By Durdana Najam
Instead of repelling people by forcing Islam down their throats, a better idea would be to let it grow on others through its manifestation as prescribed in the Quran
It is not the first time that I have come out feeling odd from a seminary. It has been so ever since I started visiting different madrasas to understand Islam. The atmosphere always reeked tangibly, besides a stink of hypocrisy of filth and disorder. The devotion with which I find seminaries imparting book knowledge to their disciples nevertheless misses making the latter observant Muslims. Committing the Quran to memory and thumping the breast for show is more pronounced in contemporary Islamic culture then the ability to follow the guidance laid out in the Book.
There is a communication gap between Allah and Muslims. The manifestation of this gap is in the ritualisation of Islam, which has laid Muslims bare to attack from the west, aiming to dominate the power structures of the world. Does it matter if a person is not a Muslim but a good human being? Does it matter if a person is a Muslim and not a good human being? Both these situations have different implications, consequences, and fallouts. A non-Muslim with good behaviour is the follower of a religion that has various shades and complexities to it. No religion except Islam can claim to have its Scripture undiluted and unmodified. In fact, most of religions have more than one perception of God. The variety in Gods divides people not only along religious lines but also along their belief systems. Though Islam is divided into 72 sects, each with a different interpretation, the codification of law pertaining to the Quran has enjoined Muslims to remain within a certain frame of reference, thus uniting them one way or the other with the oneness of God and the authority of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the last prophet. The beauty of Islam unlike any other religion is that a Muslim cannot talk loosely against any prophet or the Holy Scripture, in spite of modifications in the latter. A good Muslim would not badmouth any religion. This element of unmodified scripture lays a heavy onus on a Muslim. Thus, the thesis that a Muslim should necessarily be a good human being becomes obvious. He has little margin to go wrong and to hide behind an unsolicited holy text.
There is a growing concern among people regarding Muslims becoming overzealous in their following of Islam. The indication is clearly about Islamic fundamentalism that has consumed a million in wars that raged mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, with its fallout for Pakistan and Yemen as well. Islamic fundamentalism points to a desire of Muslims reverting to the lost glory that once had them rule the world undisputedly. The question is why Muslims chose to become fanatical to regain that glory when an easier way was available, given the development of Islamic states. Conflict of interest explains the reason for this mindless journey to an invisible destination. Islamic states or to be more precise, Islamic head of states have had little interest in revisiting history to locate the wrongs and straighten things up. They have been complacent in ravines of petrodollar that until today have not stopped flowing. As technology boomed and petroleum products became a sine qua non for progress, the focus of the west shifted towards the Middle East.
Armed with capitalism, the west had no appetite to colonise the Middle East. To manifest liberal democratic norms, at home and abroad, the west under the US’s hegemony adopted the detour of a charm offensive. The carving out of Israel in the middle of the Middle East, and the splitting of Palestine into smithereens in the post-WW II era hammered the first nail in the coffin of Muslims. The deserts grew green and souls withered. The technological progress of the industrialised west changed the skylines of the simmering Arab peninsula. The camel rovers now had Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs and private planes at their disposal; why wait for heaven, when it is already there, a few dollars and perhaps, a few misgivings away). Some Muslim leaders of the 1970s felt the pinch and wanted to return some sanity to Islamic thinking, but the hawks sitting in the CIA and Pentagon got the ground cleansed, in a matter of years, of any leader thinking straight about an Islamic world. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia paid with their lives for the joint venture of conducting the Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore. The rest were an easy sell. Thereafter, it was smooth sailing. Colonel Gaddafi though kept the US sour much longer, but the winds of the Arab Spring blew more in favour of the west than Muslims.
Every nation has a right to defend itself. Be it Christian, Muslim, or Jew. If a Muslim state is unable to guard its honour, the blame cannot be shifted onto the west. International politics do not depend on emotional decisions. The plague of intolerance ravaging Muslims is making matters worse for tolerant and liberal Muslims. Radical Islam is now applying its grip on Indonesia as well, a country known for its tolerant brand of Islam and being an example of how Islam and democracy are not incompatible. Indonesia is seeing religious freedom succumbing to the will of intolerant Muslims. In Aceh alone, 17 churches have been closed down. Local governments all over Indonesia are forced to follow the policy of ‘zero church’. The Ahmediyya community is the hardest hit; violent attacks and death chases have become a regular feature for them. Earlier this month, radicals attacked a lecture by the Liberal Canadian Muslim, Irshad Manji.
This charged atmosphere little serves the interests of Muslims. The hunt for lost glory should not emulate a rampaging disorder. Instead of repelling people by forcing Islam down their throats, a better idea would be to let it grow on others through its manifestation as prescribed in the Quran. A tough deal indeed.
Durdana Najam is a member of staff and can be reached at email@example.com