Don’t tell me what to write

Zaid Shakir recently wrote a reply to some guy who had ridiculed him by calling him a “Muslim rock star” for writing about the death of Michael Jackson when, supposedly, Cynthia McKinney was being held in an Israeli jail. The anonymous complainer got his facts seriously wrong, as the incident involving McKinney happened three days after Imam Zaid’s original piece on Jackson was published. An extreme example, but the phenomenon of people trying to dictate what you should write or talk about is one that every Muslim writer or public speaker knows about. (More: Mujahideen Ryder.)

I’ve had two such comments in the last few weeks, but the one that stuck out was from “kayshan” on 18th June:

Wheely bins!!!, wordpress accounts!!!!

All in the weeks when two BNP members have been elected to the European Parliament and there is an attempted coup in Iran, you talk about wheelie bins!!

Have you nothing to say about real issues any more.

This commenter missed the whole point of my post, which was to poke fun at the small-mindedness and backward-lookingness of one particular British mid-market tabloid newspaper which had decided to run a campaign straight out of a soap opera. Even if he had a point, though, the bottom line is still that this is my blog and I have the right to say what I like, as I’m the one paying for it. It is not as if I never write about “things that matter”, because if that were the case, those who complain would not read the blog anyway.

An even worse variant is the “MPACUK syndrome”, which involves loud and bitter complaints about Muslim leaders and thinkers talking about “insignificant” things rather than what matters: politics and Palestine. A recent example is this entry posted last Thursday: “The Mosques Will Be Talking About Minor Issues This Friday – They Should Be Talking About This”, with an embedded video of “Onward, Christian Zionists” and the suggestion that “most mosques will do another talk on some minor point of fiqh, or a story that we have all heard before a million times”, as if religion sometimes weren’t more important for a Muslim than politics. Honestly, the idea that religious topic such as one of the Five Pillars were less important than a political issue that is less than life and death (e.g. a BNP candidate getting elected to the European Parliament) is risible.

Nearly all of my long posts have most of their content off the main page. If you don’t want to read about Michael Jackson, don’t click on the link that says “continue reading” — scroll down or go and read another post, or another site, instead and come back when I’ve written something else. You may think it’s just dunya, but the sudden death of a man who was as famous as he was is not going to go unremarked on, and the media coverage of it might be worth examining even if you have nothing to say about the event itself. Just because I have hit a nerve with someone in the past, it doesn’t mean I have a duty to do the same in the future — this is my site and I pay for it. I won’t be told what to write about or what not to write about.

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  • Well said sir. It needed saying, and you said it.

  • Salaam Alaikum,

    Indeed. In a U.S dominated blogosphere, I like the fact you write about everyday U.K stuff too. I don’t why some Muslims think it is so pious to pretend they live in a bubble.

    I also like the references to defunct U.K soaps ;)

  • sa

    i think people (like the guy responding to imam zaid’s post) are living in a bit of ‘TV world’ where instant connections are made (as if all is ‘live’).

    When someone hears a piece of news it is often through tv or net, it takes some time to settle in them until they make up their minds and then when they think they have something to say about it they might write about it. There is no such thing as a robotic tendency for something to hear story X on monday and expect that they write about it on the same day. If one expects that they just don’t get reality.

  • maghi

    isn’t hearing such comments part of life?

  • I don’t think that we need to justify our writings to anyone. What we write is our own business and that’s the end of that.

    (Although there were waaaay too many MJ posts out there for a while. I kept thinking “now who is going to write one next?”.)

  • oops, clicked “submit” too soon….

    Anyway, I never like it when bloggers and writers put soooo much time and energy into writing long-winded rebuttals. Sh Hamza and Imam Zaid know what they do for Islam as do many, many people across the globe. And most importantly, Allah knows best. They need not justify their writings to anyone. I think Imam Zaid’s response to the “you’re a rock star” guy probably took much more time, effort and careful thought than his original MJ post. And I bet you that in the end, he probably didn’t alter this mans opinion in the least. You can’t change people who already set out with a clear agenda, especially more so in the untamed jungles of the blogging world. I wish Imam Zaid would have just ignored him.

  • Malcolm

    As salamu alaykum,

    There is a thoughtful reply to Imam Zaid’s post on