October 1, 2019
The speech of Prime Minister Imran Khan at United Nations General Assembly was very straight, convincing and persuasive. Straight as he spoke his heart out, convincing as he presented his point with examples drawing parallels and persuasive as he appealed the rational and logical thinking. One of the issue he discussed was the label of ‘extremism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ that has remained attached, rather has been reserved only for Muslims since long. Imran Khan rightly expressed that how wrongly the world looked at Islam and Muslims.
The bogey of “Islamic Extremism’ is relatively a recent creation contrived after the demise of Soviet Union. As the fear of Godless communists disappeared from the global scene, there was a need to create another fear which could keep United States in control of its allies as well as the global affairs. This bogey was now in the form of ‘Islam’. Nearly the whole world has believed in this monster since its creation and in the past years this has dominated not only the American lives but also the global politics on the whole.
The fearsome monster of so called Islamic terrorism could not have survived without getting proper sustenance to feed on. Thus it was provided a proper nutritious yet specially prepared menu. This recipe of this menu was based on continuously distorted teachings of Islam. Specific narratives and themes were introduced into the Islamic literature and specific distortions were injected into the pure religious concepts which were then promoted by media in the west. These misinterpretations of religion revolved around very basic concepts of Islam. The new interpretation of Sharia promoted intolerance by pitching religious beliefs rigidly. It gave freedom to all that any group of individuals can implement Islamic orders and state is not a pre-requisite for the implementation; it declared that there is no possibility of difference of opinion in Shariah; it introduced Jihad which could take place without the existence of State; and glorified a caliphate which can be enforced upon Muslims, without the will of the people. Any Muslim who decides public affairs from any inference other than Quran became an infidel for them and who so ever tried to explain it a bit, was shot in cold blood in day light brazenly in markets and bazars. Blood of humanity was now allowed to be spilled in the name of religion by anyone anywhere in the world. Unfortunately as sustenance, fresh blood continued to flow to terror outfits, pumped in the shape of finances and resources in a seemingly natural way. Thus with feed available and finances assured, the religiously motivated terror groups kept on mutating and evolving to create Al- Qaeda, Taliban and later ISIS like-minded chapters around the world. Thus this bogey of Islamic terrorism became a reality for the non-Muslims particularly in the west who saw the appearance of these terrorists akin to that of Muslims.
Muslim countries and the leadership also did their share in feeding, nurturing and nourishing this monster. The pure Islamic concepts were used for gaining political mileages and immediate radical objectives. The governments in Islamic countries or should I say Muslim countries (which were never “Islamic” in real sense)exploited sentiments of common people using religious concepts like, Islamic-brotherhood, Nahi Anil Munkir (forbidding from wrong) and Jihad. It was done without realization that such concepts once introduced do not evaporate into thin air. The concepts like that of Jihad were more than mere concepts, practiced for centuries in Muslim world as strong foundation of faith. However, governments in Muslim countries used these institutions politically and forgot that these just cannot be turned off by pushing a button. These actions paid the governments well but for a short while. USA fought against communists in Afghanistan and could only succeed since the concept of Jihad was used as a war instrument. But years later, US ditched Jihad in the backdrop of 9/11. Jihad mutated and continued as an evolved concept against the west. Years later, US had to taste its own medicine when it had to fight same concept it infused years ago in an earlier generation of warriors.
The responsibility lies with state and no seminary or cleric should be allowed to issue a decree of Islam or infidelity for anyone. The difference between Sufis versus Salafis, Shias versus Sunnis etc would diminish under the broader umbrella of One-Ummah once the extremist thought is isolated, exposed and rendered irrelevant
Extremism and terrorism has no religion and intolerance is something which is not at all Islamic. The Islamic State of Medina was the ideal manifestation of coexistence, pluralism and diversity amongst humanity. What convinces people to believe in this self-created bogey is a distorted and twisted explanation of some of the verses of Quran, Ahadees of the Holy Messenger SAW, and some misquoted historic incidents. It can be addressed only be spreading true understanding of Islam like text in a curriculum. Therefore there are two things required; true understanding of the specific verses, Ahadees and incidents in the shape of written text; and a means to spread it massively around the world in academic institutions, especially, universities at home and abroad. Cyberspace should carry the answers to questions from the around the world and this would make life easier. A Television channel or channels jointly established as suggested by Imran Khan can do much in this regard. But care is needed not to promote a sectarian syllabus but to disseminate the universal message and presenting real Islam, not the Sufi, Salafi, Shia or Sunni Islam) to the world.
Those misguided fighting in the ranks of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State at present are just a few amongst population of 1.6 billion Muslims. The only way to exclude this microscopic minority of extremists that associates itself with Islam is by addressing the root causes of the political problems in the region which have been kept alive deliberately. Distortion caused in a ‘higher-order of learning’, like Islam, can only be removed by spreading purer understanding of the higher-order and not by weak or ‘lower-order of learning’. The narrative required to address this cannot be imported from west. The answer has to be found within the pure teachings of Islam. Extremism has to be discouraged and should not be allowed to infect others. The ideals of diversity, co-existence and pluralism should be promoted and no should be allowed to seek or issue Fatwas against any individual or a group of individuals.
The responsibility lies with state and no seminary or cleric should be allowed to issue a decree of Islam or infidelity for anyone. The difference between Sufis versus Salafis, Shias versus Sunnis etc would diminish under the broader umbrella of One-Ummah once the extremist thought is isolated, exposed and rendered irrelevant. The echo of Islamophobia would continue to sound till the time we do not present the real pure Islam by correcting ourselves and our society and demonstrating its true values practically. Our words would only influence others if our actions also demonstrate what we want them to believe.
Sabbahuddin is a versatile analyst and a speaker on contemporary issues
Source: The Daily Times