Every terror attack, every serial blast, every suicide bombing—be it in Bali or Bombay; Manhattan, Malegaon or Madrid, London or Lumbini Park—elicits a pat, pavlovian response from non-Muslims. “Why don’t ‘moderate Muslims’ speak out against such atrocities?” “Why don’t ‘moderate Muslims’ condemn what is being done in the name of their religion?”
In one shot, an entire community is repeatedly and publicly placed in a petridish for its credentials to be inspected and initialled, unmindful of the fact that a vast majority are as innocent and as blameless as any other. Before long, the pseudo-patriots jump in, stereotyping and tar-brushing those who do not meet their requirements and laugh all the way to the votebank.
But how many non-Muslims bother to notice when “moderate Muslims” do actually speak up, speak out, and speak against what’s happening in no uncertain terms?
By K. JAVEED NAYEEM
The recent serial bomb blasts in Jaipur that have claimed almost a hundred innocent lives and left more than thrice this number badly maimed and scarred, both physically and emotionally, need to be condemned as an unpardonable crime against humanity, irrespective of the motives behind them.
Although the exact identity of the perpetrators has not yet been established, going by the speculations that are being floated quite liberally it is very likely that these blasts, too, like many in the past, will eventually be linked to some frustrated Muslim groups.
As a Muslim let me admit that while every Muslim is certainly not a terrorist, sadly most terrorists today turn out to be Muslims.
Although Islam, without any attempt by Muslims to propagate it, is the world’s fastest growing religion, it is still much misunderstood on many issues. Unfortunately, it is in relation to the issue of terrorism that it is most misunderstood today as many people wrongly think that it is a religion that not only just tolerates but also encourages terrorism.
This view, although very wrong, does have some reasons for its origin.
It is true that largely due to the pressure of very peculiar and adverse circumstances, radical Islamic groups have emerged of late, which have been resorting to terrorist strikes now and then to draw world attention to their causes which have been long neglected by the rest of the world.
Due to the means these groups have chosen to address their problems and draw global attention to them Islam continues to be much misinterpreted and much misunderstood as a religion of war and fanaticism.
Today Islam evokes on one hand, visions of mystical poetry, great architectural beauty and orderly masses of humanity turning five times a day towards the Holy Kaaba and praying with the discipline of a military parade. On the other hand, it also evokes images of unruly mobs on the streets confronting bullets and battle tanks with stones and bricks.
Until very recently it evoked images of young men hijacking planes and attacking embassies and consulates. But today it consistently evokes images of human bombs that blow themselves up with visions of instant spiritual salvation, without the least regard for pleasure or pain.
If we examine closely the pathogenesis of terrorism it is not hard to find that every act of terror is traceable to a sense of injustice and inequality.
The unfair handling of the Palestine problem and the continuing disregard to the basic rights of the Palestinians and the unnatural appeasement of the Jews by the western superpowers is perhaps the single most important factor in history that spawned the monster of terrorism in the modern world. Yet this does not mean that the Palestinians and their supporters are justified in the means they have adopted to achieve their goals.
While it was Palestine that introduced terrorism to the rest of the world, it certainly was Kashmir that did it for us here in India. Most Kashmiri Muslims and others sympathetic to their cause, notably Pakistan, view India as an occupation force that has no justification to hold on to the state that we wish to retain as the crown of our country.
One state’s freedom fighter and martyr is another state’s traitor or terrorist, depending on which side of the fence you stand and therefore the use of violence by the state is as much and in fact a more heinous crime than the use of violence by aggrieved individuals under repressive regimes.
Similarly, the encouragement of many despotic rulers by the terrorism-sensitive superpowers and their non-interference in freeing the meek and the weak from their clutches smacks of gross double standards. Islam condemns this and although it allows the use of legitimate fore to protect ourselves from oppression, terrorism that targets the helpless and the innocent, is an act that can never be condoned, whatever may be the sense of frustration or justification in the minds of the perpetrators. Not even the plea that there was simply no other way will hold.
Due to its effectiveness, terrorism has today no doubt become the attention-drawing scream of all wronged people whose voices have been long suppressed by the so-called civilized nations. But let the Muslims and the non-Muslims alike understand that terrorism has no sanction in Islam whatsoever and therefore it can never become our weapon or even our means to draw attention to our problems or to achieve our goals.
Contrary to popular opinion, Islam is a religion that has at its core the concept of universal love, goodwill towards fellow human beings and tolerance towards other religions and faiths. Unlike the often over-painted picture of forcible conversions to its fold, history is replete with examples of incidents where people from the time of the prophet to the present day have turned to Islam voluntarily, touched by the fine ideals it has preached or by the exemplary character and conduct of its prophet.
While it may be necessary for Muslims by their behaviour and conduct to let these values become known to non-Muslims, it has become more essential to remind ourselves about how these should be the guiding principles in our own lives and in our interaction with the rest of the world.
Today, any exercise that helps to increase understanding between Islam and the world at large, with a view to easing the tensions that exist between the two, is not only worthwhile but also most essential.
Ongoing terrorism has now placed the greatest burden of doing two of the toughest possible things on the shoulders of educated mainstream Muslims. One, of letting the world know that Muslims too are guided by all the good that is enshrined in their religion and more importantly, of also letting the radicals among them know that any violent means to address our problems and frustrations have no place in a civilized world.
It is said that enlightened minds are the ones that have the vision to see beyond the unseen. I am glad that here in our city, Mysore, the Central Muslim Welfare Council which thankfully represents the voice of at least twenty broad-minded and progressive Muslim organisations has condemned this most recent act of terror.
I wish all Muslims, individually and collectively adopt and support this stand. This condemnation is what is most essential to at least initiate if not to effect a change in the attitude of indifference on the part of Muslims to what is happening in the world around them.
(K. Javeed Nayeem, MD, is a practising physician who writes a fortnightly column for Star of Mysore, where a shorter version of this piece originally appeared)
Also read: Where has our compassion and tolerance gone?