In any society of Muslims there is always a whole range of people present within it. Here in the West one way you can categorize Muslims is into three distinct types: the minority that are actively trying to present a good image of Islam, the minority that is actively trying to present a negative image of Islam and the absolute majority which is doing virtually nothing to present Islam at all.
This was illustrated extremely well by two very different Muslim patrols that have taken place in the UK in the past few months. The first, called the “Muslim patrol” was started by an anonymous group of young Muslim men in the heavily Muslim part of East London. They came out in the evening and took it upon themselves to “promote the good and forbid the evil.” Now, this is an Islamic injunction and we must all follow it, but the way they chose to do this was ignorant at best and malicious at worst. They targeted small groups of men and women of other faiths and began abusing them in the streets – usually at night. They abused women who were not covered Islamically, completely ignoring the fact that they were not Muslim, men who were drinking alcohol and others simply for walking near the mosque. All the while they shouted. “This is a Muslim area. We are the Muslim patrol.”
It wasn't long before they got the notoriety that they were craving. Their YouTube videos caught the attention of the local and international press and negative headlines about Muslims trying to enforce their way of life on others began appearing. The local Muslim community, the East London Mosque and other Muslim organizations were quick to condemn the actions of this Muslim patrol as against the principles of Islam. However the damage had already been done.
Contrast this with the “Muslim Snow patrol” that was organized by a few Islamic organizations and individuals after the recent bout of arctic weather. During the heavy snow many people were left struggling with driveways and streets to clear. Elderly couples, single mothers, the disabled and many others found it difficult to go about their daily lives.
These conspicuously Muslim young men with long beards and some dressed in thobes came along and after coordinating with the local authorities, they voluntarily helped clear driveways and roads for single mothers, elderly residents and anyone else who couldn't do so for themselves. They did this back-breaking work without any financial compensation and solely for the purpose of presenting a good image of Islam & Muslims to the general public. To anyone who was interested, they handed a gift pack containing some information about Islam. Unfortunately (and predictably) the closest they got to any level of publicity was local media.
We see this over and over again. There is a fringe that works hard at presenting Islam in the way it should be and a fringe that works hard in doing the opposite. However, the majority of Muslims do neither – they remain spectators as the battle for the soul of Islam is played out. The silent inactive majority – potentially our greatest strength (if they get their act together) or our greatest weakness (if they don't.) As Malcolm X so eloquently put it, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Which are you?