“Muslims 5, Kafirs 4.”

I looked at my computer screen in complete shock. I had just logged into FB after a three-day hiatus(a long time for me as I’m completely addicted). The quite mentioned above came from the status update of an acquaintance of mine. He’d attended a sporting event and was gloating over the fact that there were more hijabis than non-covered ‘kafir’ women in the crowd. It wasn’t his gloating in and of itself that bothered me. It was his shameless use of the word kafir. While practicing Islam I never used that word to refer to non-Muslims and cringed every time I heard someone use it.

I was amazed to see my friend, who took his shahada within the last three months, referring to non-Muslims this way. I sent him a message expressing my shock and disappointment that he would use such a word. He initially disagreed with my interpretation of the word and pleaded innocence, stressing that technically all the word means is “non-Muslim”. I responded that yes, technically that is what it means. It is generally used to refer to non-Muslims in scornful, derogatory manner. My friend ran all of this by his Muslim friends. They informed him that indeed it is a derogatory term. To my friends credit, he apologized for using the term, deleted the post and vowed to never use it again.

The whole incident got me thinking about the whole “us versus them” mentality and how easily converts to Islam adopt it. It’s both amusing and tragic to me. In the name of faith, in our desperate attempt to fit in, some of us are willing to look down on those who have known and loved us all of our lives. Though we come from non-Muslim backgrounds ourselves, we can be the quickest ones to disparage non-Muslims as “kafirs”(and YES I heard this with my own ears). We’ll proudly count ourselves as part of the Ummah, yet pretend that we had no identity before joining it.

Looking back at my time as a Muslim, I feel that I was pretty much destined to have problems in the community. I always struggled with the triumphalist mentality of Islam. The idea that being a Muslim somehow made one superior to non-Muslims was unacceptable to me. While I believed that Islam was the final revelation, I didn’t believe that accepting that revelation made me  better than anyone else.  Call me crazy, but there is something deep within me that feels individuals should be evaluated on the content of their character and nothing else.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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