During the first week of our course, we opened up our discussions on the Islamic faith utilizing the cultural studies approach. We focused on the role of the arts as tool to engage with differences in people. This approach allows for a more personal connection with the faith, rather than monolithic generalizations many unfamiliar people are prone to make. Just as important as religious literacy, is literacy of social, political, and economic, contexts of Muslim communities, which are crucial to understanding how different environments shape people’s interpretations and views of Islam. Rather than simply asking, “What does Islam say about such and such?”, we should ask “Whose Islam are we talking about?”, “What is the context of the people we are discussing?”, and “What tools are they using to interpret the faith?” By focusing on individuals, communities, and cultures we can begin to break hegemonic and monolithic norms of Islam that exist due to patriarchal power structures, politicization, Arabization, and other factors.
In all facets of life, humans are hard-wired to see differences, be they the colors of our skin, the shapes of our bodies, or the foods we eat. This predisposition is incredibly pronounced when engaging with religious and cultural differences. In our rapidly globalizing world, where differences are literally and metaphorically staring us in face within our societies, it is extremely crucial to approach religious discourse from a pluralistic viewpoint. Religious pluralism, is a multidimensional term that refers to the acceptance and freedom of religion provided within a community setting. It also refers to the idea that various truths exist within multiple faiths, simply in different forms and applied to different contexts and cultures. Simply because we are used to thinking a certain type of way does not negate different communities of interpretation.
As referenced during our play, our various faith communities have deep, intrinsic value systems that are far more similar than they are different. The sooner we begin embracing those values, the sooner we will realize it is not about what specific faith we adhere to, but how we express that faith in our interactions with our fellow humans that give it true value.
And Allah knows best.
P.S. In light of my entire post, I understand how the above statement looks at first glance. It is in no way a negation of other communities’ interpretations of the ultimate truth. It is merely my way of acknowledging my human fallacy as well as my deference to an Omniscient Being. I don’t have all the answers. But I will do my best to seek them out.