Happy to yappy: what’s wrong with British Muslims?!

Since the “Happy Muslims” video went viral, a lot of unhappy Muslims have emerged from the woodwork. The video and the frenzied reaction to it, exposes the very sad state that British Muslims are in, writes Nina Arif.

Watching some familiar faces from the Muslim community dancing and clapping to Pharrell’s “Happy” song made me cringe. I thought most of the people in the video looked quite silly and that it was unnecessary for Muslims to show that they too were normal and happy by behaving in that way.

I also don’t agree with Pharrell’s standards of morality in general (he’s the guy that produced Blurred Lines – the song which has topless women dancing in the video).

In short, I wasn’t impressed by “Happy Muslims” but didn’t give it a second thought… until it began to dominate discussion forums and spiral into nasty exchanges between Muslims.

Despite my dislike of the video, I ironically found myself defending those in it as a means of countering some of the hateful and predictable reactions to it. The dominant anti-“Happy Muslims” voices stemmed from the belief that the video is haram and part of an agenda to destroy Muslims, to the belief that British Muslims don’t have anything to be happy about.

Divided we stand

I share none of these views, as they cannot be substantiated and there is too much evidence to the contrary. Rather, I find it abhorrent that the mob mentality among many Muslims in Britain is in such full force and ready to pounce on any other Muslim who does not support the notion of Muslim hegemony.

Doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter were Muslims who asserted that music is unquestionably haram (as clear-cut as the prohibition of alcohol for example). Some of these Muslims then used a barrage of hadith to suggest that those who engaged in musical ventures had fallen outside the fold of Islam and into the realm of kufr.

I find this astonishing. I don’t believe for a second that a religion, which encompasses values of justice, compassion, patience and peace, will allow its followers to so easily condemn other believers or to cast such judgement. And although this judgment is not held by all Muslims, it’s worth paying attention to because the likes of it are becoming more widespread within the British Muslim community.

The Honesty Policy, which produced “Happy Muslims”, stated that their motives evolved around trying to portray a positive image of Muslims and to engage the youth. These intentions are honourable, and while you may disagree with the video, you cannot overlook the fact a number of respectable figures like the theologian Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad threw their weight behind it for good reason.

And to think what a furore it ignited! I don’t blame the video. I blame those, who via their attacks have made Muslims look like the most intolerant group of people in society – incapable of even tolerating members of their own community!

Women, know your place!

I couldn’t help but notice that much of the negative comments about “Happy Muslims” seemed to have a particular focus – the women in the video. Comments about the female form being visible were prevalent despite their modest dress (shockingly, that’s a controversial statement).

The sight of women moving in a manner which was not provocative by any stretch of the imagination was met with responses like, “what kind of men can allow their women to move their bodies like that?” It seemed like the “shameless” women were worse than the dancing men simply by default of their gender.

Such criticisms came mainly from men and although they were veiled within the context of “male protectiveness”, to me they reek of male control, as do the motives behind the circulation of numerous hadiths about women, which I view as part of a drive by some Muslims to reinforce a “woman’s place.”

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I currently live in Saudi Arabia where women sure do know their place. And as I read the passionate exclamations by men, they seem to denote that the model I see here is the correct one. It’s a model whereby women are restricted in so many ways, which have subsequently made them invisible members of society. I’m positive that many of the “Happy Muslims” critics would like to see a similar model implemented in Britain.

This saga is not the first which has thrown women into the path of male admonishment. The recent remarks made by Abu Eesa about international Women’s Day (be it jokingly or not), brought out many of the same characters – the ones who unflinchingly jumped to the defence of Eesa without any regard for the potential damage caused by his diatribe.

I can’t comprehend why a religion which once liberated women from the oppression of men, is now being used as a means to bring about the opposite ends.

If anything, the “Happy Muslims” video illustrates that there’s no such thing as Muslim hegemony. Yet this fact is not accepted or tolerated by certain Muslims.

These are the Muslims who stand so staunchly with conviction that their school of thought and their choice of scholars possess the ultimate truth; anybody who disagrees risks being accused of falling outside the fold of Islam. It’s a sorry state for British Muslims who already face a mountain of challenges.

The nature of social media compounds the problem. Just as it provided the platform for “Happy Muslims” to go viral, it also allows vehement views to spread like wildfire.

Islam is a religion which encourages contemplation, reflection and giving thought – especially before reacting. But these principles don’t seem to be encompassed in the knee-jerk reactions I frequently see on social media. The result of all of this amounts only to Muslim disunity.

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