Friend Rabbit asks his guest, Winnie Pooh Bear:
“Would you like condensed milk or honey on your bread?”
“Both,” Pooh replies. “But never mind the bread.”
After his lunchtime gluttony, Pooh Bear gets stuck in Rabbit’s doorway. Half in, half out, he sits, receiving advice from all the creatures of the wood.
Could there be a more apt metaphor for the modern, nay post-modern, new age Muslim? His worship is all recreational, he skips the spiritual discipline and laps up the honey. He is stuck between worlds, accepting advice on his predicament from any stray that happens to pass, and only dimly aware of his life’s trajectory.
His understanding of Islam is rudimentary and constantly in conflict with the tenets of post-modern epistemology that have been inculcated in him via a government school education, i.e. that all truth is relative, depends purely upon individual perception and is open to a plethora of equally valid interpretation. Thus even the basic tenets of faith, communicated in the most forthright fashion are subject to a variety of dissembling narratives. Thus issues such as a woman leading a mixed congregation prayer are only a “suitable form of words” away from textual validity. Although the real issues facing muslim women throughout the world are food, clean water, education and cultural patriarchy, the new age muslim seeks to give them something entirely more useful, deconstruction of their faith and its reconstruction in a neo-liberal image; perhaps Somali women can munch on that.
Although the principles of whatever cause seizes them at that moment appear to be profound and deeply held, we should bear in mind that just a generation ago these post modern muslims would have been ‘Muslim’ socialists or marxists whose “intellectual offspring” have now spawned violent revolutionary movements. So we must not forget that fad, fashion and zeitgeist are not without their dangers. While we make look at these people with some mirth, their progeny may be less funny.
New age Muslims are a group apart, but also within the Muslim and wider communities, they shuffle between these orbits powered only by their ceaseless supply of banality. They are distinctive precisely because of their lack of distinction, but they have certain aspects to their phenotype that can be derived.
- They are aspirational;
- They are light powered: limelight;
- They are “good for all time zones”;
- Their spiritual journey (sigh…, they ALL have one) is away from Islam;
- Coffee must always be latte;
- They do pray, but only for the cameras (but willing to light candles for peace anywhere);
- They are the repository of minority/bizzare religious opinions. If Sheikh Gunja bin Hasheesh has given a fatwa, that it is permissible for a ferret wearing a silver choker to give a khutbah at Juma, it will be on their blog, quoted chapter and verse, along with tearful demands of equal rights for ferrets.
Like Rabbit, Muslims have grown tired of seeing Pooh’s bottom stuck in our front door, but unlike Rabbit we cannot disguise it or them with a picture frame, a lace doily and a flowerpot.