There Are So Many Shades of Muslim - Which One Is Real?

As a real Muslim, I don't want to go to war with the rest of the world. I just want to peacefully coexist. I'm certain there are more real Muslims like me out there. It's time they find a voice to speak up.

Early on Saturday morning, Rupert Murdoch added his voice to the Charlie Hebdo killings:

It was reassuring to see that Twitter took to apologising for his tweet:

But before we get swept away in criticising anyone who says Muslims should apologise, we should really ask ourselves: is there some truth in what they're saying? What are Muslims around the world doing given there is an attack on their religion by a marginalised group of people who are using violence and threat as a means to bring terror around the world? Even Piers Morgan voiced an opinion on Friday, asking : what are real Muslims doing to reclaim the Islamic faith?

I think there's an even more pertinent question to ask: just what is a real Muslim? The official (by official, I mean Wikipedia) definition is that a Muslim is 'one who submits to God'. Herein lies a huge issue. This definition alone is not strong enough to be used for 1.6 billion people worldwide.

If the barbaric killers in Paris had their way, they would want you to think that they are real Muslims: people who are protecting the Prophet and the word of God. Yes, they can use the adjective Muslim in that they (questionably) submit to God, but they're not 'real Muslims' by any stretch of the imagination. A real Muslim would not opt for violence to try and put his or her argument across. Indeed the Quran says 'call (others) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner' (16:125). Nowhere does it say demonstrate a challenge to your faith with violence by taking a gun, forcing your way into an office, killing people who have offended you (read: you, not the other 1.5 billion odd who may bear a similar label to you), and then fleeing the scene. And certainly nowhere does it say shout 'God is great' before doing so.

So where do we find real Muslims? I've been looking for a while, and I have to admit if you search hard enough they're all around you. They're on the streets of so many countries across the worldwide, all living every day lives without violence and anger whilst (read: not 'in spite of') identifying as Muslim. People like journalist Mehdi Hasan, politician Waheed Alli and author Shelina Janmohamed are just three examples of real Muslims who are in the public eye.

Shelina has recently talked about what it's like to be a young Muslim woman in a Radio 4 documentary, Hip in a Hijab. More attention like this will just go to show that there are so many shades of Muslim, and the ones that are real are the ones going about their every day jobs, not those who use religion as a front for their own madness, in turn capturing the front pages and the most-clicked headlines.

There are real black, white, brown, tall, short, thin, fat, gay, straight and transsexual Muslims around the world. If they're anything like me they pray when they can, they fast if they want to, they find ways of integrating, they find a path that they believe God has an impact on and most importantly, they don't shoot people who don't agree with them.

Sadly, real Muslims don't have a unifying force binding us. We can't all agree when Ramadan starts (thank you, lunar calendar), we don't all pray in the same way (that awkward moment when you walk into a Shi'a mosque and you're Sunni - when will that be a Buzzfeed article?) and we don't all conform to the same degree (some Muslims drink alcohol - can you imagine?). I don't necessarily want something to unify real Muslims, but right now there's a very public call out there for us to speak up and say something against a minority using the word 'Islam' to lay claim to what it means to be a Muslim.

I'm certainly not saying we should publicly say sorry for the killings, as Mark Steel argues, much in the same way Christians didn't have to apologise for Anders Breivik. We should, however, show through words or through actions that being a real Muslim is not a threat to the world. Quite often, being a real Muslim means going to work, paying the bills, believing in a God, and most importantly, not having the urge to kill people because they disagree with our faith. I would welcome more people disagreeing with Islam to provide a challenge that will help more real Muslims to become liberal in their viewpoint - something so sorely needed in this day and age.

As a real Muslim, I don't want to go to war with the rest of the world. I just want to peacefully coexist. I'm certain there are more real Muslims like me out there. It's time they find a voice to speak up.


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