After news of the Woolwich attacks broke, I carefully took stock of my Facebook news feed and was surprised at just how predictable the responses were. The usual suspects condemned, the usual suspects condemned those who condemned. The people I know to be centre-of-the-middle said sympathetic yet non-committal things and those I know to be uninterested in politics said nothing at all. It got me thinking once again about the cliques in the Muslim community and how they interact with each other. As a sort of perpetual outsider, I tend to observe all of them with equal interest. I don’t claim to be free of bias by any means, but I do think that I mix with all of them to some extent and as such am pretty well-placed to make some observations. Don’t be offended, I love you all equally 😀
1.) The hipster artsy intellectuals
Likes: Zaytuna College, photography, sunrise dhikr sessions, travel, nature, eating out and discussions about white privilege.
Dislikes: Curtains as a form of segregation, bad adab and the ‘haram police’.
Natural habitat: Sufi learning circles, trendy cafes, art galleries and museums.
Tends to disapprove of: Get-To-Jannah-Or-Die-Trying Peeps and ‘Meh’ Muslims.
Catchphrase: ‘Who are you to judge anyone?’
If you’ve been to Rihla or aspire to go, you’re almost certainly in this crowd. You’re most likely Sufi-inclined and have a strong social conscience, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. You also love a laugh and have little time for people who think girls and guys having a laugh together is out of bounds. Your fans think you’re very cool, but your detractors feel that you are somewhat of a ‘moderate’, or even a member of the ‘adab police’, more focused on playing nice than playing it straight.
2.) The Networkers
Likes: Instagram, coffee, reading and posting about the news and shopping.
Dislikes: ‘Keyboard warriors’, whingers and fringe-dwellers.
Natural habitat: Functions and in front of the camera.
Tends to disapprove of: ‘Meh’ Muslims and Get-To-Jannah-Or-Die-Trying Peeps.
Catchphrase: Some inspirational quote about achieving your potential.
You, my friend, are on your way to the top. You know the right people, shake the right hands and say the right things in the right crowd. You’re part of the future (or maybe even current) faces of Islam, the ones who’ll be called on to comment on the latest Muslim ‘incident’, the ones who’ll represent Muslims at interfaith events and fancy Ramadan Iftars. Once again, you’re probably thought of as a bit of a ‘moderate’, but you don’t let the haters get you down. You haven’t got time for them, after all, because you’re too busy updating your Facebook status and conquering the world. You’re probably easy on the eye and even the people who disagree with your views tend to find themselves secretly wanting to be your friend.
3.) The Culture Creatures
Likes: Memes, weddings and family get-togethers.
Dislikes: Eating unfamiliar things and being out of your comfort zone.
Natural habitat: Serving tea to aunties or playing with the nieces/nephews.
Tends to disapprove of: Hipster artsy intellectuals.
Catchphrase: ‘Can’t wait til so-and-so’s wedding!’
You probably don’t like to admit it openly for fear of seeming discriminatory or too much of a flag-waver, but your culture is your thang. Your friends are mostly from the same culture as you, your jokes are often tinged with cultural references and you’re most likely only going to marry someone from your own culture through traditional means. You don’t intentionally set out to befriend people from your own culture, but it somehow just pans out that way. It’s not that you’re indifferent to religion by any means; in fact, many CCs are deeply observant. It’s simply that your culture is a defining feature of your outlook on life without you even being consciously aware of it.
4.) The Get-To-Jannah-Or-Die-Trying Peeps
Likes: Islamic banners, protests and the Syrian Mujahideen.
Dislikes: Apologists, trivial Facebook posts and getting government funding.
Natural habitat: Behind your computer or in front of a microphone, chanting slogans.
Tends to disapprove of: Hipster artsy intellectuals, Fence-sitters and Networkers.
Catchphrase: Something to do with Western agendas/hegemony.
You’re probably as soft as a teddy bear on the inside, but to others you may appear to be uncompromising in your views. You express your opinions in no uncertain terms, and boy do you have a lot of them on everything from freemixing to terrorism to ‘moderates’. You’re deeply sincere and love to remind people of what you feel they should be thinking and doing, and you’re quick to pull them up when you feel they’re in error. Unfortunately, some may perceive you as a keyboard warrior, but it doesn’t bother you too much. There’s work to be done, and you’re doing it in the way you see fit. You have a tight circle of friends who you feel add benefit and knowledge to your life, but you’re not exactly the life of the Halal party. You’re focused, determined and have your eye on the prize.
5.) The Fence-sitters
Likes: Charitable causes, Yasmin Mogahed and emoticons.
Dislikes: Getting into arguments and being put on the spot.
Natural habitat: Selling chocolates or setting up the da’wah stall.
Tends to disapprove of: Secretly everyone, openly no one.
Catchphrase: ‘Alhamdulillah for everything.’
You’re either very diplomatic or simply confused, but whatever the case, you’re not the type to get your hands dirty in Facebook fights. You hold generic sentiments on tricky topics like music and freemixing, preferring to stick to uncontroversial issues or no issues at all. You may be well-informed, but no one is quite sure where you stand. You may or may not wear jeans, depending on your mood, and you don’t really fuss about the nitty gritty details. You manage to befriend people from all crowds, but you remain aloof from their stances on either side of the spectrum. You tend to be positive and upbeat and focus on soft and incontrovertible things in Islam, like praying and reading Quran. You’re often at the heart of your uni MSA because you don’t offend anyone and just focus on getting the job done.
6.) The ‘Meh’ Muslims
Likes: Family time, studying and just chilling out.
Dislikes: Wasting time reading Facebook debates and being told what to do or ‘judged’.
Natural habitat: Not in front of a computer screen.
Tends to disapprove of: Anyone too vocal about their opinions.
Catchphrase: You probably don’t have one. You’re just living your life, after all.
You probably find all the above information a bit puzzling, because you’re not really into the politics of the Muslim community. You’re just Muslim. You’re observant enough, but you’re simply uninterested in who’s condemning who for their latest media release. You just do your thing and stick to your own group of friends, only attending the largest and most universal Islamic events like Ramadan lectures or fundraisers for orphans. You might have good friends involved in the Muslim community, but you tend to steer clear of discussing any of their endeavors, preferring to keep the chats to purely personal matters. People probably don’t know who you are in the Muslim community, but you don’t care because you have no idea who they are either.
I know there’s some overlap between this post and my one on Facebook vibes, but it’s something of a pet topic for me so you’ll have to forgive me for indulging it further. A lot of you may find that you straddle one or two categories. Some of you may find you fit into none. In doing this sort of commentary, I’m not trying to confine anyone or mock their efforts. I love the diversity of our community and I really think that it takes all sorts. I love seeing people discover their niche and others switching niches when they outgrow their old ones. It’s so fascinating to watch people grow into themselves and become comfortable in their own skins. It’s not so fun when I see people I know ripping into each other or dismissing each other for being part of a certain clique, but I can’t say I’m immune to those types of behaviours either.
When it comes to marriage, I find that people do tend to marry within their own clique. It’s just easier. I remember once suggesting a guy to a friend and she said ‘errr, I think he’s a bit too Sufi hipster for me’. No doubt the ‘Sufi hipster’ would also have had his doubts when it came to her conspicuous lack of interest in spoken word poetry or the works of Al Ghazzali. A person who’s all about the reminders and the Facebook discussions may also have trouble identifying with someone who is simply uninterested in the Muslim community, and so on and so forth.
Do you feel like you belong to any of the cliques I mentioned? Do you consider these things when it comes to looking for a partner?