By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
May 28, 2013
We have heard this kind of talk so many times: Islam is a peaceful religion, Muhammad (pbuh) is the best man, Allah is the most merciful etc. But this seldom satisfy the critics and rightly so. A subjective sentence carries no weight unless a) it is backed by proof and b) the person is influenced by the speaker. Let us leave out the second part.
Actions speak louder than words; this is true for bombs! Suppose you are trying to convince your friend that Islam is a peace-loving religion and that Islam was not spread by the sword but by love and intellect. You talk to him about the idea for a few days and your friend, who has an open mind, actually begins to see the truth in what you say. But one day a Muslim organization creates news by killing hundreds of people with a powerful bomb and unfortunately your friend’s family members also get killed.
Now however much you try (of course after a few days or weeks), your friend will never agree with the idea that Islam is a peaceful religion. Some people may say that there are some people who do not create stereotypes, and that they will understand that all the members of the group are not involved in this, but according to psychological research it takes only four minutes to create stereotypes and all of us, without any exception, create it. Your friend too will think of you as “one of them” and that Islam is everything but a peace-loving religion.
I gave this example to highlight the fact that never mind however much we talk, actions (read bombs, guns etc) will speak (explode) louder. For the world to know that Islam wants peace to be spread, terrorist activities must stop, otherwise our words are mere puff of thin air, carrying no or very little weight.
Basically in the Muslim world today there are two types of militant Islam i.e., two groups of Muslims carrying out terrorist activities for different reasons. One is like the Palestinians, or Iraqis who legitimise their violence in the name of self-defence or justice. The other group consists of Muslims who want Islam to dominate the world, they want to establish the outdated Sharia all over the world and to convert (oops revert!) everybody to Islam.
Regarding the first group, I don’t have much knowledge hence I cannot say much. It is too complex a topic for me, I have to accept, but I would like to say one thing which I have already said in one of my initial articles that oppression does not legitimise terrorism. For aggression (terrorism) to take place, it is not just frustration (or oppression) that triggers the aggressive response but a host of other factors lead to the actual overt aggressive behaviour; this is according to the General Aggression Model (GAM).
The other group, whose numbers are speedily on the rise because of numerous propaganda, free literature with the help of petrodollars, tv channels spreading “peace” etc. For terrorist activities to stop we have to either stop the terrorists or we have to stop the person becoming one. It would be naive to think that a terrorist will not commit ‘his’ act (i.e., blowing people up, forcing others to accept ‘his’ religion).
Since we do not expect teachers to do surgery and lawyers to dance; similarly we should not expect terrorists to be peaceful and that we can communicate with them and bring them to ‘our’ side. Some would say that with communication this can be done, but I hold a different view because a) even if communication can help ‘them’ bring to ‘our’ sides, the numbers would be very less and b) their minds have been altered, they actually do not think like normal human beings. Since their thought-process is labyrinthine how can we expect them to think clearly?
I am not suggesting ‘once a terrorist will always be a terrorist’. He can change, but it requires a lot of effort (read time, money, propaganda) from our, moderate Muslims side, giving them a complete and comprehensive way of life (as Mr Saif Shahin has pointed out in ‘The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Muslim’).
In the market there are hundreds of books that promote non-pluralistic Islam or as I prefer to call it- ‘individualistic Islam’. Thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs are available of Dr Zakir Naik, trashing other religions. In the Friday prayers the Imams bombard the listeners with spiteful messages regarding Hindus- “the idol worshippers”, Christians- “the Christ lovers, the pig eaters”, Jews- “the swine and ape like creatures”, USA- “the conspirators”, Israelis- “the killers” etc.
We have to take a stand to challenge all this not just for us, but for Islam, true, peace-loving Islam. For the love of Muhammad (pbuh), we cannot let these marauders take Islam away from us and radically change it as we know it. We have to save Islam, if not for us then for our children, because when they will grow up they will criticise us to grow beard (if you are his/her father), to completely cover ourselves in burqa (if you are his/her mother), to despise non-Muslims, to no befriend them and God forbid, to kill them.
One of the major reasons for the rise of militant Islam is because of the presence and continuous use of the “sword verses” in books, CDs, DVDs, Friday lectures etc. These verses deal with the killings of the pagans of that time. These verses (which number in the hundreds) are a great resource material for the extremists. They use these verses in two ways that suits their purpose: a) they quote either partially or they quote incorrectly; b) they do not give the context.
Christianity, unlike Islam, has successfully been able to go beyond the pages of the Bible. It has remodelled itself according to the present needs. Many of us, both Muslims and non-Muslims know about this verse “wherever you find a pagan, kill him” but not many of us know of this “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword” (Jesus says this in Gospel of Matthew). Every religion has violence in it, but we need to look at it in the proper context.
To stop the rise of militant Islam, we must highlight the fact that these “sword verses” are obsolete. In ‘What’s right with Islam’, Rauf, Faisel Abdul says: “the Quran expressly and unambiguously prohibits the use of coercion in faith because coercion would violate a fundamental human right—the right to a free conscience. A different belief system is not deemed a legitimate cause for violence or war under Islamic law. The Quran is categorical on this: "There shall be no compulsion in religion" (2:256); "Say to the disbelievers [that is, atheists, or polytheists, namely those who reject God] "To you, your beliefs, to me, mine" (109: 1-6)”
There is a fight going on between Islamism and Islam, the former is extremist, the latter is moderate. Unfortunately the voice of the extremists is more dominating as compared to the moderates. We have to raise our voice. The extremists are brainwashing the innocent, young Muslims into committing heinous acts, it is our time to brainwash them.
How do we do it? I suggest we break the cycle: if a mullah is preaching hate in the mosques then we must stand up and counter it, we must constantly strive to challenge their ideology with the help of the Quran and the authentic Hadiths, if we come across a “sword verse” then we must oppose it with a “peace verse” and at the same time pointing out that that verse is now obsolete as it was relevant for those people and that time.