Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To the Islamic non-extremists

Once upon a time, there was a group of incredibly smart geeks who did all kinds of amazing things with computers. They found ways to make computers do things that the original computer manufacturers never even considered. They found ways to work around limitations in the computer design, and they shared their knowledge with others. In many ways, it is because of these individuals that the home computer exists, and does so many amazing things.

At some point, likely starting at MIT with the Tech Model Railroad Club (Geeks with trains) the term "Hacker" was applied to these individuals. It was a fitting term, as much of what they did was 'hacking' at technological problems, like you would hack at jungle growth with a machete to carve a path), making little tweaks here or there, trying to eek out every last bit of usefulness from a machine.

They even established a "Hacker ethic" - a set of tenets hackers should live by. In summary, information should be free, accessible, decentralized, and available to all, that technology can and should be used to improve quality of life, and that hackers should be judged by their abilities, not by their race, social status, degree, age, etc... They also included in their tenets an acknowledgement of the value of art, and the ability to apply technology in the creation of art.

They were “adventurers, visionaries, risk-takers, [and] artists” (Steven Levy)

Then, somewhere along the line, a group of radicals, extremists started using the title hacker. It began with a small group who took the information idea to the extreme. Rather than evangelizing the idea of free information, they utilized nefarious means to break into systems and steal information. Then more individuals latched on to the name. Individuals who cared nothing for freedom of information, They used their technological intellect to write malware  for the pure sociopathic joy of proving their superiority, or for the purpose of financial gain through theft or extortion, or for other equally twisted reasons.

These criminals made headlines, and the media spread the news of these nefarious "hackers". They stole the term "hacker" from its rightful owners. It was no longer a title of respect.

What does this have to do with Islam? You are rapidly approaching the same point. Violent extremists have hijacked your religion. they defile the prophet they claim to defend. They are turning Islam to a thing of evil. It is becoming a dirty word, something look down upon, feared, hated.

It falls to you to fix this.And it is going to take more than a few web pages or infomercials. If you want to keep your name, you will have to fight for it. You will have to shout louder than the extremists. you will have to work, through (peaceful) dedicated political and evangelical action to disassociate the radicals from the term islam, you will need to use every resource available to you to remove from positions of power those who seek to foster radicalism. You will need to subdue their voice, make them irrelevant.

If you don't, and soon, you may very well lose your religion.

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