“Muslims are just disunited bro, we’ll never be agreed as we have different aqeedahs. It’s too big. This is one problem we have to accept we can never fix.” - Most Muslims, anywhere, 2020
Okay, challenge accepted. :)
To be fair, I do get it. I have heard this a million times and I agree, it’s a beast of a problem. The unity of the Ummah. If only we were united, then yada yada yada.
But let’s hypothesise for a while. Humour me.
How would we even attempt tackling such a complex problem?
A good place to start is to have a framework. A problem solving strategy.
"Find a bright spot and clone it.
That’s the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there’s a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot — a ray of hope."
Switch - Chip and Dan Heath
So let’s learn a bit more about this concept using a random example.
Can you bake a cake as well as Gordon Ramsay?
No? After all, he's got 40 years experience and is world renowned, etc right?
What about if he gave you his trusty secret recipe? How about now? Perhaps you still lack enough experience. Sure, fair enough.
Okay, so what if you practised for 1 whole day, making it over and over again, following the instructions exactly?
Could you at least get it to around 80% or so, perhaps?
So, there you have it, in just one day, you could get to 80% of what may have taken him 20 years to perfect.
This is 'bright spotting' and is a concept made famous from Chip and Dan Heath bestselling book Switch - How to Change when Change is Hard.
Also called 'modelling', the idea is quite simple - who has already achieved what you want to achieve? Or close to it? Can that provide the model and the road map for the way forward? In times of problems, it's quite easy to get analysis paralysis and to panic. But by bright-spotting, we can cut the complexity.
You can compress decades into days by learning more from other people's experience than just your own. By implementing the distinctions that others have already uncovered, you afford yourself the ability to expedite your success path and start from a stronger foundation instead of reinventing the wheel.
‘Bright Spotting” has become an extremely important strategy in my own arsenal of tools and mental models when looking at how to solve real problems or to come up with inspiration.
So, who do we bright spot?
Before I go on to that, I want to address a key point. Many of us limit our own thinking (and therefore creative solutions to problems) as we are stuck in our mindset that we can’t look outside of our own belief or value system. Who said we have the monopoly on all knowledge ever?
As Al Kindi, the world famous scholar from the Islamic golden age once said - “We ought not to be embarrassed of appreciating and seeking the truth and of obtaining it wherever it comes from, even if it comes from races distant and nations different from us. Nothing should be dearer to the seeker of truth than the truth itself, and there is no deterioration of the truth, nor belittling of either the one who speaks it or conveys it.”
So here’s a group to bright spot. The Jews.
Uh-oh. Here we go. Strap yourself in. Go grab your popcorn. This article will either get me blacklisted from every social media channel or cast me out as some guy perpetuating old stereotypes. But I am just flexing the brightspotting muscle, that’s all. This is just one guy’s ramblings. You can make your own mind up.
Depending on who you believe, the Jews are either anywhere from being a group, driven by the pain of oppression to achieve self-determination for themselves, or a sinister cabal who control the world. Wherever they may be in this spectrum for you, no-one can deny or argue the case that as a group, they are significantly more successful than most as a grouping or demographic when it comes to influence, socio-economic growth and generally punching above their weight in terms of representation in key positions in society.
One caveat I want to make here is that I am not casting any aspersions with any of what I am writing below. I have no interest in debating conspiracies and any of that. I also haven’t studied them deeply, it is more top line overview and what we can learn from a bit of basic observation and to use that as a starting point. An 80/20, if you will - so we can get that recipe. If I use any lazy or outdated stereotypes, then know that no offence is intended at all, just how I wouldn’t be offended if someone wrote a similar article about Muslims. And also, I am bright spotting Jews, not Israelis or Zionists per se.
What are the key things we can learn?
1. They understand the power of media to influence hearts and minds. They own Hollywood, many of the media and news channels. Comedy is another channel. Essentially, arts, culture and heritage is vital in shaping the behaviour and psychology of a nation. Tell that to Muslim parents next time who disown you for choosing humanities or arts over the sciences. What we learn here is if you control/influence the flow of information, you can control how people think, ergo you can control people.
2. They never attack one another publicly - you don’t see obvious sectarianism that has dogged Islam and Christianity, for starters.
3. They don’t get involved in debates, proselytising and trying to convince others of their truth (have you ever heard of any Jewish missionary?)
4. They know the importance of language. In 2009, Dr Frank Luntz of the Israel Project released a global language dictionary and distributed it to all media organisations. In it, they covered rules for effective communication, a glossary of correct words and ‘how’ to talk about certain issues such as Hamas, Palestine and Israel. Think about how atrocities committed by Israel may be underplayed in the media, and vice versa. This dictionary probably has something to do with it.
5. They appear to be very ‘neutral’ in public - don’t draw attention to themselves (even in times of good) and don’t really bay for blood when someone has done something wrong. And even when doing so, the faith is never mentioned. You rarely hear ‘Jewish businessman’ or ‘Jewish financier’ etc.
6. They own huge businesses, conglomerates and in particular banks and hedge funds. This is important - they control wealth! They are financially free and not in debt.
7. They are traditionally the best at the ‘classic’ trades - law, tax and accountancy. Anything to do with paperwork and administration.
8. They have very, very big influences in politics - either through politicians, money and backing, or through lobbying. Think about the influence AIPAC have, and how pretty much every US President has enjoyed a ‘special relationship’ with Israel. Ditto here in the UK - and the pressure Corbyn was put under for alleged anti-semitism within the party - and how his successor has immediately chosen to focus on addressing the needs of the Jewish community above all.
9. One that note, they have an EXTREMELY powerful lobby. Mess with them at your peril. The threat of being an anti-semite is a serious one - and used extensively to silence and censor. Whether it is the BBC, celebrities or others, many have fallen foul of the lobby and forced to release a hastily worded retraction or apology. Whether anti-semitism exists more in society than Islamophobia is questionable, given the disproportionate numbers of both communities - but only one of them is discussed in the national narrative by the upper echelons. And it’s not the latter.
10. They are huge in publishing - any thing requiring ‘licensing’ and front loading - where you do the work once, and then benefit in perpetuity. Music catalogues, book publishing, naming IP rights. For example, the rights to Muhammad Ali’s name and brand is owned by Jewish-owned Authentic Brands Group, led by Jamie Salter.
11. They are extremely aware and proud of their history. And will never let others change or forget about their past. In our schools, we probably learned more Jewish history than Islamic history.
12. They stick to their book and laws extremely strictly and with the highest of standards - to the point where Kosher butchers have to be qualified and being butchers must be within their family history for them to trade. Ditto with resolving legal matters - they have used the Beth Din - the Jewish religious courts over the state courts for centuries and they are in active, daily use in the UK.
13. The most important of all - is they have ONE overarching goal that unites everyone - the state of Israel. No matter who, they recognise that is their holy land and that it needs to exist etc.
For me, that last one is by far the most pertinent. All are powerful lessons to be learned, but the fact everyone rallies together on the bigger picture, the fact all except the tiniest minority are pro-Zionist is something that is powerful. Everyone, no matter their minor differences binds together on a single strategic issue. That is how you unite a people.
Now compare and contrast that, to how Muslims feel about a Caliphate. The general populace feel ‘meh’ about it (if they even have an opinion that is) - and classify it as something we can strive for once ‘we sort our Iman and our 5 prayers out’. Okay, sure - but don’t kid yourself. That’s not how it works.
As sad as it is to say, I feel I need another caveat here, in that I am not or have never been Hizb-ut-Tahrir. I need to make that statement so people don’t just think, ‘Oh, he’s just HT, they’re always calling for that stuff’ and then move on with their day. I am just someone who likes to think.
What is Israel, at the end of the day other than a ‘Jewish Caliphate’? For those arguing against, what differs the State of Israel from a Caliphate?
But they are a proud people. This one stance - (and the narratives they’ve shaped internally and externally, where everyone’s against their right to exist) creates a siege mentality where everyone is united (and has been for over 100 years) to make it a reality. Over generations, the old reality gets eroded and this becomes (as is the phrase of the year so far), ‘the new normal.’
That’s why Malcolm X was bang on the money when he said African Americans need to have their own land, segregated away if they truly want to stand on their own two feet, before they even think about integration. He saw that you need a greater goal to aspire for to get everyone pulling in the same direction. Then he talked about wealth creation, and some of the other things above. He was a smart, smart man, and streets ahead of his time.
Now think back to all of our petty differences. Our divisions. There is probably more in common that a Sufi has with a Salafi than an Ultra-Orthodox Jew has with a Neo-Zionist. Heck, even a Shia with a Sunni. And yet, who are the one’s always beefing? And who are the ones who are successful and have achieved their aims?
I talked earlier about the power of language. THAT'S the answer to what differs Israel from a Caliphate. That is actually part of the problem. The word caliphate has been hijacked and become loaded with symbolism. Now you think of ISIS. Or of terrorism. So people feel uncomfortable talking about it.
People are successful by modelling other people who have already achieved what you want. And the above points are a good place to start.
So, over to you Imran Khan / Recep Erdogan / Mahathir Mohammad / [insert Muslim leader here]. Here’s the recipe.
Please go and bake the cake.
A lifelong learner, avid reader and passionate writer, I am the founder of KNOW and a serial entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in personal development and am also the co-founder of Muslim CEO.