United Nations Human Rights Council, 15th session, Geneva 13 September - 1 October 2010
Agenda Item 8: General Debate on Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
Oral Statement by Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam
24 September 2010
On behalf of International Club for Peace Research
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action asks us to work against all kinds of intolerance and xenophobia.
The 9th anniversary of the horror of 9/11 was observed recently in the midst of bitter controversies sparked by the proposed mosque near the ground zero site and the threats to burn the Quran. The debate surrounding these issues has further intensified the religious intolerance, and xenophobia facing the Muslim minorities in some quarters in the West today. But I think, we Muslims too have not helped our cause by reacting with a wild and generalised condemnation of the West, using expressions like “sanctimonious arrogance of the West,” as the ambassador of an important Muslim country did in an informal meeting in this building a few days ago.
There is only one way to both protect world peace and defend Muslims' rights: let the silent majority of peaceful Muslims assert their choice. Peaceful Islam is genuine Islam, the mainstream Islam, as I shall demonstrate, and if we are to oppose the regrettable anti Muslim hysteria triggered in some Western circles, it is our prime task, as Muslims, not to fuel these fears further. This is the point I am going to develop here.
A phenomenal rise in Islamophobia now bordering on anti-Muslim frenzy in some quarters has alarmed the civil society in the West as much as in the Muslim communities around the world. From US President Barack Obama and other Western leader to numerous social activists and media analysts have said repeatedly that the perpetrators of 9/11 were terrorists and the West is at war with the followers of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, not with Islam or Muslims in general. But the fear of Islam is nevertheless steadily growing, although the world has to fear not Islam, but those who distort Islam just to find something “holy” in their monstrous deeds.
The silencing of the mainstream Muslim community by a violent imperialist minority starts with the misappropriation of the scriptures to justify inhumane acts. As I shall demonstrate, the real “infidels” are not the peaceful majority of Muslims – themselves victims of terror acts – but the self proclaimed leaders of “Jihadism”. It is no accident that most Jihadis belong to a tiny Muslim sect called Ahl-e-Hadith (people of the Hadith), the most fanatical section of what I am constrained to call “Petrodollar Islam”, and the West needs to understand why.
The main reason behind growing Islamophobia and now even a Quranophobia obviously is that Al-Qaeda and its Wahhabi supporters seek justification for their nefarious acts in Islam and certain verses of the Holy Quran. On the other hand mainstream Muslims, the Sufi Muslims, too are not coming out to say clearly and repeatedly, as they should, that the war verses of the Quran are no longer applicable to us as they had been revealed to just provide guidance in a particular situation 14 centuries ago and that situation no longer prevails, nor it can. It is this stalemate that has put the focus on our holy scripture and is prompting some people in the West to protest against the holy Quran.
We Muslims must understand that and, instead of just showing our anger at the Western Islamophobes, we should come out with clear and unambiguous condemnation of the terrorists of al-Qaeda. It is a shame indeed that our Ulema, the Islamic scholars, have not yet declared Osama bin Laden and his followers beyond the pale of Islam, while they routinely keep calling one or the other sect of Islam as Kafir, the infidel.
We Muslims can criticise the Western media for portraying Islam as a religion that encourages war. But we must also understand why they do so and through what processes they have developed such a notion.
How can we really blame the West for considering us warmongers if our own people, some of them with vast petrodollar resources, keep propagating an ideology that proclaims that Jihad, in the sense of Qital (war), is the sixth pillar of Islam? So what the Prophet called lesser Jihad is now being propagated as the greater jihad and an essential pillar of Islam.
This ideological transition has not taken place by accident or by evolution. Less than half a century after the demise of the Prophet, Arab imperialist elements killed the entire family of the Prophet and hijacked the religion he had brought to the world and used it to establish an empire and then constantly sought to expand it. These elements had been inveterate enemies of Islam in its infancy and had accepted the religion only after their comprehensive defeat. They had clearly done so in order to subvert the religion from within. To justify their designs they made two fundamental changes in Islam: they created a parallel scripture called the Hadith (propagated as sayings of the Prophet) and an institution of Ulema (religious scholars) for which there was no room in original Islam. Thus a simple religion that valued piety above everything else was transformed into a complex polity that sought to dominate the world. The battles that the Prophet had fought were battles for sheer survival. Now battles were fought to create, maintain and then expand an empire in the name of spreading the message of Islam.
Seeking justification for their imperialist adventures they went on to directly contravene some very precise injunctions of God in the Quran. God had, for instance, prohibited aggression but a new category of Jihad was created and was called “offensive” Jihad.
The Quran said: “God does not like the aggressors” (2:190), but a number of prominent Islamic scholars started professing the doctrine of offensive jihad. Some are doing so even today. They claim that offensive Jihad is a necessary means to establish the supremacy of Islam and to destroy the power and influence of “Kufr” (infidelity). Indeed some of them consider it not just lawful but even a Farz-e Kifayah or collective, obligatory duty for the entire Muslim community. Jihadis make use of such rulings to justify their killings of mainstream Muslims, even those who may be worshiping in mosques or praying at shrines, as in their view these people are not only not fulfilling their duty but by staying away from war are actually helping people they call the “infidel.”
To pursue their goals these enemies of Islam distorted the religion in many ways. One of these was to transform situational assertions of the Quran into permanent injunctions of universal significance. This was done particularly with those verses that were revealed during the period when it had become imperative for the Prophet and his small band of followers to defend themselves with arms. It is these verses that present-day Jihadis too take out of context and use to justify their evil misdeeds. And it is these verses that many in the West find particularly distasteful because they are told by even mainstream Muslims that every verse in the Quran is of universal significance and it is obligatory on all Muslims to obey them. Despite the explosive situation this has created, our religious scholars, even those who are not involved in any Jihad, refuse to come out and explain these verses as being only of historical relevance now.
Another method these imperialists used to subvert Islam in a way that would justify their imperialist wars was to focus on the battles the Prophet had to fight. In this age of internet, it is not difficult for people in the West to find out how early Arab historians themselves painted the Prophet’s life-time as a series of battles. The West is trying to understand Islam in the context of tragedies like 9/11, killings in Madrid and London, and a constant barrage of news stories detailing how Muslims are killing one another in acts of suicide bombing and so on. On top of this, if they come across books of Islam’s early Arab historians like Ibn-e-Ishaq, Ibn Hisham and al-Tabari and see that Prophet Mohammad’s biography (Sirat Rasul Allah) was actually just called a Maghazi, that is, an account of the battles he fought, how can we blame them for forming the impression that Islam is a religion of war-mongers?
We mainstream Muslims know the way Prophet’s life is being described is far from the truth. We know that Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) never actually wielded a sword in his life. We know that all the wars he is supposed to have fought had been imposed upon him and were purely defensive in nature. We know that the Quran does not allow aggression. We know that in Islam killing of one innocent person is equated with killing of all humanity and saving one person’s life is equated with saving humanity. We know that the Prophet set an example of peaceableness, and forgiveness that is difficult to match in history. But, I repeat, how we can blame the West for developing the notion of Islam being a religion that encourages war, particularly in the absence of any clarification on our part about all the distortions of Islamic ideology and how and why they came about.
We clearly need to explain all this repeatedly in order to help the leaders and peace activists in the West to put out the fires of Islamophobia. But we are actually aggravating the situation by allowing the growing influence of Petrodollar Islam to create a widespread confrontationist mindset in sections of the Muslim community and particularly in the Muslim media. The peace-maker is viewed by this section as a friend of the infidel and practically an apostate, hence wajibul quatl (deserving death).
I would like to take this opportunity to urge fellow Muslims around the world to:
a) Declare repeatedly that Peaceful Islam is genuine Islam, the mainstream Islam. Denounce Osama bin Laden and A-Qaeda terrorists and ask our Ulema (religious scholars) to declare these agents of Satan to be beyond the pale of Islam.
b) Loudly and repeatedly reject the jihadist ideology of Islam-supremacism as incompatible with the teachings of Islam. The Holy Quran asks us repeatedly to respect all previous prophets of God, all 124,000 of them, equally as Prophet Mohammad.
c) Stop blaming the entire West for provocations of a few right wingers who have a vested interest in fanning the fear of Islam, as they once had in promoting the fear of Catholicism or Judaism. Instead, appreciate those who are making admirable efforts to fight the growing Islamophobia and now even Quranophobia.
d) Promote debate within the community to establish the Quranic ideal that even the killing of one innocent person amounts to killing the entire humanity and that the so-called offensive Jihad being propagated by some Ulema is just not a part of Islam.
e) Declare repeatedly the situational nature of the verses that constitute the holy Quran and that instructions that came 1400 years ago for a specific situation are no longer relevant as injunctions from God to be followed in the here and now.
f) Fight our own victim mentality. Start taking responsibility for our actions.
Thank you, Mr. President
URL for Arabic Translation: http://www.newageislam.com/arabic-section/محرر-نیو-ایج-اسلام،-سلطان-شاھین/الإسلام-السلمي-ھو-الإسلام-الحقیقي،-والإسلام-السائد-فی-العا-لم---یقول-سلطان-شاھین-لمجلس-حقوق-الإنسان-للأمم-المتحدۃ/d/8438
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