Say What? Opinionated Etiquette

Posted: December 6, 2010 in Say what?

One of the greater aspects of living in South Africa is the fact that most of the time you are given an open opportunity to voice your opinion whenever and however you want. Of course, as is the case with all rights and privileges, we should be wary of the great amount of responsibility and know-how which comes with the freedom to voice your own opinion.

For example, you cannot expect your opinion to be respected if you have no knowledge of the subject matter. For instance, I have never shown a deep interest in the study of physics either because I could never fully grasp some or other intricate concept or simply because it did not appeal to my artistically-inclined mind. Therefore I would never intend to dispel or argue any one of Newton’s Laws of Gravity nor would I enjoy voicing my extremely ill-informed opinion on the matter without having a relatively excellent understanding of the subject matter.

By choosing to voice my ignorant opinion of/objection to any one of the laws of Physics would be to waste the time of those who have taken the time and effort to study and master the subject matter and who are rightfully entitled to intelligent, intellectual and well-informed comment.

Consider it your duty as a human to not insult the intelligence of a fellow human by being ignorant of your subject matter whilst still voicing your opinion with the expectation of an intelligent response. I have been most unfortunate of late to deal with such behaviour from rational and seemingly intelligent “adults” who insist that their opinion be heard despite the absence of a single shred of evidence proving that in some way, they actually do have a clue as to what exactly it is they are referring to.

So is the way in religion. There is never a shortage of views and opinions of people when it comes to religion, especially in Islam. I have never had a problem per se when people choose to let me know how they feel regarding a particular situation they may be going through but Islam is a whole other matter. I also have no problem when people have valid arguments regarding important aspects of Islamic belief IF ( and this is a very big IF) they are able to prove what they say from true and authentic sources of Islamic knowledge backed-up with valid,sound academic proof. In matters of religion, extra attention must be paid to ensuring that whatever is said (whether opinion, view, fact etc) can be validated by authentic sources.

Far too often, emotion is allowed to overwhelm our arguments to such an extent that Islamic values, laws and principles have to be downplayed, changed or discarded to suit the “feelings” of individuals and to not offend the masses. It has become all about the image of Islam and the need for Islam to not be shown in a bad light. It has become about changing what Islam truly is to what we want Islam to be.

The subtleties in everyday interaction with individuals from various backgrounds, ethnic identities etc. have confirmed my suspicions. We are selling out the pure religion of Islam to appease the minds of non-Muslims either purely for acceptance or to just win them over to Islam.

The detriment to Islam has been a gradual distancing of Muslims from the Islamic identity to one of an identity steeped in the acceptance of what I can bluntly call a “non-Muslim identity”. The main focus of such an identity is to embrace and practise upon as many aspects of anything unIslamic whilst still maintaining certain Islamic characteristics.

It is also important to remember that when a refutation to a person’s statements is promised, it is expected that the promised refutation should be produced within a reasonable amount of time else do show a bit of kindness and inform the person whose statements you are refuting that the refutation will no longer be possible and distance or absolve yourself from the matter.

A great lesson to take from this article is that when you do not know any better, the best option to exercise is silence. A well-informed and educated opinion holds greater weight than words spewed out from the depths of ignorance.

The Say What? column featured on Muslimality is meant to inspire, teach, engage debate or simply make you laugh. This column revolves around a variety of issues relating to Muslims in South Africa and Muslims around the world.

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