The Fundamentalist


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Tasneem Vali

Writer at Learn to Laugh
Tasneem Vali is an architect, independent writer/editor and volunteer with ICNA and Guider, Girl Guides, Canada.

Latest posts by Tasneem Vali (see all)

Vol 4-Issue 3 The FundamentalsI fought with my parents to go to college in the US. There I would have all the freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Out of their love for me, parents gave in to my tears and tantrums and sent me to the University of Detroit in Michigan. I started the college in the Fall of 1990-91, that is to say September of 1990 – the year Iraq attacked Kuwait and the year America finally established itself as the saviour of Muslims.

I was elated at the prospect of living on my own, having no one to tell me when to get up, when to eat and, most importantly, who to talk to. It was in college that I learnt the true meaning of double standard. As I was enrolled in English 401, we were divided in groups and given the task to write a paper on the reasons for why the US ‘saved’ Kuwait. My partner was a US army recruit and I was a Muslim ‘fundamentalist’. We had to research and write ONE paper with our conclusion.

The meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ is one who follows the essentials and basics of the theory or religion that one is adhering to. Hence, for being a good doctor, a person should know and follow the fundamentals of medicine. I thought of myself as a good Muslim. According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘fundamentalism’ means ‘strict maintenance of ancient or fundamental doctrines of any religion, especially Islam’. Therefore, a fundamental Muslim basically means a terrorist.

My grade for the paper was a C-, the least required to pass the class. My partner’s John’s was an A+. FOR THE SAME PAPER! “How was that possible in such a democratic country as the US – the land of the brave and the home of the free?” I dared to ask. I went to the dean of the Liberal Arts School; however, she couldn’t do anything as professor K. was a tenured professor. All I got was a change of grade to a B, so that I wouldn’t loose my Cum Laude status.

Now the question arises – why was there a double standard? Just like the pre-partition Indians fighting for the British to leave India were ‘patriots’ to the Indians, but ‘terrorists’ to the British. It was just the matter of which side of the fence you were on. After that incident, I learnt to read between the lines. What do people really mean, when they say ‘Islamic terrorist’ or ‘Muslim fundamentalist? Is there a difference between being martyred or killed? What does it mean, when I am asked to be a ‘moderate Muslim’?

In my opinion, you either are a Muslim or you are not. How can you be moderate about a way of life? Does it mean to follow some parts and not others? What is the criteria for choosing, which parts to follow and which not? Islam does not promote excess, so following the basics of Islam does not mean to be a moderate Muslim but a Muslim fundamentalist. Be a Muslim fundamentalist and be proud of it!

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