By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
May 5, 2009
April 28 is the day Saddam Hussein was born in 1937. Most people have forgotten the grandeur of the birthday bash in Iraq each year. But the Urdu press hasn't. In the middle of the crucial general elections, Aalami Sahara, has a cover story: "Salaam to the greatness of the Lion of Iraq" emblazoned on top of a photograph of a grand statue of the fallen Iraqi dictator.
It would be too impractical even for the Muslim wonderland of Urdu Press to do so, but if it could, it would similarly celebrate Osama bin-Laden's birthday too. There is no question, however, that bin-Laden is a highly revered figure in the community.
What is common between the two, one a secular fundamentalist and the other a radical Islamist? They both confronted America. That they were both American agents whom America used for its own purposes and that whatever they did and perhaps Osama is still doing has resulted in the killing of millions of Muslims is, of course, of no account. We love confrontation.
Fed on the diet of Naseem Hijazi's romantic war novels, acclaimed as Islamic historical fiction, in their youth, many of our intelligentsia -- if they can be called that -- simply love confrontation and abhor sensible compromise. Anyone in the community, for instance, who suggests a negotiated settlement of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, involving compromise, is branded a BJP agent. Knowing that, not many dare suggest sensible solutions.
Muslim leadership and even journalism has now passed into the hands of bearded clerics. Some of these mullahs may appear clean-shaven, their beards concealed well within their stomachs, as the saying goes, but their responses are the same as those of ignorant mullahs.
What are these responses? Pessimism, negativism, perpetual grievance-mongering, call for confrontation, decrying compromise, conspiracy theories, taking affront at the slightest criticism -- each one manifestly against the spirit of Islam. No matter how badly off a Muslim is, you ask him how he is and his answer will be Al-hamdo lillah (All praise be to God, meaning I am good and I thank God for that).
Is the negativism of Muslim press having an impact? It is. A Muslim today will still start with Alhamdo lillah but then immediately start chanting a litany of complaints. Sachar committee report is of course, the handiest weapon.
Ask them to feel grateful to God that you are not living in Pakistan where your mother would be asking you to pray at home and not go to mosques for fear of being blown up by suicide bombers; ask them to feel grateful that you are living in the only non-Muslim majority country in the world which allows you to organise your personal life in accordance with Muslim Personal Law; that your constitution guarantees you equal status; that no party can come to power at the Centre which has not got your votes: and you are immediately branded a Hindu agent.
This is the condition of a community whose religion exhorts it to live with an attitude of gratitude even in the direst of circumstances, to start every prayer with Al-Hamd (Praising God). God's bounties are so many and so great that we will not finish recounting them even if we spend an entire lifetime doing that.
Islam-supremacism, contempt for other religions, are our mantras. We forget that our scriptures ask us to revere equally as Prophet Mohammad all the 124,000 prophets that preceded him in all parts of the world. This is an essential requirement for the Islamic faith.
Inner spirituality has been sucked out of our religion with the onset of Wahhabism in a big way. Under US protection, Saudi Arabia is spending tens of billions of dollars for the last 35 years in spreading a desiccated, arid, desert version of Islam, devoid of all spiritual values. The Islam to which we had been introduced in the sub-continent by our saints is dead and gone. People may still visit Sufi shrines, but the inclusiveness that it entailed is no longer there.
We are now living in an era where Wahhabis have got so emboldened that they can kill us, the clean-shaven lot, for saying Takbeer (a loud affirmation of faith) in a mosque before iftar. This is what happened to Mohammad Iqbal in a village in Saharanpur (He survived but his seven-year-old daughter got killed in the stone-pelting that ensured after the nimaz-e-maghrib).
Gandhiji started this move to impose Wahhabi Mullahs on us in 1920s, supporting the anti-national Khilafat movement. Mulayam Singhs and Mayawatis plus the media's love for dramatic beards and burqas, have finally succeeded, in no small measure with American and Saudi help. Am I too complaining, blaming others? Perhaps I can't escape the impact of the surrounding ambience for too long. It's time I too succumbed to the desert culture that has already forced most Muslims to say Allah Hafiz in place of the user-friendly and closer to home Khuda Hafiz.
The author is editor of www.NewAgeIslam.com
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