Boycott Not Only Products, But Also Ideas and Values

Of late, there has been much talk in the Muslim world about boycotting certain products to impact principally the economy of Israel’s proxy, the United States, which is appropriate and timely, and ought to be supported by all legitimate and effective means.

However, the most important “items” are missing from the lists given. What is left wanting, and what is, at the same time, a moral imperative for the insatiable Muslim consumers,  is an ardent and sustainable call for coming to terms with and boycotting inappropriate and questionable cultural and civilizational ideas, values, trends, theories and institutions.

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While the former is short-term, the latter is a long-term strategy with much more effective and lasting results. The call must be rooted in and driven by rationalism and strategized actions, rather than emotional outbursts and even dysregulation.

Sure, we happily and insatiably consume the products in question, and have problems parting with them, because of our intellectual, spiritual and cultural contamination that arrives from obviously inappropriate and questionable epistemological, ideological and civilizational sources.

It follows that consuming problematic products is an effect, while devouring ideas and values is a root cause. Focusing on the effect but neglecting the root cause will never solve the predicament we suffer from, neither permanently nor completely. What’s more, it can render the whole situation all the more difficult and thorny.

It is high time, therefore, to really wake up, and embark on a more comprehensive, appropriate and tenable course of action. It is high time to show more respect towards ourselves at all levels of existence and thus secure more respect from others.

If not, the boycotting of Israeli, American and some other products by most of us will be a short-lived affair, as short-lived as the brutal and ubiquitous slaughtering of innocent Palestinians is active.

When such operative brutalities are over (normally in a few weeks’ time, after some novel military experiments have been carried out), our readiness to continue economic and psychological jihad correspondingly subsides.

Only when the atrocities resume, as an annual, or at most biennial, Israeli-American routine, do many of us suddenly wake up again and start the whole process of intensive campaigning and boycotting all over again. And the recurring futile, queer and somewhat droll cycle goes on indefinitely.

Several examples of Islamic ideals and values that we have bartered cheaply — partially or completely — for some one-dimensional, materialistic and spirituality-free western alternatives are those pertaining to man (and woman), family, life and death, the universe, urban and human development, wealth acquisition, distribution and consumption, education, society and social relations, politics, fashion, art, architecture and entertainment.

Simply said, life in its totality and with all its dimensions, physical and metaphysical, has been targeted. As a result, Muslims have become a nation (ummah) bereft of its genuine and intrinsic purpose, worth and identity, cultural and civilizational philosophy, vision and mission, while at the same time priding themselves on artificially constructed historical and socio-political legacies, disorienting and vague present-day struggles and undertakings, as well as on sets of false and delusional future hopes, aspirations and dreams.

That said, our external maladies are but reflections of our internal and far more complex and devastating malaises and confusions. Our external troubles are brought forth and nurtured by our inner emptiness and worthlessness. Our cultural and civilizational lethargy and dependency are attributable to our spiritual and intellectual deficiencies and waywardness.

Admittedly, so numerous, pervasive and advanced are our disorders and ailments that it is very difficult to pinpoint what exactly the remedies are, where to start and how to map and execute the potential plans, programs and schemes. Nonetheless, one thing is absolutely clear.

It is a time for some decisive action if we were ever to have any significant say on future developments that concern not only Muslims but also all humanity.

Hence, every constructive initiative, plan and program, and at any plane of the Islamic presence, which aim to bring Muslims back to their intrinsic selves, their identity, culture and history, and above all, to their spiritual and ethical norms and values, is to be most sincerely welcomed and wholeheartedly supported by all Muslims.

Excellent coordination and mutual support between different initiatives and programs are to be also ensured. All levels: individual, family and institutional, are to be targeted thereby. Everyone must repeatedly ask himself/herself what he/she is able to contribute to the cause, and how and where he/she can do more.

Discharging the individual duties of self-assessment and enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil (al-amr bi al-ma’ruf wa al-nahy ‘an al-munkar) is to be stepped up like never before.

The prime objectives of those programs and plans, as well as their methods of implantation, are to revolve mainly around people’s intellectual, spiritual and moral awakening, enlightenment and growth.

They, in a nutshell, are to aim at correctly conceptualizing and optimizing the dynamism and universalism of the notion of the first Islamic revelation: “iqra” (read, recite, study, explore, observe) (Surah al-‘Alaq, 1) with which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) both initiated and ultimately succeeded in changing forever the course of human history and civilization.

Indeed, almost every civilizational good that humanity enjoys today is due to such holistic changes and transformations attributed to Prophet Muhammad and those who came after him and followed in his footsteps.

It’s no wonder that in Islam all good and righteousness are associated and are synonymous with light and appropriate knowledge and wisdom, whereas all evil and falsehood are associated and are synonymous with darkness, ignorance and blind following.

However, it must be unmistakably emphasized that only those activations of “iqra’” which are unified with the precept of in the name of your Lord” (Surah al-‘Alaq, 1) are recognized and approved by Islam.

There is no place for separation, or conflicts, between the two as they complement and exist for each other.

The Prophet consequently besought God for protection against the types of knowledge that procure no benefit, that is to say, any form of knowledge that does not bring us closer to our Lord, nor does it contribute to the purification and illumination of our souls and minds.

No knowledge or education, which does not lead to the real and everlasting good of this world and the Hereafter, that is deemed proper and worth undertaking.

Getting to an Islamic holistic intellectual and spiritual awakening is an extremely serious and demanding task. It requires major contributions and high-spirited concerted efforts of many parties from across the wide spectrum of society: central and local governments, institutions and establishments, educators, professionals, NGOs, students and the general public.

Certainly, relevant governmental departments, bodies and institutions, schools, colleges and universities, both private and public, are identified as the most relevant agencies and their people as the most important protagonists in spearheading and managing the implantation of the said project.

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About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].