Not in my name
When a horrific event unfolds in the streets of Europe, US or in the Middle East, Muslims cringe and pray…not again, please God… let this not be a Muslim. As events unfold, social media brings glimpses of dead bodies, blood soaked foot path, torn human belongings, panic stricken pedestrians running for their life. Eventually, if the perpetrator is found out to be a Muslim, a sinking feeling plunges the mood of 1.7 billion Muslims. An existing wound opens up further. Muslims wake up to the painful reality of terrorism committed in the name of their peaceful religion, again. Looking through Muslim’s eyes, the image in the mirror seems very different than the image Muslims have in their mind for Islam, the religion they believe.
A colossal denial
For too long many Muslims were in denial. Many found comfort in believing conspiracy theories. Muslims wonder, if these are works by the hidden enemies of Islam, to tarnish the name of Muslims and Islam. They debate among themselves. Seemingly endless episodes of killings and violence keep recurring. With horror and disbelief, Muslims see that the innocents die in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia, Europe, and in the US. Regretfully, these killers kill Muslims and non Muslims alike, the Muslims being their prime victims. Those, who were in denial looked at themselves in the mirror with realization that sadly but undeniably some Muslims were instrumental in committing these atrocities.
More Muslims died in 9/11 than the number of terrorist hijackers
USA today ” Yet 9/11 had more Muslim victims (about 60 of nearly 3,000 killed) than terrorist hijackers (19). They included an assistant bank vice president and a cook, a commodities trader and a waiter, an insurance executive, a security guard and an IT guy. They included immigrants from all over: Sarah Khan, a cafeteria manager from Guyana; Syed Abdul Fatha, a copy machine operator from India; Zuhtu Ibis, a computer technician from Turkey. There was Michael Baksh, a Pakistani immigrant on his first day of work at the insurance firm Marsh & McLennan, and Abdoul Karim Traore, who had risen at 3 a.m. that day to deliver USA today before reporting to work as a cook at Windows on the World restaurant. Karamo Trerra, a computer tech, was ready to celebrate his fourth wedding anniversary on Sept. 12″ http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/natio /2010-09-03-1Amuslims911_CV_N.htm
The generations of autocracy
An estimated 20% of 1.7 billion Muslims live in the Arabian countries, the rest 80% live outside the middle east. By and large, generations of autocratic rulers have sustained a self serving social and political inequality across the middle east. In fact, the public discourse in national-political affairs is virtually absent in many of these countries. Although, there may be rubber stamp parliaments, in reality, decrees from the rulers run the country. The dictators often use Islam as an instrument of political control, while the demand for Islamic values of equality, justice and people’s representation are ignored and rejected. Those who dare to speak up are imprisoned or killed. In contrast to the Quranic vision of a just and equitable society, Muslim rulers engage themselves in corruption and injustice making a virtual prison for their people.
No autocracy in Islam
Mr. Hossein Askari is a professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University. He wrote: “We must emphasize that many countries that profess Islam and are called Islamic are unjust, corrupt, and underdeveloped and are in fact not ‘Islamic’ by any stretch of the imagination”. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ireland/10888707/Ireland-leads-the-world-in-Islam
Muslim pseudo democracies
There exists a range of semi and pseudo democracies in many non-Arab Muslim countries. Political power remains concentrated in one leader without any accountability or in one party where competing political activists are marginalized and silenced by false accusations and litigation. National elections bring a virtual monarch every few years, only to be replaced by another in the succeeding elections. Some hold on to power by rampant corruption and rigged elections. Political dissidents are imprisoned or vanished without trace. The public administration and the police force become politicized entities filled with government’s political recruits.
A case of duplicity and hypocrisy
The West’s stance on the civil repression in the Muslim countries is full of duplicity and hypocrisy. While the west is ready to criticize Islam and connect it’s teachings to violence, religious extremism and lacking democratic credentials, western leaders and political elites remain close allies to the Muslim rulers who are the root cause for persistent human right abuse in Muslim countries. Citing national interest and geopolitical stability, western governments continue selling weapons, expand army bases in these countries and keep business as usual with these oppressive rulers. West’s muted response and halfhearted disapproval of these oppressive rulers, often made just for public show, make them complicit to the perpetual state of injustice in these countries and the resulting extremism that it foments. http:// https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/11/13/americas-hypocrisy-saudi-arabia/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fc62f85900fb
No help to end the oppression
When Muslims look for help to end the oppression in their countries, they find there is no one to help. They meet the reality where the world powers tolerate and manipulate autocratic Muslim rulers for financial and political advantage while millions of Muslims suffer. There is more to this picture. In the Palestinian refugee camps, human rights have been violated for many generations. No one dares to mention about what the Palestinians face behind the massive walls and army check posts suffocating their existence.
With all their claim of moral high ground and love for human rights, western free world failed to offer the uprooted Palestinians any hope of freedom. Millions of people died in Iraq for the weapon of mass destruction that was never there. In Yemen children die from bombing, malnutrition and disease. Unrelenting oppression and killing continues in Myanmar, Kashmir and Syria.
A population desensitized
Witnessing atrocities, tyranny and corruption for generations, Muslim population become desensitized to autocratic attitudes and ruthlessness. The line between fairness and corruption becomes blurry. Injustice permeates deep into the public domain of theses societies and becomes an acceptable norm. The prospect of a hopeless future brings desperation, nurtures extreme world views.
The belief that links many of these disaffected people across the globe is their perception of a western conspiracy towards Muslims and Islam. This is where ISIS and Al-Qaeda get their angry recruits, many of them are young and naive. Twisted ideology of these extremist groups lead their deranged followers to terrorism and the world puts the blame on the religion of Islam.
The battle cries
To the uninformed people of the west the negative perception of Islam is real. They believe that Islam has a lot to do with the violence. How can the followers of a religion claim to be peaceful, bring so much death and destruction? War cries from the extremists, soundbites from the far right politicians and the media’s bias add to the narrative. Questions arise in Muslim minds: does Islam really allow the carnage by suicide bombings and destruction of others? Unaware of the Quranic standing on these issues, many Muslims are confused and unsure about what to believe and how they should respond.
The reason why Al-Qaeda and ISIS can strike us far above their ideological weight, is the lack of Quranic literacy in the general Muslim population. It is vital to apply appropriate context to understand any religious scripture. The Quran needs to be studied and understood with the same standard to avoid misinterpretation.
The Quran: The most recited text
Muslims recite the Quran in Arabic in their daily prayers. As more than 80% of Muslims are non-Arab speaking, only a minority of Muslims understand the meaning of what they recite and even fewer know the context of revelation for the verses they are reciting. As a result, there is a wide spread ignorance of the Quranic vision of a just, balanced and peaceful society. While the traditional Islamic leaders and Imams dedicate their sermons in preaching about the ritual aspects of the religion, often they fall short in delivering the universal humanistic message of the Quran and Islam. As a result, many Muslims lack awareness of the Quranic standing on many issues such as human rights, social justice, sanctity of life, racism and the freedom to choose religion.
Suicide is prohibited
Suicide bombing has become cliche for Muslim extremists. It is important to realize that wearing suicide vest and killing innocent people will not facilitate anyone’s path to heaven. As we can see that the Quran prohibits suicide as well as innocent killings in a clear and unambiguous manner.
The Quran 4:29. “And do not kill yourselves, surely God is most Merciful to you.”
The Quran 17:33 “Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except by right of justice. Whoever is killed unjustly, We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed the limits in taking life.”
No compulsion in religion
The Quran teaches that religion is a matter of personal choice. Islam is voluntary submission to one God. Any attempt to coerce someone to become Muslim contradicts the Quranic teaching of entering Islam voluntarily.
Quran 2:256. “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from Error. whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. God is all hearing and all knowing.”
Quran 18:29. “…Say, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject….”
Quran 10:99. “….Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you [Prophet] compel people to believe?”
Quran 42:48. “…But if they turn away (O Prophet, know that) We have not sent you to be their guardian: your duty is just to deliver the message.…”
Quran 88:21-22. ” So [Prophet] warn them: your only task is to give warning, you are not there to control them.”
Protection of places of worship
As can be seen over the years, churches and mosques have been bombed across the globe. Consequently, many worshipers were killed in different parts of the globe, including in Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria Indonesia and Sri Lanka, spurring reprisal killing of Muslims. Not surprisingly, Boko Haram, ISIS and others have claimed the responsibility for these destruction. In Indonesia a family of five became suicide bombers to destroy a church. Bombing the churches and believing that they were doing a service to the religion of Islam was dead wrong. The Quran 22:40 explains why. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/13/deaths-bomb-attacks-churches-indonesia-surabaya .
Quran 22:40. “…If Allah did not repel some people by means of others, many monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, where Allah’s name is pronounced abundantly, would have been destroyed. Allah is sure to help those who help His cause. Allah is strong and mighty”
The Christians from Najran, stayed and prayed in prophet’s mosque
In the Quran, Allah revealed verses asserting the preservation of places of worship. After all those who bombed the churches, did not know, or did not care, that Allah wanted the places of worship to be protected, not destroyed. These perpetrators did not take the trouble to learn that the prophet (peace be on him) built a community in Medina where Jews, Christians, Muslims and nonbelievers lived together with freedom to practice their own faiths. This inclusiveness of different faiths was shown when the prophet (peace be on him) let a group of visiting christian leaders from Najran stay nights in the holy mosque in Medina and also let them perform their worship there.
Muhammad (Peace be up on him) and the Christian monks of St. Catherine
Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be up on him) covenant with Christian monks of St. Catherine at Sinai says, “…..Should any Christian woman be married to a Muslim, such marriage must not take place except after her consent, and she must not be prevented from going to her church for prayer. Their churches must be honored and they must not be withheld from building churches or repairing convents….” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtiname_of_Muhammad)
The people of the middle path
For Muslims, it is important to realize that the Quran identifies them as a people of balance and moderation. At this time of history, to avert Muslim extremism and to nurture moderation, Muslim world needs mass education to grasp the basic Islamic values of religious tolerance, sanctity of life, justice for all, honesty and transparency.
With this in mind, Muslim governments need to cultivate a culture where the governments make themselves accountable to the people. Firstly, they should allow people to participate in that process by allowing transparent and fair elections. On the other hand, the people must follow the peaceful path of dialogue, be forgiving to resolve differences and avoid resorting to violence with utmost restraint in the face of provocations. Muslims need to apply wisdom, patience, honesty and deliberation when faced with challenges.
Quran 2:143. “…Thus We have made of you a community justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves;…”
A Muslim golden age
Since after the death of prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), Muslims developed a new era of a Muslim civilization. This was an era rich in new scientific knowledge, religious tolerance and humanistic values. Muslims marked this period with outstanding progress in science, mathematics, medicine, chemistry, geography, critical thinking and philosophy. At the time, Muslim lands were world centers for learning and Arabic was the language of education.
The era of religious harmony
During this era of cultural richness, Muslim nations enjoyed a remarkable period of religious harmony that existed between Jews, Christians and Muslims. This was the time when Europe was going through it’s dark age and the enlightenment of Renaissance was yet to happen. http://medieval-times/cross-cultural-diffusion-of-knowledge/v/golden-age-of-islam https://www.huffpost.com
Looking in the mirror
The glory of the Muslim civilizations have faded since then. At present, Muslim nations are not only passing through a stage of prolonged intellectual malaise, they are also facing poverty, widespread social injustice and moral degradation. With this in mind, Muslims need to be true to themselves and accept their own deficiencies, if they want to recover from their state of decline. Especially, directing the blame to the colonial past or to the west will not solve their problems.
“The Koran’s teachings are better represented in Western societies than in Islamic countries”
Today, it is fair to say that the most of the Muslim governments are deficient in securing social justice, honesty and transparency to their people compared to the most of the western democracies. Unfortunately, Muslims are unaware of the fact that their scripture and the prophetic traditions prescribe very similar social values as a requirement of their faith. “The Koran’s teachings are better represented in Western societies than in Islamic countries, which have failed to embrace the values of their own faith in politics, business, law and society”. (Hossein Askari, professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University.)
Allah will not change anyone’s condition until they change it themselves
Finally, only Muslims themselves can help change their intellectual and moral predicament and rekindle the beacon of enlightenment. As the Quran states: Allah will not change anyone’s condition until they change it themselves.