New Age Islam
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Islam and Pluralism ( 5 Feb 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Religious Freedom Is Indivisible: Muslims Should Seek it in Islamic Societies Too


By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam


The Swiss ban on minarets is having an echo in India. Abdul Sami Bubere of the Mumbai- based Sahyog Cultural Society is reported to have said: “The extremely provocative decision undermines the freedom of religion and principle of co- existence. The referendum is akin to tyranny of the majority. It will only encourage fundamentalism. The ban should be immediately lifted as it would serve the purpose of jihadis who misinterpret Islam.”

Though I won’t use such strong words, I fully agree with the sentiments and thoughts expressed in the above sentiment. The analysis that “it will only encourage fundamentalism” is also correct. It is actually happening. The fundamentalists are taking advantage of the situation created by the Swiss ban on minarets and the French ban on burqas (veils).  But then the question arises in my mind, how come we get agitated only when our own religious freedom is at stake in non-Muslim societies. We do not worry when Muslims themselves, not to speak of non-Muslims, are not allowed religious freedom in Islamic societies.

We were permitted to defend ourselves with arms (a form of Jihad, albeit a lesser form) because if we had not done so, people may not have been able to worship in temples, monasteries, churches, synagogues, etc., all those places of worship were God is remembered and God’s praises are sung.

Renowned Pakistani scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi writes: “The Qur’ān asserts that if the use of force would not have been allowed in such cases, the disruption and disorder caused by insurgent nations could have reached the extent that the places of worship – where the Almighty is kept in constant remembrance – would have become deserted and forsaken, not to mention the disruption of the society itself:

وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُمْ بِبَعْضٍ لَهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّهِ كَثِيرًا (٤٠:٢٢)

And had it not been that Allah checks one set of people with another, the monasteries and churches, the synagogues and the mosques, in which His praise is abundantly celebrated would have been utterly destroyed. (22:40)

Apparently we were allowed a lower form of Jihad, the Qital, that involves fighting, so that we could safeguard the human right of every individual to freely sing the praises of God in any kind of worship place he likes, be it a monastery, a temple, a church, a synagogue, or a mosque.  But how come, we feel concerned only when it is a matter concerning a mosque and do not bother if states, particularly Muslim and avowedly Islamic states do not allow temples, monasteries, churches and synagogues to function or create hurdles in the way of non-Muslims singing the praises of God in their own way. 

Not only that. We have scholars who claim that while non-Muslims have perfect freedom to practice their religion in an Islamic state, (though in practice they are not mostly allowed that freedom), Muslims do not have that freedom. Once born to a Muslim parent, you are doomed for ever to be a Muslim or else. Well, your throat will be slit, no less. Indeed, there are “revered” ulema (scholars of Islam) in various schools of thought who say that if someone is seen so much as not attending Friday prayers, his throat should be slit.

Sample the following:

Those who do not attend Friday prayers “should simply be killed. Slit their throats!”: Deoband  

“A person greatly admires Hazrat Maulana Rashid Gangohi, the outstanding scholar who was one of the founders of the Deoband madrasa. The gentleman to whom I refer is a kindly soul, who can be depended upon for help by others. However, when in the course of conversation I chanced to remark that the most basic virtue lay in kindness towards others, he contradicted me. Kindness, he contended, was reserved for “pious, practicing Muslims”. As for others, they should be given a chance to mend their ways, after which “they would be Wajibul Qatal (liable to be killed)”. Another person I chanced to meet — a finance man, no less — feels that people who do not attend Friday prayers “should simply be killed. Slit their throats!”

“Now, this kind of sanguinary verbal ferocity is very different from the traditions of quiet piety and gentle acceptance in which most Muslims were brought up. I claim no expertise to suggest whether this or the other is the ‘correct’ version of Islamic thinking. However, there are certainly many scholars who hold that this aggressive literalism, popularly but incorrectly referred to as ‘fundamentalism’, is a doctrinal innovation of relatively recent origin. It is very much a product of the linear, pseudo-logical thinking that has characterised our violent and intolerant age — an age that began with the full flowering of modern imperialism in the nineteenth century and whose baleful cultural and psychic responses have long outlived their origins. With this kind of intellectual legacy as a backdrop, what kind of political discourse is possible in Pakistan?” -- Salman Tarik Kureshi“should-simply-be-killed-slit-their-throats!”---deoband/d/1795

Also, sample the following from a supposedly enlightened scholar of Islam:

“Freedom is a neutral word. Accordingly, affixing it with religion would mean a liberty of a  person either to have or not to have a religion, either to practice or not to practise, either to propagate or not to propagate, either to embrace or not to embrace, either to change or not change one’s own religion. If he decides to do so he has the freedom to do it without any interference of others. This is the meaning of freedom as it appeared in the above examples.

“Is a Muslim allowed to enjoy such freedom? As a matter of fact, under Shariah law, a Muslim is not free to do so, no matter whether he is under Muslim rule or non-Muslim rule except with dire necessity. In fact the meaning of Islam itself, that is submission and surrender to the will of Almighty Allah (swt), is inimical to the vague meaning of freedom (cf.hurriah) in its absolute sense. Thus, a Muslim cannot enjoy freedom in respect of articles of belief (Iman) and practicing of pillars of Islam, (arkan al Islam) and observance of codes of life, because, these are essential of keep him a believer and a Muslim. He may enjoy a guided freedom with regards to those matters that do not fall under the basic and obligatory tenets and pillars of region.” – Freedom Of Religion in Shariah by Dr. ABM Mahboobul Islam of the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

The poor orphans of war known as Taliban who ruled Afghanistan for a while have been considered bizarre in thinking that if someone does not have a beard of a certain length and doesn’t wear certain length of cloth or if a woman shows even an inch of skin, they are liable for various punishments. But I find that this is actually the mainstream of conservative thinking in Islam which is not being opposed by mainstream Islam. It is to the credit of Talban that by trying to implement these outlandish ideas of our ulema they have brought this out into the open. But for them people like me who were happy with the thought of a mainstream Islam, peaceful and pluralistic, would not have thought of studying the clerical literature at some length and trying to find out the truth.  It is this obscurantist mindset that pervades the minds of a large number of Muslims. No wonder then that while some of us balk at the very thought of a Talibani Islam and just take it for granted that such an interpretation of Islam simply would not be acceptable to the mainstream, on a closer look we discover that actually the mainstream, at least in backward societies, does not have much of a problem.

I hope Mr. Abdul Sami Bubere of the Mumbai- based Sahyog Cultural Society and other people who are bothered about the Swiss ban on minarets or the French ban on burqa or India’s Hindu Right demanding the abolition of Muslim Personal Law will also express their disgust, if they feel it, over the lack of religious freedoms to non-Muslims and more so Muslims in so-called Islamic societies. So-called Islamic scholars go to great lengths to prove that Quranic dictates like “La Ikraha fid Deen” (There can be no compulsion in religion) or Lakum Deenakum waleya Deen (For you your religion and for me mine) have no meaning and relevance for the Muslims today and should be banished from our consciousness. Shame on such scholars!!!

Until we start fighting for religious freedom in our own societies (of both Muslims and non-Muslims), our struggle for religious freedom in non-Muslim societies will be rightly treated as just an instance of Muslim hypocrisy.



Row over Swiss ban on minarets echoes in India

By Ashish Sinha in New Delhi

THE SWITZERLAND referendum banning the construction of new minarets on mosques came under severe attack on Thursday with Indian civil society groups calling the decision anti- Islam, undermining the religious freedom guaranteed by the Swiss constitution.

The referendum — sponsored by rightwing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), but opposed by the government — had been approved in November last by 57.5 per cent of the voters in 22 of 26 cantons.

Curiously, there was no credible reason given for moving the referendum and minority leaders said it had more to do with fears of so- called rising Islamic fundamentalism or “Islamophobia”. Campaigns in favour of the referendum were marked by posters that carried Swiss flags with black missile- shaped minarets and women wearing burqas in the background.

Over four lakh Muslims, mostly of Kosovian or Turkish origin, live in Switzerland that has a population of 75 lakh. The picturesque country, called the cradle of modern democracy, has some 150 mosques, four of them with minarets and only two new minarets were planned.

“The extremely provocative decision undermines the freedom of religion and principle of co- existence. The referendum is akin to tyranny of the majority. It will only encourage fundamentalism.

The ban should be immediately lifted as it would serve the purpose of jihadis who misinterpret Islam,” said Abdul Sami Bubere of the Mumbai- based Sahyog Cultural Society.

Since the referendum has been approved, it has to be incorporated into the Swiss constitution. This process is likely to be completed later this year. The opposition to it, being heard in many countries, is aimed at a reconsideration of the decision through another referendum or otherwise.

Bubere said the Vatican had supported the opposition.

“It is a painful situation. It amounts to creating a roadblock in the freedoms of others.

We condemn it. A solution to the issue should be found through mutual dialogue,” said M. D. Thomas of the Commission for Religious Harmony. Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar has also extended support to the campaign, calling for lifting the ban as it undermined religious tolerance and human rights.

Soon after the referendum was approved, the Swiss government tried to allay the fears of the country’s Muslim population and said it was not a rejection of the Islam religion or culture.

But incorporating the majority decision in the constitution could amount to the violation of international conventions on human rights by the Swiss government.

Switzerland is a multiethnic, multi- religious society which takes pride in upholding demographic pluralism.

Source: Mail Today, New Delhi.