Something Worth “Occupying”

Since we're in the mood for occupations, why not occupy something worthwhile?

Now that's an occupation...
Khurram Dara
On 18 November 2011 17:57

As the cold settles in here in Manhattan, I can’t help but wonder how the Occupy Wall Street protestors are holding up. 

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg ordered protestors out of Zuccotti Park, citing public safety issues. With the city becoming less amenable to their movement, and winter around the corner, you have to wonder whether some of the “occupiers” will start to ask themselves if it’s worth it.

They’re a frustrated bunch (understandably so), but as their voices become more and more unified, their message becomes rather contentious. We can all get behind stopping crooks on Wall Street, but the questioning of capitalism itself seems rather extreme. And the vilifying of the one percent seems to overlook the fact that most of the people in this category did not do anything illegal or unethical to become wealthy.

So in the spirit of “occupying” I thought about something we could all get behind. 

Islam.  It’s time to “occupy” Islam.

As an American Muslim, this is close to my heart. For almost a decade now the 0.1%, the terrorists, have dominated the perception of Islam. It’s about time the 99.9% of peaceful Muslims spoke up and took a stand.

It starts with condemnation that is clear and explicit:

We do not support terrorism or any form of Islam that promotes violence or the innocent murder of anyone. We will not associate with or support any members of our faith that harbor these views or harbor those who have these views.

This is a good starting point, but on its own, it won’t be enough. We have to get serious about drawing a line. Silence is implicit acceptance these days. We have so many Muslim organizations dedicated to our advocacy, but where are the ones that are trying to eradicate extremism? 

In the midst of all this solidarity talk, now might be the perfect time for Muslims around the world to start taking a stand against the 0.1% who have hijacked Islam. Not only can it help us eliminate this type of extremism, it will also help us find common ground with those who are not Muslim.

In the United States and in Europe, there is a growing fear of Muslims and Islam. Hateful comments flood the Internet, and anti-Muslim groups are finding traction on the web as a result. Most of these groups are interested in propaganda, as opposed to open, intelligent discussion.This isn’t a fight we can win through discourse.  We need to build allies and show people we are not what these groups make us out to be. And it starts with this common ground.  We need to send a message to terrorists and radicals that we aren’t going to tolerate their soiling of our faith anymore.

We should Occupy Islam. It’s the right thing to do. 

And besides, it doesn’t require sitting out in the cold, playing bongo drums.

OccupyIslam here.

Khurram Dara is the author of The Crescent Directive: an essay on improving the image of Islam in America coming this winter.  He tweets @KhurramDara.

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