In his confession statement, former and now detained chief of the so-called Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is reported to have said: “it is not when an individual is harmed, but when an entire community finds itself collectively persecuted that the cry for jihad is given. If nothing works then one is forced to revolt, take to arms.”
One doesn’t need a degree in Psychology to see that this is the language of a demented megalomaniac, a sort of Hitlerian, Fascist personality, which doesn’t care a fig about what his actions are going to mean to the humanity or what he claims to identify with and represent, i.e. “his community”’. Too much of a megalomaniac, in his psychopathological delusions of grandeur, he apparently doesn’t have the humility – taught so repeatedly by Islam’s Holy Book and Prophet’s traditions - to ask himself: “Who has given me the authority to decide that my community is persecuted and we have no option but to take up arms against the state and the country’s secular democratic constitution, that too, a constitution that gives us more rights – including the right to organise our personal life in accordance with our religious laws - than that of any other non-Muslim majority country in the world including all the democracies in the West.”
We cannot, of course, expect this infantile narcissist, to have the analytical powers to see that we Muslims in India are freer to live our life and practise our religion than not only those in the Western democracies, but even in Muslim countries like Turkey and so-called Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. It is nobody’s case that Muslims have no problems in India. Who doesn’t? Don’t Hindus have problems? Fewer government jobs for Muslims, as the Sachar Commission says? Yes, but who instituted the Sachar Commission? And, then, aren’t people in private businesses, even small-time businesses, better-off than government servants? Communal killings? Yes, but who fights on our behalf, to secure for us justice? Police harassment? Well, have you forgotten poor Arushi’s parents and a host of other victims of police misconduct, indeed general bureaucratic nonchalance, incompetence and worse? Of course, we have a host of problems and each one of us has complaints with virtually everyone in the administration. But we all have those problems, not Muslims alone. And the only way out is that we all get together and seek to sort our problems in a civilised manner.
Is it my case, then, that Muslims have no minority-specific problems? No, that is not what I am trying to say. Minorities and weaker sections all over the world have specific problems. Don’t the religious minorities in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and indeed even in western democracies have problems specific to them? They all do. Indeed, weaker sex in our own families too suffers from discrimination and even persecution sometimes. But do we, as a community, care a fig what happens to minorities in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all countries run by Muslims and calling themselves Islamic states? Not to speak of religious minorities, even Muslim sectarian minorities or ethnic minorities or any other weaker sections are not safe in any of these countries and have hardly any constitutional rights to be able to fight for the redressal of their grievances.
Can religious minorities even so much as build their worship places in Saudi Arabia, a country which is the birth place of Islam and whose ruler calls himself the custodian of Islam’s two holiest places? Nagori and others of his ilk talk of Jihad. But do they know what Jihad is all about? Have they even read or understood the Holy Quran? Let me take some of your time and educate them a little. When God allowed Muslims to fight in the way of Allah, thirteen years after the advent of Islam, He had the grace to explain why this was being done, as so far the Muslims in Mecca had just been asked to practice patience and perseverance in the face of intense persecution on account of just their faith. This explanation has several points and I have dealt with them in other articles, but the relevant point for us now is the following.
Allah said, as recorded in the Quran (22.40):
If Allah did not check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down temples, churches, synagogues and mosques in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might (Able to enforce His Will).
Well-known and perhaps the most universally respected exegesist and commentator and translator of the Holy Quran Yusuf Ali explains:
This was the first occasion on which fighting-in self-defence-was permitted (22.39). To allow a righteous people to fight against a ferocious and mischief-loving people was fully justified. But the justification was far greater here, when the little Muslim community was not only fighting for its own existence against the Makkan Quraish, but for the very existence of the Faith in the One True God. They had as much right to be in Makkah and worship in the Ka'ba as the other Quraish; yet they were exiled for their Faith. It affected not the faith of one peculiar people. The principle involved was that of all worship, Jewish or Christian as well as Muslim, and of all foundations built for pious uses. (22.40)
So clearly, Muslims were allowed Jihad in the sense of Qital -- fighting with arms as against struggling against one’s own ego and society, etc. in an ideological sense, the primary sense of Jihad -- not just to defend Islam and their own survival as a religious community, but mainly to defend religious freedom per se, the religious freedom of all peoples regardless of their religion. Now does this not make it our duty to fight for the religious rights of religious minorities in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other Muslim countries first before talking about religious freedom in India and other secular democracies?
But have we ever demanded the rights of Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. to be allowed to build their religious places in Saudi Arabia and have them protected in other Muslim countries? I must have very high hopes from my community, too high hopes perhaps, even to be asking this question. One frail lady – well, not so frail really – Taslima Nasreen talked, just talked and wrote about the mistreatment of religious minorities in Bangladesh. She should have become our hero; she was doing what we should have been doing, but no she becomes a hate figure for us. We don’t even want our country to grant her the permission to live in here in exile, hounded out as she has been from this so-called Muslim country of her birth. We want to hound her out of here too. Our elected representatives throw rotten eggs on her person, or worse, try to harm her physically. We take no action; don’t even oppose this vandalism and feel no shame in calling ourselves Muslims. Do we even know what it means to be a Muslim?
I sometimes wonder how many of Muslims, among those who seem to have so many complaints and grievances in India, would like to go and live in a so-called Islamic country? Would Shabana Azmi, for instance, want to go and live in a somewhat liberal Pakistan, not to speak of the nations of complete darkness and pre-Islamic Jahiliya like Saudi Arabia and Iran? I am perhaps being unfair to drag someone like Ms Azmi in this discussion. She has every right in our country to make the kind of complaints she did and pass observations of the kind she did, except that she chose a very wrong time to do that. The present time is not the time for sensible people like her to come out and make statements that seem to buttress the arguments of the likes of Safdar Nagori.
But in a sense her complaints also reveal the freedom that Muslims enjoy in this country. Have you heard a prominent Pakistani Hindu complaining? Well, do you know of any prominent Pakistani Hindu? We did hear of a Hindu having been elevated to the position of a chief justice of Pakistan Supreme Court recently. And that was great and unexpected and very pleasant news. But can you imagine a Hindu citizen of Pakistan ever becoming the president of the country, even if that were just a ceremonial position? In fact, that will perhaps be constitutionally impossible.
So, Safdar Nagori, and the likes of you, I want to tell you, that yes, we have problems, like the rest of India, indeed the rest of humanity, and we are trying to sort them out in our own bungling ways. We know there are no short cuts, ever, anywhere, in anything we humans undertake. You want to proclaim and establish an Islamic state and an Islamic caliphate. But you must be nuts, really. Which Islam are you talking about? Can you tell me, please? Saudi Islam, which has destroyed all our beloved shrines and signs of even the Prophet’s and Sahaba-e-Karam’s and Khulafae’s Rashedeen’s very existence? Or Pakistani Islam, which doesn’t even allow Muslims feeling safe in going to a mosque to pray, where devout Muslim mothers have started restraining their children from going to mosques to pray as they can’t be sure that they will come back alive? Wahhabi Islam, surely, that must be what you mean, but now there are so many strains of Wahhabi Islam itself. Pray which Islam do you mean, when you say Islam, and can you be sure that even if your particular version of Islam is victorious it will not split and cause further bloodshed in the cause of a new version of Islam?
Dear Nagori, do please consider the possibility that you are nuts and leave us alone. But I must have too high hopes from you, as I have from my community. Could we have asked Hitler and Mussolini to act with sense? Hardly. So, we, the members of the larger society, which wants to live in peace and prosper and solve its problems in its own lazy way, have no option but to keep you and your colleagues and followers under restraint. Some innocents also will suffer in the process, as perhaps some already have. But the responsibility for that rests squarely with you, and the likes of Ahmad Bukhari who want to make political capital out of this, are doing no service to the community they claim to serve. There are times when at least temporarily, even the political opportunists and time-servers should suspend their normal activities and keep quiet in the larger interests of the society.
The author can be reached at Editor@NewAgeIslam.com