Seeing Islam in the Right Political Perspective
September 09, 2009
In the past few weeks I was greatly affected by the torrent of anti-Islam content here, reading about Islam’s “gory” history written in well-researched articles by well-meaning authors.
Later my article on Sufism generated a variety of heated comments, people commented on the “fundamentalist” mentality of “majority” of Muslim people, etc.
Terrorism in the name of Islam, worsens the scenario even as the common Moslem man has said time and again that Terror in the name of Islam is un-Islamic But such statements fall on deaf ears.
I have known a few people of my age who belong to the RSS and am well aware of the extent of damage their anti-Islam tirade does to the Secular fabric of this country.
What is alarming is that all this hate-rhetoric is increasingly gaining popularity in this country; an example of which is the Narendra Modi government, which even though involved in the Gujarat Riots of 2002, succeeded to win the State elections later. A reader of my article on Sufism here asked me why Moslems don’t come out in protest against Terrorism. In December 2008, after the Mumbai Terror attack, Muslim Council of India told the nation's cemeteries that the bodies of gunmen killed by commandos in the Mumbai terror siege should not be buried on Indian soil so that “the council could send a message to the terrorists” that their acts were anti-Islamic. But such news-clips are easily forgotten. The wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam propaganda continues. Innocent minds are corrupted; and a large section of the society succumbs to hatred against Islam and Muslims everyday. In all this, the common Muslim man finds himself in a tight spot, caught between the Terror attacks in the name of Islam and the anti-Islam propaganda by Organizations like RSS or “well-meaning writers”.
The extent of damage that percolates down to the level of the common man due to all this rhetoric in the name of religion is well-demonstrated by the Gujarat riots when an entire group of uncivilized mob went on a rampage for three days committing ferocious attrocities on the minority community. The latest example of the damage to society is the case of Ishrat Jahan, a 19 year old student from Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Khalsa College who was gunned down by the Gujarat Police in a staged fake encounter in 2004. The Police claimed that she was a Terrorist. Recently a report by the Gujarat metropolitan magistrate stated that it was indeed a fake encounter. An innocent 19 year student was killed!
The only way out of the hatred that starts at an intellectual level and percolates down in the society in the form of Terrorism, Communalism and fake encounters is an objective understanding of why there is so much of polarity today between the West and Islam.
The Western concepts of Democracy Human-Rights vs. concepts of ‘Sacrilege’ and ‘Group rights’ in Islam.
The concepts of Human Rights (the right of expression, to ridicule authority etc.) were developed in the West in its long fight against oppression of the Catholic Church. In Europe, the Church was responsible for persecution of religious reformists, at times even burning non-conformists at the stake. The West values its Right of Expression, and Human Rights and Individuality that has developed over the years as a result of its fight against the oppression of the Church. Today the Right of Expression, Human Rights etc. has acquired the status no lesser than a religious cult. Modern democracies have imported these concepts, and these are of course healthy when it is given time to take roots in cultures that are totally strangers to such concepts of democracy!
However the problem starts when a writer in the West, without understanding that his right to ridicule and Individuality are still alien to Islam, writes a book called Satanic Verses ridiculing Gabriel and the prophet’s wives. The problems arises when people in the West go overboard and publish cartoons of the Prophet in Newspapers, in its relentless pursuit of the Right to Expression, forgetting that the sentiments of a large community at the other end of the spectrum can be offended! Concepts like ‘Right to ridicule’ are as much alien to the Islamic world as the concept of ‘Group rights’ is to the Western world.
The west in its pursuit of Secularism is still groping in the dark, trying to standardize everything. So Moslem girls are not allowed to wear a scarf, Sikh students are not allowed to wear the turban etc. The version of Secularism that the West subscribes to is all wrong. It needs to respect Diversity if Secularism is to be accepted amicably by all parties, instead of asking people to change their religious lifestyles. We need to understand that Humanity as a whole is the greatest religion, and diversity in thought and philosophies, lifestyles need to be appreciated. Sentiments need to be respected.
Where the Islamic world goes wrong
Here the author wishes to assert that, this does not mean that the Islamic world should every time cry foul whenever a book is published or a film is released! This is because the publisher of such books and cartoons get very easy publicity when violent protests take place, and the image of the Islamic world as opposed to anything democratic, gains ground in the West. The wide coverage given to anti-West sentiments in Urdu dailies is also much to blame for the increasing gap between the West and Islam.
The West and modern intellectuals need to understand that it is doing a great injustice to Humanity by going overboard to hurt sentiments in the religious pursuits of its ideals of Democracy. One needs to stop all “sacrilege”, because it has so far only bred Terror and anti-West sentiments. Even the Islamic world needs to understand the frenzy and total lack of understanding of its western counterparts whenever the Islamic world protests against “sacrilege”.
We need to understand that the right to ridicule is not the major issue to the Islamic world right now. There are much greater issues that need to be tackled within Islamic countries. There are Moslem activists fighting against the authority of the Ulema, for the need to consider Quran as the ultimate book for Community rules like Marriages instead of relying on the Shariah, the right of Moslem women, illiteracy, etc. Intellectuals on both sides, Writers with the Western thought and the Ulemas, should stop their holy wars against each other, and try to accept the differences on both sides so that we can co-exist. For ultimately what the Politicians think and do, what the Intellectuals write and the thoughts they subscribe to, are the basis on which common people form opinions and act.
We need to respect the diversity on both sides and help each other, than finger-pointing all the time to up hatred. For ultimately it is the common man that suffers, not people sitting in Ivory towers!
31 years of age, Golden Boy has his own views on Sexuality, Politics, and Culture. Read about Psychiatry, Gay Freedom, the Crisis of Society, the marvel of life etc... through the eyes of a common Mumbaikar.
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