By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
22nd session of UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, 25 February to 22nd March, 2013
Agenda Item 3: Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
Oral Statement by Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
8 March 2013
On behalf of: World Environment and Resource Council
A violent display of intolerance towards sectarian and religious minorities along with terrorism directed at non-Muslim neighbours continues to plague several Muslim countries. For instance, hundreds of Shias have been killed recently in Pakistan. Hindu girls continue to be abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. Taliban’s war on girls’ education continues. Indian city of Hyderabad was recently attacked. Despite a ban on his organization and a 10 million dollar US bounty on his head, Hafiz Saeed continues to strut around the country and taunt the world.
Rights violations are reported from all over the Muslim world, from Indonesia to Tunisia. A fascist ideology is seeking to forcibly convert the world to its version of Islam. An intra-Islam clash of civilisations appears to be going on. Some Muslims are resisting a determined attempt to colonise their minds. From Bangladesh and India to Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, etc. We can see Sufi Ulema loudly denouncing Islamo-fascism, exclusivism, supremacism and jihadism.
But the mainstream moderate Muslim majority and their governments continue to remain largely silent onlookers. What message do we Muslims give to the world community by keeping quiet on such humiliation to Islam? Will the world community be wrong in deducing that all Muslims believe that the Taliban, the products of petrodollar-funded Deobandi-Wahhabi-Salafi madrasas, are correct in their understanding of Islam? That Islam does indeed stand for forcibly converting the world to its point of view? That Salafi-Wahhabism is the real Islam? That Taliban truly represent the larger world Muslim community? And if that is the case why should the fear of Islam not grow in the world? Why should we complain of Islamophobia?
Regardless of what interpretation of Islam a Muslim state follows, however, it should NOT be allowed to impose its ideology on its citizens. It is incumbent on the world community to make sure that all signatories to the UN Charter and its various covenants implement its provisions in letter and spirit.
The courageous stance of moderates in Africa is the first good news emanating from that region after a long period of Wahhabi killings and destruction of mosques and Sufi shrines. Islamic fundamentalist Boko Haram’s killing spree used to be the main news coming out from that part of the continent. The newly-formed League of the Sahel Ulema, comprising sheikhs from Algeria, Mauritania and representatives of Sufi movements in Mali have all come out to counter the “extremism and exaggeration creeping into religion, a monster created by extremist groups that claim to be engaged in jihad”. Officially established in Algeria, the league is reported to have focused its reformist efforts on schools, mosques, local radio stations and militant enclaves in order to put an end to violence perpetrated in the name of Islam.
Similarly a conference in Istanbul this week brought together senior Afghan clerics and the world’s leading Islamic theologians to discuss suicide bombings, the targeting of civilians and the destruction of historical artefacts by Wahhabi militants. A detailed and strongly worded resolution reaffirmed Islam’s compatibility with universal human norms and called on religious institutions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighbouring countries to end all violence, including domestic violence. The document will be circulated to more than 160,000 mosques in Afghanistan. Hopefully some good will come out of it.
However, while some moderate Muslims, at least in a few countries, are speaking out against growing Wahhabi-Salafi threat to world peace, unfortunately, they are not speaking in one voice. Some think that talking about Wahhabi extremism merely encourages sectarianism among Muslims. The anti-terrorism demonstrations organised by Indian Sufi Sheikhs and Ulema, for instance, was almost completely boycotted by India’s Muslim Press and then the organisers were criticised heavily for playing ‘divisive politics.’
“Let us not encourage divisive sectarianism by indulging in it ourselves,” said some moderate Muslim intellectuals, unmindful of the dangers of growing radicalisation of the larger Muslim community in India. What they do not seem to understand is that it is actually Salafi-Wahhabi extremists who are playing divisive politics, seeking to impose their version of Islam on Muslims worldwide. The Islamic sectarian ideology is promoted by massive infusion of petrodollars. It is seeking to colonise non-Arab Muslim minds, promoting medieval Arab desert customs as an inalienable part of Islam. This is not acceptable to many. The South Asian Muslims, for instance, are inheritors of thousands of years old civilisations. These non-Arab peoples have their own customs and culture. They merely accepted the religion of Islam, which does not and should not include the desert Bedouin culture of the seventh century Arabia with its wars and raids on rival tribes and clans and vicious vendettas.
Some other Muslim intellectuals have characterised the large number of anti-terrorism public meetings and rallies in Muslim countries, particularly India, as the community’s "ijtamaee zillat” (collective insult), as did Prof Akhtarul Wasey, head of the Department of Islamic Studies in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University. “Too many conferences and rallies against terrorism will make Muslims feel guilty,” he told The Times of India recently. Apparently Muslim intellectuals like him do not feel the community or religion is insulted by almost daily killings of sectarian and religious minorities, forcible conversions, war on education, oppression of women and other serious violations of human rights, all in the name of Islam, perpetrated by Muslims who have been brainwashed into believing that destroying places of worship and killing other Muslims gives them the status of martyrs, deserving a place of honour in Heaven.
I would have thought that we Muslims would hang our collective heads in shame when so-called Islamist terrorist incidents take place rather than when Muslims speak out against terrorism. The moment of ijtemai zillat (collective humiliation) for the Muslim community comes when Muslim minorities are killed for simply practising their understanding of Islam, when shrines of Sufi saints who spent a lifetime spreading Islam’s message of love and peace are bombed, when girls’ schools are destroyed, when girl children are attacked for wanting to pursue education, when Hindu girls are abducted and later forcibly converted to Islam and raped by so-called puritan Muslims. But apparently some Muslim intellectuals do not agree and would rather silence whatever meagre voices are being raised against terrorism in the name of Islam.
Personally, the biggest moment of shame for me was reading the following advertisement in one of the largest circulated English newspapers of Pakistan. Quoted by columnist and author Mujahid Hussain on Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com, it reads:
English translation of the letter of Taliban published in The News
An open letter on behalf of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to the non-Muslims (Shia sect)
Masjid Imambara Jafaria Colony, in particular.
All the Kafirs (Shias) living in the state of Pakistan are hereby informed that majority of the people living on this land are Muslims and the followers of Islam. The non-Muslims (Shias) are in the minority and all the sects of Islam follow the true Deen (religion) except the Kafirs, that is the Shias, who are causing severe damage to and maligning Islam in the name of Islam. Therefore, the Tehreek invites all the Kafirs (Shias) to accept Islam and warns them that if the Kafirs (Shias) want to live in peace in this region, they should follow one of these three conditions:
i) Accept Islam
ii) Pay Jizya
iii) Or migrate
Failing to obey any of the three above-mentioned conditions, the properties and Imambaras of Shias will be seized and the women of the Kafirs (Shias) will be held in mutah (temporary marriage). The children will be enslaved and will either be converted to Islam or used as bonded labours (slaves). If the Kafirs (Shias) do not obey this proposal of the Tehreek, the killing of the Kafirs (Shias) will be lawful for the Tehreek and the Shias will themselves be responsible for all the loss.
From: Muslim Khan, Commander Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan
(Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Desk)
Apparently, now the advertisers have started implementing these threats as the Shias did not either convert to Salafism-Wahhabism, which is the only acceptable version of Islam for the Jihadis, or migrated or started paying Jizya. From a cottage industry, Shia killing has now become big business in Pakistan. Hardly a few days pass without a news report of Shias being killed in one part or another emanating from that country.
The most amazing aspect of this advertisement, however, is not the advertisement itself. One has come to expect any kind of madness from the Islamist extremists, the modern-day Khwarij (seceders from Islam), also known as Wahhabi-Salafis or Ahl-e-Hadeesis. But the fact that this advertisement got published in one of the largest circulated English dailies in Pakistan and the larger Muslim community did not feel any ijtemaii zillat (collective humiliation) is a most astounding development, worthy of being studied by scholars in various related disciplines.
As I asked before, what message do we Muslims give to the world community by keeping quiet on such humiliation to Islam? Let me repeat the questions that arise. Will the world community be wrong in deducing that all Muslims believe that the Taliban, the products of petrodollar-funded Deobandi-Wahhabi-Salafi madrasas, are correct in their understanding of Islam? That Islam does indeed stand for forcibly converting the world to its point of view? That Salafi-Wahhabism is the real Islam? That Taliban truly represent the larger world Muslim community? And if that is the case why should the fear of Islam not grow in the world? Why should we complain of Islamophobia?
I know it for a fact that the larger Muslim community does not subscribe to the Talibani, Jihadi, Salafi –Wahhabi-Takfiri ideology that accuses overwhelming majority of Muslims of apostasy and considers them wajibul Qatl (deserving death). But are we not creating just this impression by staying silent when such blood-curdling threats are given and then carried out? Do we have any ground to blame the Christian fundamentalist, Zionist, or Hindu Islamophobes for spreading the fear of Islam? Are we not doing that ourselves?
As atrocities after atrocities are heaped upon various minorities, particularly Shias, the media naturally reports, that Sunni militants are causing this mayhem. By and large the world knows of two major sectarian divisions among Muslims: the majority, about 85 per cent Sunnis and the rest Shias. But it has to be understood by the world community that both the Sunnis and the Shias are divided into scores of sub-sects, some virulently opposed to each other. The Sunni militants who attack Shias, for instance, also attack the overwhelming majority of Sunnis who revere Sufi saints or send their girl children to modern schools or practice music and arts and engage in philosophical discussions even in defence of Islam. Yes, not only practising music and arts but even engaging in debates to defend Islam, an art known as ilmul Kalam (dialectic theology), a branch of scholarship that historically Muslim intellectuals have excelled in for centuries, is considered heretical in Salafism-Wahhabism. As a matter of fact even asking questions about the nature of God or revelation is considered a step towards heresy and hence forbidden.
Known variously as Wahhabi, Salafi, Ahl-e-Hadeesi, etc, these groups are narrow-minded enough to think a Muslim should not create a beautiful work of art or a literary masterpiece. For, in their view, creation, particularly creation of something beautiful, is something only God can do. So by trying to do that the artist, the musician or litterateur, is seeking to become a partner to God and this amounts in their dictionary to be the worst possible deviation called shirk or polytheism. Now what should be the punishment for this deviation? At this point, Wahhabis differ even among themselves. Some think that only the work of art should be destroyed, some think the artist should also be killed.
Clearly, a blanket denunciation of any sect is not justified. There are various strains of thought, different degrees of madness and criminality that infect even the extremist sects. Such terminology as is used by the media only exacerbates the situation, creates outrage among Muslims and a general Islamophobia among non-Muslims. It brings the very religion of Islam into disrepute. The larger Muslim community has always lived peacefully and continues to live peacefully, happily coexisting with other religious communities and even other sects within Islam. Muslims have created masterpieces of art and architecture throughout the world. South Asian Muslims have been particularly fond of creating and appreciating beautiful literature and music.
However, there has always been a small group of marauders among us who have interpreted some situational verses of the Quran out of context and in a manner that suits their criminality and narrow-mindedness. In the very beginning of Islamic history, they were considered out of the pale of Islam and called Khwarij, Kharjiis or Kharjiites, meaning seceders from Islam. These seceders or Khwarij misinterpret contextual, seemingly militant, exclusivist Qur’anic verses that came to guide Muslims in the extremely difficult initial phase when Islam was fighting for its very survival. They present these directions for those initial wars of survival as part of universal teachings of the holy Quran. They considered heretics both the Shiiaan-e-Ali (supporters of Hazrat Ali, the fourth rightly-guided caliph or Shia, for short) and the Sunni followers of Hazrat Muawiya. This group of Khwarij is considered responsible for the killing of a hundred thousand Muslims from both Shia and Sunni groups in the seventh century, only a couple of decades after the demise of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).
This group has been decimated in Islamic history many a time. But it has sprung up again and again, under various guises, particularly when Arabs have come under foreign pressure and faced defeat. Following the havoc created by the Mongol invasion of Arab lands in the 13th century, the first to defeat Arabs, it was Ibn-e-Taimiya who tried to galvanise Muslims under his extremist interpretation of Islam to fight them. He declared the Mongol rulers kafir because even though they had formally converted to Islam, they still followed some elements of their original culture. When Arabs came under the pressure of Turkish Khilafat-e-Usmania in 18th century, Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab Najdi sought to do the same and derived his inspiration from Ibn-e-Taimiya. Subsequent Western domination in the 20th century created circumstances for the extremist ideology of Syed Qutub and Maulana Maudoodi, who took their inspiration from both Ibn-e-Taimiya and Ibn Abdul Wahhab. These ideologues are considered fathers of modern Islamic extremism. But their extremist views have been opposed by many Arabs themselves. Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab, for instance, was first of all opposed by his own father and brother who were well-versed in Islamic jurisprudence and performed the role of Qazis (judges) in their area in Najd.
Islam’s spiritual message of peace and well-being for all has always triumphed in the end, though many a time in its history, it has been hijacked by supremacists and racists who could not accept Muslims from other tribes or regions gaining ascendance. Throughout his missionary career Prophet Mohammad (saw) did his best to eliminate racism and supremacism from Arab minds. His last sermon is its best example. He clearly stated that neither Arabs have any superiority over Ajam (non-Arab) nor Ajam have any superiority over Arabs. All humanity is equal in Islam. The prejudice of Arab superiority over Ajam (non-Arab), however, is deep-rooted in Arab culture. Arab supremacism has always defied Islam. Now it is trying to dominate and colonise all Muslim minds and using Islam for its purpose as it used Islam before to create an Arab Empire. It equates Arab culture and pre-Islamic customs to Islam. Muslims from other cultures who accepted Islam as a religion have resisted this colonisation. This has created many crises within Islam, a kind of intra-Islam clash of civilisations. Islam is going through one such crisis now. Arab supremacists and their agents in different parts of the world who, being non-Arab, present themselves as Islam-supremacists, are trying to capture Islam.
What is helping petrodollar-promoted radical Islam the most is the near-silence of mainstream Muslims, the pernicious theory of feeling ijtemai zillat (collective insult) in speaking out, while sleeping peacefully when Muslims kill and rape and destroy other innocent Muslims and non-Muslim minorities in their countries, many a time during prayers or in religious processions or while visiting shrines of revered saints.
Supported and protected by world’s most powerful nations and massively promoted by world’s sole oil superpower Petrodollar Islam has brought under its influence many hitherto moderate Muslim institutions and individuals around the world. It has created massive media institutions to propagate its version of a dry, desiccated, antediluvian religion in the name of Islam. Just read again the threatening advertisement in Pakistan’s major English newspaper cited above. Does it feel like you are reading a 21st century mainstream newspaper published in a technologically advanced, nuclear-armed country which can legitimately claim to be the inheritor of a 5,000-year-old Vedic civilisation?
Undoubtedly, if there were newspapers in 7th century Arabia, they would have published such threats before an impending Bedouin raid. In any case, it is known that similar letters used to be occasionally sent to an opposition tribe whose men were going to be slaughtered, its women and children enslaved. Clearly these marauders backed by the supremacist ideologies of Arab Khwarij of a different era and massive amounts of petrodollars want to do things exactly as their ancestors would have done 1400 years ago.
This is what these Wahhabi Khwarij call going back to fundamentals of Islam. They want Muslims to wipe out the 14 centuries of Islamic history, spirituality, culture, progress altogether. Unfortunately, they also appear to be succeeding. They have muzzled the voices of many moderate Muslims with the lure of wealth and power. Some others they have silenced with threats of ostracism and worse. But no one has ever succeeded in turning the tide of time. Time marches forward, not backward. They will never succeed. If history is any guide, they are bound to fail. But Muslims who do not believe in a backward march of time must speak out and in one voice, without equivocation. Islamo-fascism is not Islam; it has to be defeated. As always, Insha Allah, this time too, we will succeed.
Thank you Mr. President.