On the opposite ends of the broad spectrum of anti-Islam views, there are two very general and deep-rooted misconceptions: one that the Holy Qur’an preaches intolerance, and the other that Islam is a religion of peace alone.
Misrepresentations on the part of both Muslims and non-Muslims could go no further.
The basic principle of Islam, a faith in all the prophets of the world, is enough to give the lie to the first misconception. The Qur’an that preaches not only love and respect for the founders of the great religions of the world, but much more than that -” faith in them -” could not shrink down to the narrowness of intolerance for those very religions.
Zero tolerance for zulm -” injustice and oppression -” in Islam negates the second misconception that it is a religion of peace alone. Most importantly, the root word of Islam is " al-silm" which means "submission" or "surrender." It is understood to mean "submission to Allah." In spite of whatever noble intention has caused many a Muslim to claim that Islam is derived primarily from peace, this is not true (2:136).
To demystify this pair of grand misconceptions, we need to study words and deeds of the present day self proclaimed “moderates” who are exploiting the second misconception in their favor, which indirectly leads to consolidation of the first.
Analysis of Musharraf’s approach
Musharraf’s adding “enlightened” to “moderation” gives an impression as if other opportunists are preaching some kind of inferior or benighted moderation. However, his best explanation could hardly tell the difference between the confusion which several others are spreading in the name of moderate Islam for their self-interest.
According to Musharraf, the “suffering” of his “brethren in faith” at the “hands of militants, extremists, terrorists, have inspired” him to come up with “the strategy of Enlightened Moderation.” Here we must note that Musharraf: a) tries to kill two birds in one shot, i.e., to please both Muslims and the enemies of Islam; b) presents ‘enlightened moderation’ as a strategy not a value or a form of Islam to avoid annoying Muslims; c) confirms Islamophobes perspective that the root of the global turmoil lies with Muslims alone; d) gives legitimacy to the Islamophobes classification of Muslims and Islam e) attempts to show that Islam and secularism are compatible, and f) hides the source of his inspiration -” his self interest.
Like other self-proclaimed moderates, Musharraf has no clarification as to why a true Muslim would not be a moderate without following Musharraf’s agenda for moderation or the much vaunted enlightenment. Instead, he tries to prove that the world would have been a peaceful place if there were no “plastic explosives, combined with hi-tech, remotely controlled activation means superimposed by a proliferation of suicide bombers.” His strategy begins with meaningless appeals that “something has to be done quickly to stop this carnage.”
Compare this biased assessment with the ability and atrocities of those who are neck deep in innocent blood: who have stockpiles of nuclear and biological weapons and who bypassed even the UN to occupy two sovereign states, and who killed at least 150,000 people since 9/11 alone on the basis of lies upon lies. What amounts to a carnage? 3,000 at the hands of unknown perpetrators or 128,000 at the hands of known liars? Is this enlightened moderation to plead guilty to crimes of unknown culprits and turn a blind eye to the acts of known extremists, and appeal victims of their aggression to “quickly stop this carnage”?
For Musharraf and company moderation is “a two-pronged strategy” of a) “shunning militancy, extremism” and b) “adopting the path of socio-economic uplift.” This appeal-based strategy does not explains how the so-called “moderate” Islam is different than the Islam as prescribed by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Why should one follow them and not the source?
As far the two prongs are concerned, no one loves to live in perpetual violence and never-ending poverty. The pre-requisite for addressing these problems is not embracing some kind of convoluted form of Islam. The pre-requisite is brining aggression to a halt, leaving the victims of oppression alone; bringing an end to the exploitative political and economic systems and structures, and most importantly making the aggressor pay reparations for the damage done. Is an attractive title to the strategy for effective subservience good enough to fulfill any of these pre-requisites?
Muslims’ alleged obsession with their faith has no role in the miserable situation they are facing today. Instead, it is the lack of obsession that keeps Muslims groping in the dark. They don’t need any moderation in embracing or practicing Islam. The title, enlightened moderation, is totally deceptive and irrelevant to the proposed strategy. The strategy, in turn, is totally devoid of common sense and the prevailing reality.
Blindness of the proposed strategy touches its peak, when Musharraf adds a series of appeals with regard to “the role to be played by the West,” saying the US “must aim at resolutely resolving all political disputes with justice,” “resolve the political disputes enumerated above with justice” and “justice must be done and seen to be done.” Well said.
The excessive stress on justice, however, shows that the label of moderation is deceptive in the first place. What Musharraf is appealing for is exactly what the so-labeled extremists are demanding. Why is it so that when Musharraf begs for it, it is OK. But if someone else just talks about it, it becomes extremism?
Besides the apologetic tone, what makes Musharraf a moderate in this case is his hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing exactly the other. Sustaining an unjust order and demanding justice from the same doesn’t make any sense. Facilitating the unjust in occupying Muslim countries; handing as many Muslims as possible for filling the modern-day concentration camps and killing as many of his “brethren in faith” as possible to please Washington, and then appealing for justice to the same unjust authority doesn’t simply add up.
The hypocrisy is further reflected in Musharraf’s statement that the “root cause of extremism and militancy lies in political injustice, denial and deprivation.” That is true. However, is he not playing a lead role in perpetuating “political injustice, denial and deprivation”? Who is responsible for what he calls “acute sense of deprivation, hopelessness and powerlessness,” Muslim masses or the former colonialists and the stooges they remotely control for ruling the masses with the barrel of a gun since their strategic withdrawal in the name of decolonization?
Let us agree with Musharraf that “a people suffering from a combination of all these lethal ills are easily available cannon fodder for the propagation of militancy and the perpetration of extremist, terrorist acts.” The question, however, is: what is the root cause for these ills? When these ills do not originate because of Islam, why then needlessly introduce different versions of Islam, or a strategy with a deceptive title, to address them?
In the same breath, Musharraf admits: “it is not Islam as a religion which preaches or infuses militancy and extremism but the political disputes which led to antagonism in the Muslim masses.” Logically, the discussion should end at this point because if Islam doesn’t teach militancy and extremism, it is of no use to introduce “moderate” or “liberal,” or “progressive” forms of Islam and leaving the dispute to the unjust to resolve. The need is to tackle the causes that lead to reactionary sentiments, but where is the strategy for that?
Musharraf equates moderation with “conciliatory approach” and shows that Islam is not in conflict with secularism. Here Musharraf attempts to make his mantra acceptable to the enemies of Islam by making Islam compatible with secularism.
What is actually expected of “moderates”
The above discussion is about Musharraf’s icing on the cake of “moderation.” It brings us to the real issue: the problem of a few Muslim opportunists who are exploiting the morbid dread of Islam in the hearts of Islamophobes in different ways. They promote themselves by presenting views of the enemies of Islam in different words. It leads to the Islamophobes’ objective of introducing different forms of Islam and different classes of Muslims.
Islamophobes’ intention behind introducing “moderate” Islam and Muslims becomes evident when they reject argument from some leading self-proclaimed “moderates” as “reformist apologetic.” To the contrary, persons such as Irshad Manji, who are shunned even by the self-proclaimed “moderates,” are presented as a “practicing Muslim” and real moderates because they sound more in consonance with the anti-Islam agenda.
The acceptable-to-Islamophobes “moderates,” in fact, believe that "an uncritical acceptance of the Qur’an as the final manifesto of God" is one of the "disturbing cornerstones of Islam." So the real moderation in the eyes of the standard-setters for “moderate” Muslims is to reject the Qur’an as the final manifesto of Allah. Are Musharraf and his supporters in the deceptive “enlightened moderation” ready for accepting this kind of standards? If not, they are acceptable as long as they can sell something of interest to their masters.
There is no limit to moderation in the eyes of their masters, busy in undermining Islam. The acceptable “moderates” -” the “practicing Muslims” such as Irashad Manji -” now call the rest of the self-proclaimed “moderates” as "so-called moderates" and equate them with "fundamentalists" for sharing a "sense of spiritual supremacy."
To get out of this confusion, we need to understand that the clear commands for Muslims are to be moderate by default. Being moderate is a prerequisite for being a good Muslim. It is not an identity label for a specific kind of Muslims out there to please and appease others. The most perfect moderates are those who most seriously follow the Qur’an and Sunnah. Accordingly, Muslims cannot be part time or partial Muslims to be considered as moderate by virtue of rejecting part of the Qur’an and accepting part of it (Al-Qur’an 2:85).
Islam is a Muslim’s identity. It means submission (to Allah) and peace. It embodies the basic elements of moderation -” balance, due proportion, tolerance, justice and equity -” because abiding each and tranquility is unthinkable in a situation of extremes. In fact, moderation or balance is the core value, the very soul of Islam.
In the light of specific verses -” 2:143, 4:171, 25:67, 17:26-27, 20:81, 6:108, 2:178, 17:33, 5:45, 42:40 -” and numerous others where fairness, justice and balance are extolled and excess is deplored, we can safely say that those who suggest moderating Islam, only expose their ignorance of the Divine Message.
The fact is that Islam enjoins its followers to give lessons in moderation to other people. What the Muslims need today, therefore, is not lectures in the concept of moderation, but to delve into the treasure trove of guidance that Islam has already bequeathed to them.
To confirm demystification of moderation, we need to see who the visible enemies of Islam consider as “extremists” and “Islamists.” The standard-setters for “moderate” Muslims believe that strong belief in the totality of the Qur’an makes Muslims “Islamists,” and “extremists.” Accordingly, the most partial believers of the Qur’an become the most perfect “moderates” because promoters of the “moderate” Muslims believe they “are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran,” which, in their view, contains 389 specifically intolerant verses.
This shows what Musharraf is presenting might be some kind of intelligent deception to him. But it is, in fact, a foolish self-deception. He titles his adventure as “enlightened moderation,” to make it acceptable to the shrewd enemies of Islam. At the same time, he attempts to deceive Muslims by talking about totally irrelevant things to give the common man an impression that “moderation” is all about good feelings for reconciliation, tolerance and poverty alleviation. The well-known criteria of Islamophobes for “moderate” Muslims clearly shows that this is not what is expected of “moderate” Muslims and their moderation.
Besides what is mentioned above, “moderates” are required to totally reject parts of the Qur’an, such as rejecting the clear commands about inheritance (Al-Qur’an 4:11-14, 4:33, 4:176), court testimony (Al-Qur’an 2:282) and even Riba (Al-Qur’an 2:275-76, 278-79; 3:130; 4:161; 30:39). The overt Islamophobes publicly say that “the fundamentals of Islam are a threat to us.” It clearly shows that Islamophobes do not want the “moderates” they support to follow fundamentals of Islam according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Islam tells Muslims on several occasions not to coerce other people (2:256, 5:92, 24:54, 6:125, 42:48, 76:03, 18:29, 6:106, 17:07). Accordingly, Muslims must present the message to them in the most cogent and clear way, invite them to the truth and do their best in presenting and conveying the Truth, but it is up to people to accept or not to accept. Thus intolerance could not be ascribed to a book which excludes compulsion from the sphere of religion altogether, and which is full of verses that exhort believes to exercise restraint, mercy and kindness.
The question is: If Allah gave choice to believe or not to believe, then why did He punish, and in the case of war physically challenged, the people of Prophet Nuh, Lut, Shu`aib, the `Ad, the Thamud, and Pharaoh and his followers and why did Prophet Mohammed PBUH go to many wars? The answer to this question shows to which extent Islam is a religion of peace.
Those people were not punished simply because of their disbelief. They were punished because they had become oppressors. They committed aggression against the righteous, and stopped others to come to the way of Allah. There were many in the world who denied Allah, but Allah did not punish every one, nor did Prophet Mohammed PBUH went out to slaughter all non-Muslims.
The phenomenon of zulm (injustice and oppression) in any form and at any point of time is repeatedly and emphatically condemned in the Qur’an. There is no tolerance for zulm and no reconciliation with the oppressors as long as they do not renounce their zulm. The condemnation of ‘ zulm‘ or ‘wrong’ by virtue of its repeated emphasis and the centrality of the terms that define it, has immense significance for building a just social and economic order which characterizes the religion of Islam.
As Professor Kenneth Cragg of Cambridge University has explained in his book, The Mind of the Qur’an, that the usage of “the derivatives of the root ‘ zalama‘ verbs, nouns and participles are among the most frequent of all Qur’anic terms-¦ exceeded only by the most central of all words, like Allah, Rabb and Rasul.”
Now compare Kenneth Cragg’s explanation of the word zulm in the Qur’an with the words and deeds of those at the hands of whom their own people in general and Muslims in particular suffer today. According to Cragg: “The basic sense of ‘ zalama‘ is to do wrong, to treat wrongfully, to deal unjustly, with or without an object. It is the act of falsifying in not according to what is due, whether to things or to people, to truth or to trust. It means distortion and perversity, tyranny and evil will. More frequently ‘ zulm‘ denotes wrong against fellow humanity – injustice, deceit, fraud, slander, treachery, calumny, robbery and the rest."
If we start with the Bush and Blair’s lying for invading Iraq and go back to search the history of colonialism for the past five hundred years, we will come to the conclusion that the root cause of the present turmoil is nothing but pure zulm of the colonialists of the past and the totalitarians of today on the one hand, and perpetuation of colonial legacy by their puppets among Muslims on the other. Their misinformation campaigns deviated Muslims away from what the Qur’an repeatedly calls “the Straight Path,” and their economic tyranny robs them of every possible opportunity to invest in poverty alleviation and other ventures for human development.
In the light of this discussion, the real purpose of fighting for Muslims is to remove injustice and aggression. Muslims are allowed to keep good relations with non-Muslims. Allah says, "Allah does not forbid you that you show kindness and deal justly with those who did not fight you in your religion and did not drive you out from your homes-¦" (60:8). The objective of allowing Muslims to fight was to establish religious freedom, to stop all religious persecution, to protect the houses of worship of all religions, mosques among them (22:40, 2:193, 8:39, 2:190).
Tolerance, moderation and reconciliation are the mechanism used for upholding human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), and the rule of law. Submission to injustice and tyranny is not tolerance. Islam is moderate between turning your left cheek to him who hits you on the right one, and between paying someone back tenfold. Allah says: “And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflected on them, help and defend themselves. The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree), but if a person forgives and makes a reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah; surely He loves not those who do wrong” (42:39-40). He, Most Gracious, also says: “And if you punish (your enemies), punish them with the like of that with which you were afflicted. But if you endure patiently, verily, it is better for those who are patient. And endure you patiently; your patience is not but from Allah. And grieve not over them and be not distressed because of what they plot” (16: 126-127).
The bottom-line is that there is no such thing as moderate and extremist Islam justified with either of the two grand misconceptions discussed above. Islam doesn’t need any prefixes or suffixes. Islam’s moderation lies in its balanced approach towards living individual and collective life. Any attempt at justifying classification of Islam and Muslims amounts to helping the Western war lords in their war on Islam.
Notes:. http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=4016 . Pipes, Daniel, “The Rock Star and the Mullah, Debate: Democracy and Islam,” a PBS debate between Daniel Pipes and Muqtedar Khan.
. See Intolerance in the Qur’an: URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/