By Javed Anand
There’s nothing a practising Muslim ever does without the invocation: “Bismillah ar-Rahman-ur-Rahim” (In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful). About Prophet Mohammed he will tell you that Allah sent him to earth as “Rahmat-ul-Alemeen” (mercy on all mankind). The very word Islam means peace, you will be told. Allah, Prophet Mohammed, Islam is all about peace, compassion, mercy. Get it?
No doubt Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Pakistan Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, believes himself to be a pious Muslim. No doubt “Bismillah ar-Rahman-ur-Rahim” preceded the bullets he pumped into a person he was trained, paid and sworn to protect, risking his life if need be. No doubt he committed cold-blooded murder in the name of “Allah the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful”, in defence of a religion that means peace, and the honour of the Prophet (Hurmat-e-Rasul), who is meant to be mercy on all mankind. Killing for peace? I just don’t get it.
Could it be that despite his self-perception, Qadri was actually under Satan’s evil influence? Banish the thought! For the “respected ulema” of Pakistan, the man is a “ghazi” now. (In Islam a ghazi enjoys as high a status as a shaheed.) If we happen to think otherwise, we too are blasphemers, kafirs, wajib-ul-qatl (fit to be killed).
Killing may not be your idea or mine for promoting peace, but, to the “respected ulema” of Pakistan that’s Islam. Read the joint statement issued by 500 “maulanas” from the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat Pakistan (JASP), which also issued a death threat to anyone who dared lead or even participate in the namaaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) of Taseer: “The punishment for blasphemy against the prophet can only be death, as per the Holy Book, the Sunnah, the consensus of Muslim opinion and explanations by the ulema... this brave person (Qadri) has maintained 1,400 years of Muslim tradition, and has let the heads of 1.5 billion Muslims of the world be held high with pride.” No, you messiahs of murder, count me out.
Ironically, until a fortnight ago, this very Barelvi sect was seen as Pakistan’s great big hope for peace, a counter-force waiting to be deployed against the Deodandis, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Ahl-e-Hadith, all of whom are guilty of injecting intolerance, extremism and terrorism into Islam. But a single murderous deed of a “ghazi” has brought Pakistan’s mutually warring “ulema” to a common platform. Whatever else the disagreements between them, they stand together in their worship of violence and contempt of the dissenting voice.
The credit for this unprecedented unholy alliance goes to the Jamaat-ud Dawa (JD), another name for the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which among numerous other heinous acts is responsible for the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai and on India. As evident from its hugely-attended rally in Lahore (January 16 and 17) under the banner of the Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasul (The Movement for the Honour of the Prophet), the JD, the Deobandis and the Barelvis have now jointly pronounced a death sentence on anyone calling for change in Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.
Such madness in our immediate neighbourhood is, in itself, sufficient cause for concern. More worrisome is the fact that the roots and trunks of Pakistan’s major religious outfits lie in India. The Deobandis and Barelvis owe their name to Deoband and Bareilly, both towns in UP. The Ahl-e-Hadith took birth on Indian soil; Maulana Maududi founded his Jamaat-e-Islami in undivided India. And each one of them today has far greater reach within the country than they had at the time of Partition.
Why is it that, since the unpardonable murder of Taseer, not one leader of consequence from any of these outfits has spoken a word against the outrage? My Urdu-speaking Muslim friends from Mumbai tell me the same is equally true of Urdu newspapers, with the honourable exception of the daily Sahafat.
This conspiracy of silence, though shocking, is not surprising. Each one of them preaches that the punishment for blasphemy, apostasy, heresy is death — in an Islamic state — and complete social ostracism by the entire community where Islam is not wedded to power.
Fed such poisonous brew, the ummah may be forgiven for missing out on finer details. In secular India some years ago, the Raza Academy (a supposedly more tolerant Barelvi sect) threatened to burn Taslima Nasreen alive if she dared come to Mumbai. In 2008, the Urdu press in Hyderabad poured scorn on the leaders and activists of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) for their failure to kill her when they had the chance to do so.
How do Muslims respond to growing Islamophobia across the globe when the entire galaxy of ulema screams murder from housetops? “Educated Muslims have no choice but to get out of the clutches of the ulema”, opined a Muslim woman on a Google group last week. “If this is Islam, count me out”, wrote a Muslim male.
So here’s the choice before educated Muslims. Opting out of Islam altogether, or discovering another Islam. But to discover this other Islam you’ll need the sensibilities of a Farid Isaac (a South African Islamic theologian) whose moral and ethical integrity is evident from his statement: “If a choice has to be made between violence towards the text (holy scripture) and textual legitimisation of violence against real people then I would be comfortable to plead guilty to charges of violence against the text... Isn’t theology essentially about God? Yes, it is about God, but my theology is about a God who is essentially just and compassionate.” The time has come for a fatwa against our “respected ulema”.
The writer is general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy
Source: Indian Express