Islam and Pluralism
Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim attitudes and activities, known as Islamophobia, are increasingly finding place in the agenda of ultra-right wing political parties and civil societies in the West in their anti-immigrant and anti-multiculturalism policies, as was evident in the manifesto of the Norway killer. Their views are being promoted under the banner of freedom of expression while claiming that Muslims do not respect that right. No one has the right to insult another for their beliefs or to incite hatred and prejudice. That kind of behaviour is irresponsible and uncivilized. We also cannot overlook the fact that the world is diverse. The Western perception on certain issues would differ from those held by others. We need to be sensitive and appreciative of this reality, more so when it comes to criticizing or expressing views on issues related to religion and culture.--Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
In the face of strong protests, over the years the Indian state was compelled to extend Scheduled Caste status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim and Dalits. This is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of these groups that number in the tens of millions. It is a patent act of discrimination on the basis of religion engaged in by the Indian state itself. It compels Dalits to identify themselves (often against their will, given the degraded status that Hinduism consigns them to) as ‘Hindus’, thereby artificially inflating Hindu numbers. Although the Brahminical texts, the basis of what is called ‘Hinduism’, clearly do not recognize Dalits as members of the Hindu society, treating them as ‘polluting’ beings and as avarnas or outside the four-fold Varna system, below even the degraded Shudras, by insisting that the Dalits identify themselves as ‘Hindus’ if they wished to enjoy Scheduled Caste status, in one stroke the Indian state engaged in a massive act of religious conversion, converting, through the force of law, millions of people to a religion that is predicated on the denial of their humanity. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
Iftaar at a mosque from every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahhabi and others. You are welcome to join me or experience it yourselves, we have to learn to respect the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition. God says the best among you is the one who knows each other for peaceful co-existence. During the month of Ramadan, most mosques bring guest Imams and here at the Momin Center, Imam Nabi Raza was visiting from San Jose, California. He is from Richmond Town, Bangalore, and a fellow Bangalorean and has been in the states for nearly 20 years. He was excited about my visit to every mosque during Ramadan so we can learn to respect the uniqueness of each tradition. He talked about the extensive programs they have in the bay area Mosques where all the Sunnis and Shias gather up on occasions. He mentioned that they gather up 15-20,000 Audience in Bangalore to celebrate Prophet’s birthday (Maulood, Milaad). Insha Allah, God willing we may coordinate visiting Bangalore as I give a talk “Prophet the peace maker” every act of the prophet had one thing in common – conflict mitigations and goodwill nurturance. -- Mike Ghouse
When Islam emerged on the scene in early seventh century, Arabs were divided among different tribes but nevertheless spoke one language Arabic and more or less followed one religion (though had different traditions) i.e. worshipping different idols placed inside Ka’ba and some idols which were outside Mecca. Thus we cannot call that society a pluralist society. Of course there were Jews in Madina and Christians in some parts of Arabian Peninsula. So in that way it was a multi-religious society to an extent as Christians and Jews were in small minorities. We do not know about any religious conflict between pagan-Arabs and Jews and Christians. Though Judaism and Christianity were organized religions and Arabs had none, pagan Arabs were wary of accepting these religions for fear of political consequences. They thought Christianity is official religion of Roman Empire and converting to it may subjugate them to Roman Empire and they may lose their independence. Also, some Arabs in the border area who embraced Christianity were far from happy and they faced persecution from Roman Empire. Later they embraced Islam as mainly religion of the Arabs. -- Asghar Ali Engineer
Behind the current conflict lies a long struggle for self-determination by the Uighur people. Although Xinjiang is in the far north-west of China, it is also culturally part of Central Asia and the Uighurs, who are the largest single ethnic group in Xinjiang, are Turkic-speaking Muslims. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Muslim Central Asian states gained their independence, the dormant Eastern Turkestan independence movement in Xinjiang was stirred into a revival. Religious activities, which have become less restricted in the rest of China, were curtailed in Xinjiang; children under the age of 18 and Communist Party and government officials were forbidden even to enter a mosque for prayers.-- Michael Dillon
The work is an outstanding and deep act of empathy. Not only has Collier managed an extremely balanced, historically accurate and engaging novel on the famous ruler, he has also written a book deeply engaged with Islam and with the righteous notes of the Islamic past. Given that Collier lives in Europe, which has developed a violent antipathy to Islam, his achievement is even more singular. ... When he proclaimed the Din-e-Ilahi, his attempt at a universal deism, and asked Man Singh whether he would take oath on that, the great Rajput is said to have responded, “My lord, I know only two religions, Hinduism and Islam, if you ask me to become a Muslim I will do so but I do not understand this third way!” That did not stop Akbar from instituting Sulh-e Kul, peace with all as the guiding force of his Empire. No wonder he has ever provided the role model for our secularism, a secularism that is as statist and government-heavy as it was under Akbar.-- Mahmood Farooqui(Photo: Book Cover: The Emperor’s Writings: Memories of Akbar the Great)
The inherent secular nature of Islam is evident from the following Quranic verses: “Had God willed, they had not been idolatrous. We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them” (6:107) and “Do not revile those unto whom they pray beside God, lest they wrongfully revile God through ignorance” (6:108). Islam does not preach coercion of believers of other faiths as the Holy Quran says, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and “(So) for you is your religion and for me is my religion” (109:6). According to Abu Dawood 3:170, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Beware! If anyone dared oppress a member of minority community or usurped his right or tortured him more than his endurance or took something away forcibly without his consent, I would fight (against such Muslims) on his behalf on the Day of Judgment.” At another point the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever killed a member of a minority community, he would not smell the fragrance of paradise though fragrance of paradise would cover the distance of forty years (of travelling)” (Ibne Rushd, Badiya-tul-Mujtahid, 2:299).
The phrase ‘laa ilaaha illa Allah’ (there is no deity except God) is one of the major pillars of the Muslim faith. The phrase echoed in the slogan “Pakistan ka matlab kya: Laa ilaaha illa Allah” as the struggle for the creation of Pakistan was nearing its completion, despite the fact that most of the religious leaders and parties were against this idea and joined the chorus at a later stage when the creation of a separate homeland became inevitable.-- Dr. Irfan Zafar
Muslims and Secularism
Ghulam Mohiyuddin, New Age Islam
What our Prophet brought to us was a religion for the masses. It is a religion of common sense. It builds on our innate sense of what is right and what is good. Getting such a simple and pure religion wafted about by ‘scholarly’, long-winded and futile disputations is unfortunate. Particularly problematic are statements of many Islamic leaders expressing their insistence on establishing ‘Sharia Laws’, and their opposition to democratic and secular forms of government. Our ulama and scholars should instead expound on what the Quran has to say about issues such as the following: (1) Getting along with our non-Muslim neighbors. (2) Respecting the religions and beliefs of non-Muslims. (3) Equality of men and women. (4) Freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom to dissent. (5) Using only humane forms of punishments for criminals. (6) Democratic forms of government. (7) Secularism, separation of state from religion, and equal rights for minorities. (8) Avoiding violence and considering murder of innocent civilians to be an abominable act. (9) Resolving problems through reconciliation and compromise. (10) Not being spiteful or vindictive and (11) upholding the dignity of men and women.
Isn't it astonishing that those who argue from a certain point of view ascribe such power of definition to the Muslim religion, whilst simultaneously opining that for decades now the societal significance of Christianity has been diminishing? Would it not be more accurate to regard religion as one element among many that shape the identities of both Muslims and Christians? One should not, of course, base one's view of either community on the situation and mentality of those whose religion is also their profession, i.e. theologians, priests, imams, leaders of mosques. For the majority of 'ordinary' Muslims, the influence of religion on their everyday life is decreasing, just as it is for Christians. -- Rainer Oechslen
This is possible if the moment is grabbed by the Valley’s leadership — both intellectual and political — with the support of the central government. Secular Kashmiris must establish direct contact by phone, e-mail and Facebook with their Pandit brothers and sisters. Seminars and conferences must be arranged in Srinagar, Jammu, New Delhi and elsewhere where the Kashmiri Pandits live.House to house visits and invitations must be made for them to return home. We must accept the level of disillusionment suffered by the Pandits that has often forced some of them to adopt a communal stand. Kashmir belongs to all of us, but more to its original inhabitants — the Muslims and Hindu Pandits of the Valley. It was this singular secularism of Kashmir that motivated Abul Fazl to carve out the following lines on the gate of a Hindu temple in Kashmir: “Heresy to the heretic,/ religion to the orthodox,/ but the dust of the rose petal,/ belongs to the heart of the perfume seller.”-- Najeeb Jung
This was the deadliest attack yet on the sect — which has 200,000 to 500,000 followers in Indonesia — that subscribes to most of the tenets of Islam but recognizes its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet. Sunni Muslims, the great majority of Indonesians, believe that Muhammad is the last prophet, and any claim to the contrary is considered offensive to Islam and thus blasphemous. Under great pressure from Muslim conservative groups, the Indonesian government has been trying to persuade — to no avail — Ahmadis, followers of Ahmadiyah, to cease all “deviant” religious activities and “return to the right path,” or at the very least drop their claim to being Muslims. This is the gist of a 2008 joint decree signed by Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, and Attorney General. Deriving its legal basis from an anti-blasphemy law originally promulgated in 1965, the joint decree also enjoins that Muslims refrain from attacking Ahmadis. -- Endy M. Bayuni
Religious symbolism became a shield for these Muslims to protect their identities against the threat of rising, rabid Hindutva. Compromise seemed impossible even in the exchange of economic development. So when Congress workers told this writer recently that Muslims were paid by the BJP to support it in the civic elections, it was paradoxical, even if the claim were true. People generally refuse to involve themselves in cost-benefit calculations and reach a self-serving decision on issues of a sacred nature when given material incentives in exchange. Assuming some Muslims did accept money from the BJP in exchange of support, does it mean they are no longer looking at the 2002 post-Godhra violence as an attack on their religious identity? If the Congress is not a favourable alternative and the BJP a lurking ethnic threat, why vote at all?
“The BJP will always be anti-Muslim, that is its identity. But the benefits it has given to Hindus, say in the Sarkhej ward, have indirectly reached Muslims,” says Shahid Ali, a Muslim entrepreneur. A Congress supporter, he is open to the BJP if it continues to welcome Muslim candidates. Speaking of former top cop Al Saiyed, who contested on the BJP ticket, he says, “I would not mind having a Muslim candidate like Saiyed. At least I have someone of my own to hold accountable for any sloppy work.” Mr. Saiyed, who managed to get over 13,000 votes in Sarkhej, himself believes that the recent change in political behaviour is driven by educated Muslims and those who have realised the need to be in the mainstream. “If we do not assimilate with other communities, it's the end of us!” he says. -- Raheel Dhattiwada
ONE of the most peaceful places in Pakistan is the Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahai near Peshawar. Situated on a hill, the grand cluster of Stupas, courtyards, residential cells, and meditation chambers remains enveloped in mist and mystery. The site’s beauty and sense of timelessness inspires awe, but also melancholy that comes with the realisation that Pakistan’s greatest treasures are undervalued and endangered....
Madrasas in many rural areas in Bihar have been rendering eduational services to the Hindu community as well because many villages do not have Hindi medium high schools. The students particularly girls have to discontinue their studies due to lack of Hindi medium schools in their villages or towns. Not only that, many Hindu students, after passing out from these madrasas got the job of Urdu teachers in madrasas and Urdu schools. Thus these madrasas are not only promoting communal harmony and a love for the language but also providing bread and butter to the Hindus and the Muslims alike. In 2010, about 100 Hindu students passed Madrasa Board Examination. Their parents far from being apprehensive of their sons and daughters studying in madrasas appreciated madrasa education saying that the students in madrasas were more disciplined. -- Md Ekram Siddiquee, NewAgeIslam.com
Dr. Zakir’s thinking is extreme on so many levels I cannot list them all. But to truly evaluate his thinking, we must demand proof that he has incorporated into his argument all the tenets, precepts, values, morals and ethics in Islam, and especially those guidelines in the Qur’an that pertain to the view of Christians. For example, the Qur’an devotes more than a whole chapter anticipating and describing the birth of Jesus. Muslims believe in all God’s Prophets and Books and are shown how to talk to the People of the Book (Christians and Jews-Surah 29:46). In fact, God has made their food and women lawful to Muslims, which seems to me to scream, beyond any doubt, that we are supposed to form good relations with them in society, even strong kinship bonds. I wonder what Dr. Zakir would recommend you do at Christmas dinner at the home of your in-laws. -- Mary Lahaj
Photo: Dr. Zakir Naik is the founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation