trial and hold them up to scrutiny. It cautiously approves of some and disapproves of others.
And this is exactly what I am doing to Native VML’s campaign of the #IAmMuslim in partnership with PASSOP, that was chosen by Native VML to show warm and fluffy feelings that they (Native VML) have for the cause of Muslims.
Few Muslims in the world today are in a more advantageous position to comprehend the essence of modernity and post-modernity and to formulate new directions for ijtihad in keeping best traditions of Islamic thought and the imperatives of an interconnected pluralistic world.
Digital media who understand how to make effective use of modern media and found large audiences by addressing the issues of the day and articulating messages simply, clearly and more so, honestly.
Indianspice was an after thought to receive a 2 week old Press Release from Native VML to regurgitate this #IAmMuslim campaign. Using our editorial creativity and judgement, we opted as would any editor to set a tone for the content that is honest and in tune with the audience we reach out to.
‘#IAmMuslim: Not All Muslims Are Good’, this was the headline used.
An email and phone call later to me from executives at the agency shared their opinion that this was not good for the image of Native VML. I challenged the response from Loki Magermen of Native VML as their stance started to show the cracks in their creative discourse of projecting a true, honest and ethical value worth of the campaign they just spewed out to the masses.
I am questioning the real essence of the campaign and the shoddy effort of Native VML executives that crafted this campaign.
- Did they actually use focus groups to really understand what they were actually trying to do?
- Did they consider taking this to Muslim critics and the common Islamist as well as to other non-Islamists to see what the impact was/is of this alleged ‘groundbreaking and supposedly controversial’ campaign? Clearly, not.
- Did they really show honest opinions of the Islamist? Sadly, Native VML lost the plot from the beginning.
What people say about the religions they follow reflects the circumstances in which they are living. It is naïve to expect an optimal agency attempt of a campaign of any religion in the absence of a tolerable socio-political context of the South African Muslim, in this case.
When one attempts to talk about Islam in the modern world, one must address the dismal socio-political context of its followers. To ignore that context and focus instead on essentialist pronouncements about Islam or Muslim civilization is “pure Walt Disney.” This is not mere hypocrisy. This is schizophrenia.
Hence the reason I chose to be, ‘I Am Muslim and I can be honest and tell you that not all Muslims are good.’
Multi-culturalism, like environmentalism, is a cheap and easy sort of cause because all it requires of you is lazy acquiescence and maybe a few retweeted hashtags. In the end, of course, the concept by Native VML obsession with being “cafeteria” will very much hurt them. Let’s be honest and talk about it and not sideline the real conversation in any person’s mind whether they are Muslim or not.
Native VML tried to silence my headline as it was bad for business. Ryan McManus, the only people who see these as controversial was you and your team at Native VML.
“Not all Muslims are the same. There are good and bad Muslims, just as there are good and bad people in all religions.”