"Born-Agains" and "Self-Haters": Muslims have them too

Like any other mainstream religious group, Muslims also include those who believe themselves to be "born again" in their faith, as well as those who live with the demons of self-hatred. The enthusiastic born-agains may seem less harmful to Islam as a whole than those who harbour varying degrees of spiritual and psychic guilt, but both expressions of faith can breed dangerous kinds of extremism.

Although the terms "born again" and "self-hating" were introduced by Christians and Jews respectively, they are equally appropriate in identifying and describing the rise of a similar phenomenon among Muslims, especially among those living in North America.

Most self-hating Muslims claim to practice their faith. They call themselves liberal, moderate, and contemporary.

In themselves, these traits are neutral, but in reality they contribute to distancing the self-haters from their religion, masking deeper issues. Self-hating Muslims secretly (or not so secretly) despise their religion and curse the day their parents gave them Muslim names.

Yet most lack the courage to change either name or faith, or leave the communities in which they grew up. Instead, they try to accommodate their ambivalence by being very selective, or even minimal, in their Islamic practices; and if asked for an opinion, will indicate that Islam should be reformed to suit their own increasingly tenuous beliefs. Often, they are not satisfied to leave other Muslims to live their Islam in more traditional ways.

When self-hating Muslims write books or op-ed articles, they have little or nothing good to say about Islam and its nearly two billion global adherents. They attribute every failure of Muslims in both the past and present to the beliefs of Islam, the teachings of the Qur’an, or the sayings of the Prophet.

You can always expect their writings to sting with the venom of discontent. Why, then, should a non-practicing, or minimally practicing Muslim want the Qur’an revised to suite his or her negative attitudes?

When the Qur’an asks Muslims to pay charity or alms to help leave this earth better than they came into it, the faithful willingly comply while the self-haters insist that paying secular taxes to municipal, provincial and federal governments is sufficient to fund social programs.

And when the Qur’an forbids drinking and gambling, it is to nurture humanity’s undivided love, respect, and awareness for its Creator; otherwise, there would be overwhelming temptations to indulge in dangerous excesses that could lead to a greater love for drinking and gambling than for God.

One of the greatest social experiments of modern times was the U.S. National Prohibition Act. Passed by Congress in 1919, the anti-alcohol laws not only received near-unanimous secular support (forty-six of the then forty-eight states), but also vigorous endorsement from the Church and popular press.

No other constitutional amendment before or since has ever been given such sweeping affirmation from virtually all sectors of society. Yet after fourteen years, Prohibition was repealed. Why? Because this radical legislative experiment had produced one major and conclusive result: you cannot legislate public morality.

America tried, but failed, to live without liquor. Back then, western society had apparently forgotten, or never knew, that there existed an international community of Muslims (most living overseas) who had not experienced the degrading mental and physical effects, the frightful social and personal costs, and the enormous economic waste inherent in the mass consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Now if Jesus Christ — whose first miracle as some Christians believe was turning water into wine — had taught, as did Muhammad more than fourteen hundred years ago, that people should not partake of intoxicating drinks, history might have taken a very different route.

Today’s plethora of distilleries and breweries, and the massive advertising that promotes their products, might be as rare here as they were, until recently, in predominantly Muslim countries. Now, self-hating Muslims are only too willing to buy into the global commercialism that crosses, or prefers to ignore, once-respected boundaries of faith and culture.

Born-again Muslims are dramatically opposed to the practices and attitudes of their self-hating brothers and sisters. As with born-agains in any faith group, many swing from one extreme lifestyle to another. Some even become militant religious fanatics, trying to prove to themselves and to others that they are more Muslim than Mohammed; or as Christians often say, more Catholic than the Pope.

Many of the born-again turn first to public activism, but some step over the line to profess potentially murderous hatred for others whom they deem unworthy (fill in the blank: infidels, apostates, etc.). In their zeal to reform by force, they all too often become killers who view their own likely deaths as instant martyrdom. Often obsessed beyond reason, they consider their traditional co-religionists to be non-committed and lacking in faith, or sinners with no hope of salvation.

Although self-hating and born-again Muslims are yet a tiny minority in the world, they inevitably receive maximum media exposure, and this is a source of serious concern to mainstream Muslims everywhere. As if, with the continuing fallout from 9/11, we Canadian Muslims don’t already have enough to worry about.