How A Liberal Muslim Transforms Into A Conservative: A Case Study
A Muslim person who once used to be a liberal, but not anymore; if you think about it, we all have someone like this in our lives. It might be your parents, a sibling, a relative, a friend or an old classmate that you recently got in touch with again.
Why does this happen?
To understand the process and the reason behind it, we’ll consider the case of a (once a liberal) lady. For our convenience, we’ll call her Mariam.
Born into a middle class family in the 70s, Mariam had a considerably common upbringing. She went to a local school, a local college, had friends from all religions, a small but satisfactory job, and good family dynamics.
But after so many years, she refuses to sit, talk or even eat with her old non-muslim friends. Wondering why?
Okay, let’s pause for a moment and consider a few factors because of which this may happen. Of course, one can come up with plenty of reasons behind this, but if we group them and narrow them down, we get four main ones:
- Bad relationships.
- Poor economic conditions.
- Any psychological conditions (depression, anxiety, etc).
- Contact with “biased” media or persons.
In case of Mariam, a combination all these reasons is what made her swing to the conservative side of the spectrum.
One must understand that this process of “conservative-isation” doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes a person 5+ years, and 2+ in extreme cases.
It took Mariam a total of six years to transform.
1. It first began with a bad matrimonial life. Constant arguments and the stress that came along with them made her turn towards religion. She started reading the Quran and praying in hopes that ‘God’ might fix things for her if she did.
2. Next, when her husband’s business crashed and her family was pushed towards borderline poverty, she used religion as a means of escapism. She started to look up “duas” which (she claims) bring wealth and happiness if one recites them thrice a day. At the same time, she was exposed to a whole new world of “islamic scholars” on YouTube, some of whom she watched for hours and hours.
3. When her economic conditions didn’t improve, and loan sharks started knocking on her door, Mariam fell into depression. She stopped talking to her family, kept her children away from their friends and relatives, and seldom stepped out of her house. Her frequency of religious activities and the time she devoted to religion increased. At the same time, she got exposed to more conservative scholars which made her start wearing an abaya and stop doing “unislamic” things (some of which included her refusal to go to feasts for non-muslim festives, and not celebrating the birthdays of her children because cake is a “christian” dish).
4. (i) Around this time, the anti-minority acts of the government started to influence her. Watching the news made her anxious. Coupled with her pre-existing conditions, she felt as if the world was out to get her. In other words, she was vulnerable.
5. (ii) This feeling of helplessness led her to get in touch with the jamaat. For those who don’t know, jamaat usually is a group of conservative sunni and/or wahabi muslims. Lately, you can find one in almost every Muslim neighborhood.
Jamaat is an islamic missionary movement that focuses on encouraging fellow ‘ordinary’ muslims to return to practising their religion as per the ways of Prophet Muhammad, particularly in matters of ritual, dress and personal behaviour.
While the jamaat itself might not be harmful, the ultra conservatives of the jamaat can be considered a bad influence.
Usually, these people are the heads or at the top position in local jamaat.
Using their power and a “holier than thou” attitude, the ultra conservatives make the members believe that every non muslim in the world is out to get them, and only following the “true path of islam” and “sticking together” will save them.
The usual target of these ultra conservatives are vulnerable people like Mariam. They lure them in by sympathising with them, small and huge monetary helps, and other favours. In return, they expect the person on the receiving end to become a regular member. If the person refuses to, they are usually met with harsh words and are outcasted from the jamaat. A vulnerable person doesn’t want this, the person likes the feeling of community the jamaat offers, and hence falls deeper and deeper into the never ending hole of Islamic conservatism.
And that’s how a liberal transforms into a conservative. I admit that this might not be the only “path”, but this this what I’ve usually observed around myself.
However, there are ways in which you can prevent this from happening. Talk to the people that are close to you, ask them about their lives, lend your ear to them to hear about their lives, give them a shoulder to cry on, comfort them, give them strength. In simpler terms, help them escape from the conservative quicksand that they’re trapped in.